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Choosing an Email Newsletter Provider

by Deane Brengle

One of the most important decisions you'll ever have to make about your email newsletter is which company to choose for delivery. Choose wrong and maybe your newsletter will never see the light of day in your members email inbox. Choose right and your provider will seamlessly supply whitelisting, subscription management, tracking and reporting, and much more.

Here's a comprehensive checklist of basic features you'll find important. Use it to find a good match with the right email newsletter provider.

  1. Pricing

    How is their pricing based? Some providers have tiered plans with monthly minimums. Others are pay as you go. Each has their good and bad points. Know how many email address you are sending to and how many times a month. Only then can you accurately compare providers by price.

  2. Easy of Use

    How easy is it to import your existing newsletter email list? Will everyone have to sign up again? Will they have to confirm their new subscription or will it be automatic?

    Is the format for composing and sending your emails intuitive and easy to understand?

    Is it easy for new subscribers to your newsletter to sign up? And to leave the list?

  3. Formatting

    Are text and HTML versions offered? Can subscribers choose their version? Do you want them to be able to?

  4. Scheduling

    Can you schedule the delivery of your newsletter to be automatically delivered at a future date?

  5. Deliverability

    Does the provider work pro-actively with large ISPs (like AOL, Yahoo, etc.) to be included on their approved senders lists (white lists)? Do they actively police their own customers to ensure their service isn't being used to send out spam? Do they resolve spam complaints and notify you when they happen? Do they stay abreast of the changing rules that affect deliverability?

  6. Support

    What kind of support does each provider offer? Email only? Dedicated 800 number? What are their service hours?

  7. Reports

    Do they provide reports on the success of the deliverability of each email newsletter you send out? How many bounced?

  8. Tracking

    Do they offer tracking for open rates (how many readers actually open your email), click through tracking (for links to articles or donation requests), and other usage data?

  9. Personalization

    Can you personalize each newsletter with the recipients name (first, last, or both)? Some providers offer many personalization options beyond just the name too.

  10. Segmentation

    Can you send a special newsletter to a segment of your list? To those that have joined in the last six month? To different donor levels? To different geographic groups?

  11. Subscriber Management

    Is there a web base subscriber form available for you to add to your website? Can you add subscribers manually? Can your subscribers manage their subscriptions (subscribe and unsubscribe) without any effort on your part?

  12. CAN-SPAM Compliance

    Is the provider CAN-SPAM Compliant? Does each message you send meet the minium requirements (name and mailing address)? Is there a way to unsubscribe automatically included in each email you send (via email, web, or both)?

  13. Welcome Message

    Can you have a welcome message that each new subscriber will get immediately when they sign up?

  14. Message preview and testing

    Can you preview your message to see what it will look like before you send it to your list? Can you send yourself a test message to see what it looks like?

  15. Backup

    Can you backup and download your subscriber list? What formats are available?

Email Newsletter Service Providers

While there are a great number of companies that provide the services that you need, these are the top players in the field. That is important because you can depend on them to be around for a long time and not change their services or pricing radically.

These Email Service Providers (ESPs) target for profit companies but they have all the features you are looking for. The list in not presented in any particular order.

  • Constant Contact

    Monthly fee based on your email list size, not on the number of email campaigns you send. 501c3 nonprofits receive double the prepay discounts (20%). HTML email templates designed for nonprofits including newsletters, fundraising appeals, renewals, event updates, and more. Local affiliates of their Cares4Kids National Organizations, United Way and Junior Achievement, are eligible to receive a free Constant Contact account.

  • AWeber

    One price no matter how many emails sent to a list size of up to 10,000 email addresses. It then increases per 10,000 email addresses. There is a price break depending on how you pay (monthly, quarterly, semi annually, yearly). Free autoresponders with unlimited personalized follow up messages. This is the company that I have used for all my email newsletter services forever.

  • Vertical Response

    Pricing is based on the number of emails sent per month. HTML templates available. Send postcards too.

  • Get Response

    One price no matter how many emails sent or list size. There is a price break depending on how you pay (monthly, quarterly, semi annually, yearly). Free autoresponders too.

  • I Contact

    Pricing is based on the number of emails sent per month. 20% discount for 501c3 nonprofits. HTML templates available.
While I heartily recommend all these ESPs (Email Service Providers), please note that I am partners with several of them. If you are in the market for a service to send your email newsletters I suggest you carefully research all your options. Several of these companies have free trial periods that you may wish to take advantage of. Take them for a test drive and see what you think before making a decision.

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About the Author:

Deane Brengle is the editor of several free online publications that cover fundraising for small nonprofit groups. You can visit these publications and read more about fundraising in articles by him and other experts in the field at The Fund$Raiser Cyberzine, The Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter, and Fundraising Booklets.

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