The CAN-SPAM Act was instituted by the government in 2003 to cut down on misleading emails. Follow it to the letter or risk being fined. Most of the rules that apply to commercial emails apply as well to nonprofits, especially if your organization sells merchandise or delivers commercial offers from corporate sponsors to your donors or members. Even if you do not fall into that category, CAN-SPAM rules comprise best practices for email for any organization.
To be clear, here is what a nonprofit should do:
- Provide a clear and conspicuous notice of the opportunity to opt-out. The notice must be in every email message and must be provided to all individuals receiving the message whether or not they have opted-in to receive commercial email offers.
- Provide a functioning opt-out in every email message, such as a return email address or other Internet-based function. Do not send subsequent offers more than 10 business days after a recipient has requested to not receive further emails. If the recipient has opted-out, the sender may not rent, exchange or otherwise transfer or release the email address of the recipient.
- Provide a valid physical postal address of the sender.
- If there is a commercial advertisement in your email, you must be clear that the email is an advertisement to individuals who have not opted-in to receive commercial email messages. If you have an in-house list, or rent a list of individuals who have opted-in to receive commercial email offers, you are exempt from the use of words such as "advertisement" or "solicitation" to label the message.
- If there is a commercial advertisement in your email, and if you are sending an offer to individuals who have not opted-in to receive commercial email offers, you must make it clear that the message is a promotion, advertisement, or offer. Use phrases such as "you might be especially interested in this offer" in the body copy of the email.
- Provide a "from" line that accurately and clearly indicates the sender. Doing so provides reassurance to supporters and donors that the email is from a trusted organization.
- Use a subject line that is not misleading as to what is contained in the email.
For more information see:
- The CAN-SPAM Act