Tips for Managing School Parent Listserves
Managing an Email List, or … "I've said I'd be the listserve manager for my PTA/boosters club. Now what do I do?”
Written by Da Vinci parent volunteer Teri Greenfield based on her experience while she was a listserve administrator there.
Please note: If your group has been using DCN's free listserves, your volunteers may attend their classes in the Fall and Spring, visit their online Help Center, or email their Web Team at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance, all at no cost.
There is a List Administrator Management page for configuring the options for your list, moderating comments and managing subscriptions. You need to know the login and password to access it.
If it is a new email list, you will receive login instructions in an email from DCN Web Team. If it is an email list that you are taking over from someone, that person should give it to you. If you don’t have contact with the previous person, your president can email the DCN Web Team and they will provide your group with new login credentials.
You can find a list of all public DCN mailing lists here: http://www2.dcn.org/mailman/listinfo/listname.
Decide which email address will be used to send messages.
- you can use your personal email address to send messages, or
- set up a new one for just this purpose, or
- you might inherit an email address from a previous listserve manager. For example, many groups have a listserve Gmail account, such as "email@example.com."
Find out which type of list you have:
Open or Closed Subscription Lists
- Open: Anyone may subscribe.
- Closed: List subscriptions must be approved by you, the administrator
Purpose of List
- Announcement (a.k.a. moderated): Only you, the administrator or designated persons, can post/send an email to the list. Messages written by members need to be approved by you before the rest of the members receive the messages.
- Discussion (a.k.a. unmoderated): All members can post.
HOW TO ADD SUBSCRIBERS TO YOUR LIST
It's the beginning of the school year, and you want to ensure that new 7th grade parents are subscribed to your email list. How?
There are several ways to do this.
- Put an announcement in the communications sent to parents at the start of the school. It should include a link to the Subscription page for your listserve.
- Have a sign-up sheet at school registration and orientation events. These email addresses can be manually subscribed to the listserve. On the list admin page, choose "Membership Management", then "Mass Subscription". Enter one email address per line. You may use the following format, then hit the "Submit Your Changes" button to save the changes:
FirstName LastName <EnterEmailAdressInsideTheseAngleBrackets>
- Get a list from the school office with all parent email addresses. You can either send an "invite" to these email addresses (the invitation expires in 3 days), or just manually mass-subscribe them to the list. However, not all schools allow you to obtain the email addresses in this manner.
WHAT ABOUT REMOVING SUBSCRIBERS?
Most removals are handled by the members, but there are situations where the administrator gets involved.
We recommend you send a message to the list reminding members to unsubscribe from the list if they no longer are affiliated with your group. We don't want them to mark our mail as "spam", as that can have repercussions that could affect all DCN mail going through the member's Internet service provider.
If a member can't remove themselves from the list, you can do it for them. Go to the list admin page, choose "Membership Management", then "Membership List". Find the member to unsubscribe, check the "unsub" box and submit your changes.
You may also mass-unsubscribe by going to "Memebership Management", then "Mass Removal".
APPROVING OR DISAPPROVING MESSAGES
As list administrator you will receive an email address asking you to approve, reject or discard messages that are 'held' for your attention. (It's important to give this responsibility to someone else if you are going to be away from your email for a long period of time.)
You will need to determine why the message needs to be approved.
- Did it originate from a non member of the list? Only list members can email the list. It could be junk mail, or someone who thinks he/she is a member, but subscribed with a different email address than the one he/she is using. You can click to see the content of the message.
- Do you have a moderated list and it was sent by a non-administrator of the list?
- Do you have a limit on the number of email addresses that can be list in the To: or CC: box?
- Does it have an attachment that is too large to send to the list, based on how your list options are configured?
KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY COMMUNICATING VIA THE EMAIL LIST
Formatting Part 1
We recommend that you use as little formatting as possible in your emails. Not all members can receive messages with HTML formatting, and the primary purpose of the email message is to communicate information. Messages with strange characters, or messages that can't be opened are not communicating information.
Plain text is a safe way to go. If you are copying and pasting from a Word document, paste the text into Notepad or Wordpad first, then copy it from there into the message. Many administrators like to use Gmail, but you can use any email program.
Formatting Part 2
Create a standard format for your messages, and include a Title. On the bottom of the message (footer) there should be instructions on how to unsubscribe.
If possible, you can reduce emails to members by grouping messages into one email. You might want to hold messages until you have several to send at once.
Craft your subject lines carefully. Avoid words that will make it look like junk mail, and avoid exclamation points. Capital letters are okay, but should be used sparingly.
If possible, avoid attachments. Either include the text of the attachment, or include a link to the information elsewhere on the Internet, such as your organization's web page.
Offer a human contact for list problems (you).
WELCOME MESSAGE FROM YOU TO THE LIST
Seasoned list administrators recommend you send a "welcome message" to your list at the beginning of your term, season, or school year. You can include information about unsubscribing from the list, using the digest feature, list etiquette, privacy issues, and your solicitation policy. You can also include this in the "Welcome Message" for new subscribers. This option can be found in your List Admin Management page under General Options' "List-specific text prepended to new-subscriber welcome message".
Proper Use of our Listserve
Please read before sending a message or responding to a message from the listserve.
An unmoderated listserve like ours respects subscribers' freedom of speech; it also relies on subscribers' good sense and common courtesy in order to build a thriving community that everyone will want to participate in. Here are a few netiquette tips:
- Remember that any email sent to the listserve will be read by almost 500 people. If you have questions about how to use the listserve, send them to ADMIN_EMAIL_ADDRESS.
- Send only to the listserve address. If you add another address in the To: or CC: it will be automatically delayed for administrator approval. The address is YOURLISTNAME@mailman.dcn.org
- For some email providers: If you attach a document to your message, the text of your message also becomes an attachment in the form of a .txt file. Your readers won't see this text unless they open the attachments. You can contact the list administrator if you have questions about this.
- Only subscribers can send to the listserve. Therefore, you can only send a message from the email address that you used to sign up for the listserve. You may be signed up with multiple email addresses.
- The listserve is an appropriate forum to address general questions, not questions that involve your student's privacy. Please contact the counselor directly to address those.
- If you would like to receive fewer messages from the listserve, you may change your subscription options to receive list messages in a DIGEST form. You can specify that here: http://www2.dcn.org/mailman/listinfo/YOURLISTNAME. Keep in mind that if an emergency email is sent out, you will not receive it immediately.
- Please do not send an email to the listserve to check if you are subscribed, or to unsubscribe. To unsubscribe, go to: http://www2.dcn.org/mailman/listinfo/YOURLISTNAME
- Avoid using actual names when discussing student or teacher topics.
- Address problems about individual teachers with your student's counselor or administrator, NOT through this listserve. It's only fair to give teachers a chance to present their viewpoints.
- Messages sent via our listserve are meant for the list members only. Please don't forward to non-subscribers without the expressed consent of the original sender.
- Do not disclose subscribers' email address to non-subscribers.
- Do not use this listserve for solicitations.
- Delete irrelevant original message when replying.
- Use a distinct and succinct SUBJECT title.
- Practice Internet safety. Do not send private information by email.