by Charles M. Pickett
I fully realize many VFW posts do not do email. This blog post is not for them. I wish them well.
For those who do, you can step up your game by using an email program (FREE) such as MailChimp. This blog post will talk about mail lists, OMS, and sanitation.
For the first year and during the formation of VFW New Haven, I used GMail. I would write different messages (or campaigns) to the different groups (members, prospects, leads, media, stakeholders, colleges, etc.) and sort them in GMail.
However, my GMail database and mailing lists started to rot. Members graduated and moved. School emails went dormant. It didn’t become a big problem because I recognized the stink before it got bad. It was time to step up.
There is one paramount rule to follow when keeping mailing lists: THERE MUST BE ONLY ONE DATABASE TO RULE THEM ALL. And that database is the VFW Online Membership System (OMS).
Because the OMS database is “sanitized” by national, the quartermaster, or even the member themselves, it is the one you want for email and postal mailings. However, how do you get the maintained data from OMS into an email program such as MailChimp without having to meticulously go line by line cutting and pasting?
- Create a new list by importing the CSV downloaded from OMS Post Report (Download Results). This way, your membership list will be clean every time. Be advised, if a member opts out of the mailing and you put him back in there, you might irk a member.
- Use the MailChimp Import New Subscribers Auto-Update feature.
Unfortunately, the auto-update is tabbed to email addresses so a member with a different email address will just get added again but. BUT, it is easier to spot duplicate names and fix plus the program will not re-import an “unsub” thus irking that member.
- 61 subscribers were updated or added to your list.
1 email was already in your list and couldn’t be imported.
Now that your email list is sanitized, how do you target the whole, groups, and sections of your membership without driving yourself crazy?
One way is to use the segment function and the “Paid_Thru” data. You can import a member’s paid through date, set the field to date, and then create a segment for expiring, lapsed, and expired members, sending targeted emails to each segment. It is a database filter function for dummies.
Additionally, you can create groups (officer, house committee) and bulk assign them and email to that group.
As for lists, I have one just for members. This may change.
But I have one for anyone who wants announcements (news and events). This one is a double opt-in and does not have to be maintained. It is for non-members, volunteers, officials, and the general public who sign up on their own.
Now I have lists for media, stakeholders, and VFW state officers, but those will stay in GMail.
PS: Thanks VFW Post 1 for the recommendation.