Many users think they should be able to send bulk email from a free email service. By today's standards, bulk email is when there are more than just a few recipients. Unfortunately, email has become so abused by spammers that sending bulk messages from a free service automatically gets you "blacklisted" with most email providers.
Many free email providers, including Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, allow you to send a message (usually only through their web-based interfaces) to one (or just a few) recipients. In fact, these free email providers have safeguards in place to prevent spammers from abusing their services. Unfortunately, the bad guys have ruined it for everyone, and it makes it difficult for you to send that prayer request or church newsletter to your congregation.
These free services were never designed for sending bulk email. When you do send from these free services to multiple recipients, you'll usually get delivered directly to the recipient's spam folder, or not delivered at all--or worse, you'll have your email account suspended for abuse-- even if your email was legit (sometimes it only takes one complaint from a recipient). Additionally, many countries have laws that govern who you can send "bulk" email to, plus steps that have to be followed to stay within the law.
To help you send emails successfully, we provide several alternatives to using a free email provider. If possible, we recommend that you send emails from your own, purchased domain (like yourchurchname.org). When you do this, there are methods that allow you to send to multiple recipients by "signing" or validating that the email is from you (or from your domain). However, even this doesn't resolve all deliverability issues. In our experience, providers like AOL, Hotmail, and others make it extremely difficult on the sender of emails by refusing to even deliver messages unless the sender is in the recipient's address book.
Some third-party services are able to assist with email delivery, especially when sending from your own domain. Companies like MailChimp, Google GSuite, or Amazon SES (see instructions in the section below) are able to provide higher deliverability rates than you'll be able to get by sending the email on your own. Often, these services also provide additional services, like tracking, which enable you to see how many emails were opened, how many bounced, were marked as spam, etc.
There are several options for sending email from your ChurchTrac account. Administrators can access the Email Settings window by clicking:
Settings Admin Settings Email Settings
The selected options will apply to any user who sends email from your ChurchTrac account.
This option is still offered for backward compatibility. To ensure email deliverability, we recommend that you use one of the other options (below). When using the SMTP option, you can enter your provider's SMTP settings, and we will route your outgoing emails through that server. Unfortunately, this option does not work with every email provider (and it does not work with any free email providers, like Gmail and Yahoo). This option will have the most issues with deliverability, as it works the same as sending an email to multiple recipients from your email application (most emails with multiple recipients are automatically marked as 'Spam' or not delivered).
Though SMTP deliverability is not as good as services like SparkPost or Mandrill, sending emails with GSuite SMTP is a fantastic option for most ministries. GSuite is the paid version of Google Services. Much like a free Gmail account, GSuite gives you access to Google's services like Gmail, sheets, docs, and more. Unlike a free Gmail account, a paid GSuite account can send thousands of emails per month. For most ministries, GSuite is the most cost-effective and feature-rich option.Learn more about GSuite
This option allows you to manually send an email using your own provider or your provider's interface. You can also use an email application, like Outlook or Thunderbird. However, we don't recommend using this option, as it does not provide a high deliverability rate, especially when you're sending a message to more than just a few recipients.
Mandrill is an email client that can be used to deliver your emails through ChurchTrac on your own domain. Emails are purchased in blocks of 25,000 emails. Due to the high minimum of emails that must be purchased in blocks, Mandrill is only recommended for large ministries sending at least 25,000 emails/month.Learn more about Mandrill
SendGrid is another email client that can be used to deliver your emails through ChurchTrac on your own domain. SendGrid has a free option that allows you to send up to 100 emails each day. Their paid plan is very reasonably priced for ministries that need to send 2,000 to 40,000 emails per month.Learn more about SendGrid
Sparkpost is an email client that can be used to deliver your emails through ChurchTrac on your own domain. For medium to large ministries, SparkPost is a great option for its features and pricing. Sparkpost and SendGrid are very similar.Learn more about Sparkpost
If you have a MailChimp account, we now offer the ability to export names and email addresses from your ChurchTrac account to MailChimp as contacts in an Audience. This allows you to manage and update your MailChimp contacts from your ChurchTrac account. MailChimp offers a free service tier for up to 2,000 contacts, which should work great for most small or medium size churches, although it only limits you to one Audience.
You now have the capability of selecting one Smart List on the People Screen (or manually checking multiple names) and exporting their email addresses to your MailChimp account to be displayed as contacts in an Audience. This option is located on the Messaging window on the People Screen.
To use this option, you must have a MailChimp account. MailChimp offers a basic free account, as well as paid accounts which extend the capability of their features. Once you have a MailChimp account, you can set up an Audience and add Contacts to it directly from ChurchTrac.
Whenever you need to update an Audience in MailChimp, go to the People Screen and select a SmartList, or manually select the names you want to include. Next, click Messaging on the People Screen's toolbar, then select the Export to MailChimp option.Learn more about MailChimp
Amazon SES (or Simple Email Service) is a low-cost solution that we recommend. In order to send email through Amazon SES, you'll need to create an account and validate your domain name. Additionally, you'll probably want to update your domain's DNS records to "sign" the messages from Amazon SES, which helps to increase the deliverability rate (unsigned messages will likely not be delivered, or delivered to the recipient's spam folder).Learn more about Amazon SES
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