More and more, parishes are adding an additional line to their new member registration form: email address. For the parishes that rely on postal mail and the weekly bulletin to inform and inspire their parishioners, it may seem a little unclear as to why they should maintain an email list of their parish members. But there are so many advantages to using this electronic form of communication — in terms of reach, cost effectiveness, and creativity.
According to a 2018 Radicati Group study, there will be more than 3.8 billion email users before the start of 2019, over 100 million more than the previous year. In other words, over half of the entire planet uses email right now. If your parish has yet to collect parishioner emails, or are doing it half-heartily, now is the time to jump into it. Read on for some compelling points of view to the many benefits of collecting and maintaining your email list.
THE COST SAVING FACTOR: SUBSTANTIAL
Parishes need to solicit regular funding from members and large donors. However, the way that fundraising works changes on a daily basis. The goal to maximizing all monetary gifts is to keep the administration costs down, in order to allocate as many funds as possible to the needs of the church. That’s one reason why using email systems such as Constant Contact or MailChimp is so valuable. Most of these systems allow for a free account, or for a basic one for as little as $10 a month. By sending out broadcast emails to your contacts, you can send out a professional message to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
And these messages don’t need to be just for capital campaigns or requests to sign up for recurring online giving. Sending parishioner pledge statements and year-end donation reports as email attachments also allows parishes to greatly reduce mailing costs.
THE LABOR FACTOR: WORTH IT
If your parish needs to update your list, or if you haven’t started one yet, there will be a lot of data entry involved. Not only do you need to find a way to get emails from your parishioners, but you need to find a way to store these for easy access later.
An easy way to start collecting is simply by asking for them. Slip a form inside your next bulletin asking that all members update their contact information, and have them bring the forms back next Sunday, or email it to the parish office. Make a quick announcement before or after Mass, letting them know how this information will help the parish. There may need to be some follow up to a good amount of parishioners who forget to bring the form back.
Once you start getting the forms back, it’s time to add the information to your contact list using a data management system. Even a Google document that can be accessed by multiple people can work. Just make sure that it’s safe, secure, and backed up on a regular basis.
THE POSSIBILITY FACTOR: LIMITLESS
Think of how people communicate these days. More and more, email and direct messages are replacing phone calls and postal mail. By having your parishioner email readily available, the possibilities are endless. Your pastoral associate could email essential funeral information to grieving families, or let the St. Vincent de Paul volunteers know that five more meals are still needed for tomorrow night. Or let’s say that a pipe burst in the rectory and Sunday Mass needs to be postponed for a short time while they get things cleaned up — send out an urgent email to avoid confusion.
And then, there are the creative ways to use email. Think of a capital campaign that includes a link to a video message from the pastor or a small clip of the church choir preparing for Christmas Eve. Think of a reminder to parishioners that the food pantry is getting low on mac and cheese or that they need one or two volunteers to help clean the sacristy. Maybe the parent of a parishioner family just lost his or her job and resources are needed to help them remain on their feet. Perhaps an elderly member is having trouble shoveling his or her walkway this winter and is looking for a few people to come over to help when it snows. Whatever the reason you need to reach out to people in a timely manner, having their email address is key to getting a fast response.