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Topic: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

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1.  Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 10 days ago
Hi all - We are working on building our best practices around a new advocacy engagement platform we're implementing (Soapbox) and have encountered some conflicting information about standards for sender name and domain for an action that gets delivered to decision-makers.

For those of you using advocacy systems like EveryAction, Salsa, etc. to deliver constituent letters through an action form to Congress or state legislatures, do you know how your email sender name and email is appearing in decision-maker's inboxes?

We assumed that it would pass through an advocacy form and be emailed as:

Sender name: Mae Advocate
Email: maeadvocate@gmail.com
Reply email: maeadvocate@gmail.com
Subject: Please stand up and save chipmunks

OR

Sender name: Mae Advocate
Email: maeadvocate@gmail.com via orgname.org
Reply email: maeadvocate@gmail.com
Subject: Please stand up and save chipmunks
It would be weird if all the individual letters came through from an organizational email address, right? 
Any tips on your experience with this would be appreciated. Thanks!


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Loren Drummond
Digital Content Manager
Washington Trails Association
Seattle, WA
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2.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 9 days ago
Any advocacy folks out there have any thoughts?

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Kristy Hayter
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Covenant House Vancouver
Vancouver, BC
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3.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 7 days ago
​we are just beginning this work now, but I agree that the emails should appear as coming from the individual, and not from the organization. I am interested in the pros and cons of including  "via organization.org" as part of the information.  What is the consensus on that as a practice?

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Jeanine Buford
Director, Digital Content and Strategy
Keystone Human Services
Harrisburg, PA
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4.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 7 days ago
I'd be curious what the tech looks like on the back end. It would be an interesting process not to mention the logic of masking all your advocates names in the display, even if it was the visual of their email it would still be masked.  The sender server would be most likely still appear on the receivers end to be your advocacy service account. Can't wait to see how this plays out!

Thanks
Michael

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Michael Sola
Executive Vice President
Fight Colorectal Cancer
Springfield, MO
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5.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 7 days ago
While this isn't my specialty by any means and you should probably just ask Soapbox about this directly, the from address is one of the data points considered by Spam filters. When the server sending the email (Soapbox's) doesn't match the sender's email domain (@gmail.com), then it's much more likely to not be delivered to the inbox of the recipient. Anecdotally, I've heard this has become even more true in the past year.

I don't know how "maeadvocate@gmail.com via orgname.org" works exactly, but I suspect it's at least better than only the sender's email address. As you point out, you can still set the reply-to field to be the person so they can receive a direct response. That may marginally increase the Spam risks, but I haven't seen problems with that myself.

While I could find some basic confirmation of the above, I struggled to find a good article summarizing the issue.

While not directly related to your question, I suspect the more each individual email is customized, the better chance it has of getting through (and presumably engaging a political decision maker). That means some hard work on the user interface and form's "microcontent" may be really important.

Good luck!

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Mark Root-Wiley

MRW Web Design / MRWweb.com / @MRWweb
Thoughtful WordPress Website for Nonprofits & Mission-Driven Organizations
Seattle, WA
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6.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 6 days ago
Agree with all of the thoughts posted. Setting aside the technical issues noted (e.g. spam filter concerns, etc), I'd really encourage you to find every opportunity possible to make the email from your supporter to the target (e.g. Member of Congress, etc.) as personal as possible.

Remember, these days Congressional offices and agencies receive insane amounts of email on every issue imaginable. On Capitol Hill, offices have interns who cull through the email. In many offices if the email appears to be an organizational form letter (from the sender to the body copy), the intern just marks it on a 'for/against' tally sheet and moves on to the next. So every opportunity to personalize an email helps the chance of an email being open and read, and then hopefully sent along to someone else on staff. The New Yorker ran a really interesting piece on how communicating with Congress has changed over the years that gives some good insight into how Hill offices work: What Calling Congress Achieves  I'd argue that the changes have been similar within agencies and at the state level as well.

Best of luck!

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Jennifer Caddick
Vice President, Communications and Engagement
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Chicago, IL
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7.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 6 days ago
Hi everyone,

Long-time member, first-time poster...in too many years. =)

I'm excited to see this discussion here, as I think there's probably not enough discussion on how messages are formatted and delivered to decision makers these days.  To help provide some context, emails have a few locations in their headers that determine who wrote the message, who sent it, and who should be replied to, following the Internet Message Format (RFC 2822).  These headers include:

- From
- Sender
- Reply-to

In the strict definition of the RFC 2822, the "From" would be the author of the email, the "Sender" would be the delivery agent, and the "Reply-to" would be the suggestion for where someone should respond to the email.  In addition to this, most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and any company providing email services, is looking to crack down on spam.  One way it does this is by trying to connect a relationship between the From domain and the actual server that sent the email to the ISP.

There are ways to help ISPs figure this out by creating SPF domain records which essentially say, "Hey ISP, I've granted this email sending service the right to send email on my behalf, thank you very much".  Using SPF records, as well as DKIM, allows for increased likelihood that the email is truly from the author ("From"), and not a spammer spoofing their account.

The challenge in 2017, especially in the advocacy space, is that most constituents are not running their own email servers, and in the case of advocacy tools where organizations want to track actions taken, the servers sending the messages are not those of either the advocacy group or the constituents.  So, you're left with a pretty tough mismatch of From, Sender, and Reply-to...all of which have the effect of potentially lowering deliverability rates.

The question really comes down to what do you want to prioritize:  delivery or the format of the email.  In no way am I taking this lightly, and we believe that organizations should continue to be educated on this decision.  If emails come from the organization as the From email, the organization can add SPF records on their domain and DKIM records that associate the advocacy tool provider with the organization, thereby likely pass more spam filters.  By putting the constituent's email in the From, you're potentially decreasing deliverability rates but making the message author clearer to the targeted office.

I'm interested in hearing other's thoughts on this as well.  Thanks for the discussion!

-Ryan


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Ryan Ozimek
Soapbox Engage
Washington, DC
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8.  RE: Advocacy tools question -- sender name in decision-maker's inboxes

Posted 6 days ago
Thanks so much for your thoughts, everyone.

Ryan from Soapbox did a better job explaining the technical issues we're facing (around the spam filtering, etc. -- thanks for jumping in, Ryan!). Since I run our email messaging program as well, I am definately leery of anything that would flag us as spam.

I was hoping some of you had magically sorted through a solution already. :)

In any case, some great stuff here for me to share back with my advocacy team. Interesting thought about trying to get as much of the letter customized as possible and spam filters. That is always a balance with getting key message across vs. the impact of a personal message. I also appreciate hearing the expectation confirmed about trying to channel constituent emails as directly as possible, though. That was our instinct and what we had heard from state level staffers as well.

If we learn anything new on tech or tactics, I'll be sure to share back.

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Loren Drummond
Digital Content Manager
Washington Trails Association
Seattle, WA
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