Please send the attached out to your list - Uh, No.
Email Marketing

How I Handle Requests to “Email This Out to Your Members”

A good email list is an invaluable tool for any business or organization. At the chamber we can use this as a promotional tool which can help entice or retain memberships, but the flipside is that many people expect me to email everyone on my list every time they have something they want to promote.

And that’s not okay with me.

I know some don’t understand my hesitation, but when you subscribe to an email list, you expect to hear from the host – not everyone else you’ve never heard of. And it’s the same with the chamber emails.

A poorly designed email from a member to can & will cause some people to unsubscribe. 😲

Plus, no matter how many emails I do or don’t send, someone always complains that they get too many chamber emails. So while I obviously still email them, I reduced the overall amount of emails I send out, and the numbers don’t like – this actually increased my open rates by 5%.

While yes, we want to promote members, that doesn’t mean we have to promote or share every single special, ad, or event they ever put out. For some, this is literally daily.

That’s why I came up with some guidelines to still serve my members, but curb expectations to make staff time more realistic.

eBlast Restrictions & Practices

For me, an eBlast is a mass email I send out on behalf of a chamber member.

To reduce the number of requests I receive for these – while still supporting my members’ needs – I put a few restrictions on them:

  1. There is only 1 eBlast per week available (Yes – 52 slots per year means not every member will get one, but not everyone needs/wants one.)
  2. Outlining first-come, first-served: I will not reserve a spot with receiving the content they want included (text, photos). This freed up several spaces from people that mean well, but don’t follow through.
  1. Content/requests are only accepted at least two weeks in advance. “Poor planning on their part does not constitute an emergency for me.” I follow a flexible calendar, but if everything always happens last minute, then staff if always scrambling and unable to get ahead. More scheduling means better quality and planning.
  2. To reduce accidental unsubscribes, I clearly label eBlasts as such so the receiver instantly knows it is from us on behalf of a local business.

I still get members that are surprised I won’t email every piece of news they have, so I’ve crafted a consistent response:

Honestly, I doubt you want me to send you 15 emails a week. Member eBlasts are limited to ensure I don’t overwhelm your inbox and so that open rates remain as high as possible. This results in more people actually looking at the information about your business when I send it out! Here are some ways you can take advantage of the chamber’s marketing…. [link or info here]

The more that I stick to these rules the less unimportant requests I get – and the requests that do follow through are more thoughtful & beneficial to their business.

Campaign Planner + Chamber Benefits: a Brandable Handout For Chamber Members (available in my Etsy store)

Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule, and I try to help when I can. But being able to have these in place really helped me as a staff to cut down on time & emailing people. There were a few members that just always forwarded us a lot of ads, but when I actually started the conversation, they weren’t actually expecting as much out of sending us all those emails as we were stressing about and trying to do.

Additional Options for Members

Some businesses have better or bigger marketing departments that actually do have more to say. In addition to their one eBlast a year, I offer:

  1. Paid ad included in eNewsletter – charging just $10 greatly reduced the amount of requests and therefore staff time, but kept the opportunity super affordable.
  2. Free eNewsletter inclusion: I included new submissions to our website like hot deals and news releases automatically, at no charge in our email newsletter. (Grab my free email newsletter workflow checklist)
    • However, I chose to exclude events because our community had so many that our newsletter was literally 9 printed pages long when I arrived.
    • This was multi-purpose as it still gave them a ‘free’ opportunity, reduced staff time, they didn’t have to follow up, and gave us website content & traffic.
  3. Other non-email marketing opportunities, like Facebook, etc.

Most of my members appreciate my explanations, and the options I have created for them.

Non-Member Requests

Basically, I do not have much time for non-members. Any non-member requests for emails get another canned response from me:

We’re so glad to see some of the positive changes & promotions you’re working towards in the area.

Our funding is very limited and we strive to ensure our members are getting the best value from us. As such, we must limit our resources to furthering chamber members and are unfortunately unable to promote your advertisements at this time.

If you are interested in joining the Chamber, I encourage you to browse the attached brochure or give me a call if you have any questions.

Regardless, we do wish you all best in your endeavors!

I’ve still upset a lot of people by saying no (no matter how nice I think I’ve worded it), but at the end of the day, I think a chamber should operate like a business. And no business can afford to keep their lights on if they don’t have money coming in.

If they point out they’re a nonprofit, then I point out our ‘charitable organization’ pricing level and our many nonprofit members. If it’s not important enough for them to use their resources (and join the chamber), then why is it important enough for me to use my resources on it?

I realize you might disagree with me, and that’s understandable. For any gray areas, I always leave it up to the CEO/Executive Director and follow through with their decision.

If you’re a staff member, discuss with your CEO/ED about having an internal workflow or approval process. Can you implement the above or similar rules? What decisions are okay to make on your own (and save your CEO important time), and when do you need to stall (“Let me get back to you on that” or “I’ll pass this on to our CEO for you“) and let them make the call?

Yet another exception I tend to make is for government organizations or important resources for our members. However, instead of a mass email blast (unless it’s timely + important), I include it in our next newsletter. If it’s super long then I tend to fit into my workflow by publishing it as a News Release, which is something I check when drafting our eNewsletters.

Other Thoughts on Mass Emails

“Do you charge for eBlasts?”

Personally, I don’t. If the amount of requests becomes too much and I run out of slots, then I will. A lot of my small business members appreciate our built-in marketing opportunities, but that may not work for you, and that’s okay.

There are several chambers that do successfully charge for this. If a member questions it, you might could say something like:

We keep the price of membership low by offering a la carte options, instead of increasing membership rates universally.

Pro tip: Consider rates similar/local advertisers charge. Either you can ensure your rate is affordable, or factor this into membership ROI

No, You Can’t Have My Email List

Please don’t ask.

If you say anywhere on your website, sign up forms, email, anywhere – that you ‘do not give out, rent, or sell, your email list’ then you should not! Do not give out your email list!

I once had a random guy walk in, ask about the price of membership, and then ask how soon he could have a copy of our email list. When I told him we don’t give it out to anyone, He said “Well, then what’s the point of joining?!” and left.

Uh, good riddance.

I have no idea who that guy was, but I know I do not want him as a chamber member. Yes, I had offered him alternative solutions, but his demeanor & insistence on the list of emails made him super sketchy.

Instead, my members are welcome to the above eBlast or other marketing opportunities. We also offered a spreadsheet of chamber members (again, because we had it in writing somewhere that we offered it for free to members), but we did not include email addresses, only the public phone number and their physical & mailing addresses. We did include the name for primary contact/representative.

Designer Fee

I do require that members provide the whole content that they want and I insert it into a chamber-branded email template. Sure, I may make a few edits I think are necessary, but I expect them to do the work or actually pay someone to do it.

If they insist on having me do it, I offer to create their content for a fee. The minimum of this fee is at least my hourly wage times two and rounded up (paid to the chamber), because not only am I working for them, but the chamber is losing an hour of my staff time.

If I really don’t want to do it, I charge a higher price (for a different type of service – I do not and you should not charge different fees to different fees to people for the same service). So far my range has varied from $25 – $200. I maintain a list of prices on our website. For each marketing opportunity, if there is an option for our staff to create something for them, then I list the design fee for that type of marketing opportunity.

If I know it’s quick & easy, then it’s cheaper. From experience, I know that some projects actually take more time than one might think. Plus you have to consider the added time of having to back & forth with a member as a client, and making changes per their request (and if you don’t offer changes, then it needs to be in writing).


Okay, I got a bit carried away, so here’s my take-aways:

  • Having set limitations or rules will help you.
    • Members will better respect your time
    • You’ll have more time to focus on your marketing, not their marketing
    • By having a better set calendar, you’ll be planning instead of reacting.
    • Members will focus on the opportunities that better suit their needs & goals.
  • Don’t give out your email list. Instead, offer to send an email on their behalf.
  • “No, but what we can do is…” or “Sure, I just need xyz by deadline.” sound a lot nicer than just “No” and have a better impact on your relationship (aka renewals) while still allowing you to retain control.
  • Creating a fee structure for marketing or service add-ons is not only a line of non-dues revenue, but a time saver – just be thoughtful about it.


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