This section shares some options for managing email communication between the VOPE and its members in an efficient manner. Some tools and examples are provided as resources.
Setting up a listserv (mailing list) is one of the easiest and most cost effective (read free) start-up requirements of a VOPE. Mailing lists are popular because VOPE members access and pass on information via their email, a medium that most people are comfortable with. The drawback with a typical listserv is that you are not always able to search for information as easily (it comes down to searching through a ton of email). There is commercial listserv software available, for which there are free versions that support up to 500 recipients. Popular paid listserv software with free versions available examples are L-soft Listserv and Groupmail Free. However, their functionality is replicated just as efficiently by free online applications such as Yahoo Groups and/or Google Groups. It is also possible to set up a distribution list in Microsoft Outlook, but poses the risk that your entire listserv is usually located on a local computer and not online, risking all if the computer crashes. Depending on your email provider, there might also be limitations for example, on the number of recipients per email.
Any listserv requires some degree of management; approving requests to join and post, removing and banning members, managing spam and legitimate mail stuck in spam filters, and appointing moderators to assist in managing the listserv. Content moderation is the most important of these management duties. Although most platforms hosting these free listservs (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) have their own user agreements, it is imperative that you also document your own VOPE’s set of rules for the mailing list. It is also important to keep content relevant to the scope of your VOPE, as even the most well-managed listservs get spammed with inappropriate content from time to time.
Keep in mind that no one should receive your mails unless they have requested them explicitly, and there should be a very clear and user-friendly unsubscribe / opt-out process. Once your members have joined one of your mailing lists, you must obtain their explicit permission to add them to other lists, even if these lists are also monitoring and evaluation or VOPE-related.
The ideal is a listserv with the search capability of an online forum; it is a good idea to embed your mailing list functionality (and any other social media presence) into the Terms of Reference for your website development or forum – and the advantages of taking this approach are many: