By Jared V
At the beginning of March, Salem Quarterly Meeting in South Jersey launched its first electronic bulletin. This monthly “email blast” will work alongside Salem Quarter News, a quarterly print publication, to bring news and information to members and attenders of meetings throughout our area. The genesis of our electronic bulletin was a workshop by Penny Colgan-Davis and Christie Duncan-Tessmer at our December Quarterly gathering. Quarter participants were divided into separate “meetings” and given topics to discuss. Some members of these ad hoc meetings visited others around the room and when it came time to share what we learned, it became obvious that the less communication there was between meetings, the less opportunity there was for sharing important insights and learning from each other. This was great a call-to-action for better communication and an electronic bulletin seemed like a low-cost but effective option.
By “low-cost,” I mean “no cost.” With MailChimp’s Free Forever plan, we are able to have up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. There is not much worry about exceeding those limits. Better yet, the design of the bulletin was a snap. MailChimp provides attractive looking templates that let you plug your information in and like magic you have something professional looking. Those receiving the bulletin can unsubscribe at any time right through their email which mitigates database maintenance. MailChimp also tracks who opens the email which helps you see whether or not you’re actually being heard.
While there is a small technical learning curve (think Facebook-level difficulty), the primary challenge of getting something like this started is acquiring the email lists from meetings in the Quarter. When I first mentioned this idea, the reaction from one Friend was basically, “Sounds like a great idea, but good luck getting meetings to pony up their email lists.” The truth was that this was less of a problem than I imagined. We have seven meetings in our Quarter and so far we have email lists from five of them. We started this process about two months ago, so at Quaker speed we’re doing pretty good! The Quarter gave assurances that the information would not be shared and that emails would only be occasional which helped sweeten the idea.
So, what is in a monthly email bulletin? Ours is under the care of our Steering Committee and the information is derived from what is brought forth from Steering Committee representatives. So, if any individual member or attender wanted something in the bulletin, they could direct that request to their representative. At the end of every Steering Committee meeting we also have an “Around the Quarter” discussion where each meeting shares new and interesting happenings. This could be something major like an upcoming event or as simple as something fun First Day school children have been doing. We now duplicate this information in the bulletin for everyone in the Quarter to benefit from.
If all goes well, the bulletin will evolve with the feedback from meetings and grow into an important vehicle for information sharing that answers the call for better communication between meetings. If you want to see what we’re up to, you can subscribe to our bulletin at: http://www.salemquarter.net/subscribe/