To keep in touch with its 269 members, the organization's chosen solution is the AcyMailing newsletter and marketing campaign planning tool. You can read below the experiences of András Pál, IT analyst at the KSZGYSZ, in an article written in collaboration with the NIOK Foundation.
Communication aspects of database use
Regular member and workgroup newsletters help to keep information flowing throughout the organization, including events, happenings, tendering opportunities, environmental legislation, and even a thoughtful automated birthday greeting sent to various mailing lists.
Addressee lists can take many forms. For example, events and their associated forms typically offer the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter and the resulting spreadsheets are imported into the newsletter database. A new topic list is created from each list of participants, and those on this topic list can be contacted later with news relevant to them, for example by inviting them to a similar event the following year. The organization works with a database of more than 10,000 records and sometimes sends out up to 10,000 emails a month to its lists, all using the AcyMailing tool.
András Pál highlights the following merits of the AcyMailing newsletter sender:
Analyzable activity: the open and click rates can be tracked per newsletter or aggregated by different aspects.
There is automatic bounce-back recipient management, which is very important for a large database.
It can handle multiple lists, one email address can be included in several lists.
It is easy to add new data in bulk, either from excel or text. Moreover, since email is the base data, email duplication cannot occur.
When sending a newsletter to multiple lists at the same time, if an email address is on multiple lists, the recipient will only receive the email once.
GDPR compliant, always available unsupervised unsubscribe option.
It is also integrated with Google Analytics, as each newsletter is (also) created as content integrated into the organizational website, i.e. each one gets its own URL on our website, taking on the corporate image as a landing page.
You can create custom fields that can be used later for segmentation or bulk operations.
So-called "bulk" operations can be performed on the whole database or on a part of it, based on a very wide range of criteria, even in an automated way.
Automatic and scheduled campaigns can be created, as well as welcome messages per list. A typical example of an automatic campaign could be a mailing on the first Monday of every month of the 5 latest news from our own website, from a certain category, to our segmented subscribers. The frame (template) of this email can be edited in advance, and then a module can be added to it, which will compile the 5 news items that are always up-to-date on our website every month. From this, the system generates and sends out an image, title, introduction, date, author, tag and category display. Of course everything can be optionally switched on and off and customized. It could even be the case that someone wants to send only one set of titles and dates, but 30 of them as a list.
You can work with complex filtering: for example, you can send a mail to people who attended an event but didn't open the previous mail.
Customizable error message activities: in Acymailing, there is a predefined set of editable rules, consisting of about 25 items, which gives you a good idea of what to do in case of an error message. For example, email addresses with errors are deactivated and get a small mark in the email address list, which can then be filtered and the associated report can be easily viewed. Those that cannot be resolved and handled will be forwarded to a specified email address. Not a flag, but any list can be filtered, reviewed and even segmented according to this statistic. Which is useful, since resending to the "not opened" segment also brings an extra 5-10% open rate, according to the experience of the CSCE.
Possibility to embed forms, subscribe modules from other websites.
Any number of custom fields can be created within the system and used for form creation, which can later be used as a basis for segmentation, for example. Forms can be displayed in the content manager's own system (module or widget in the case of wordpress) or anywhere else via html embedding. You can even put it as a timed pop-up window on your own site, or only on certain subpages of your site.
Before sending it out, you can run an independent analysis (Mailtester) on the likelihood of your newsletter being considered spam by mail servers. There could be many reasons for this, but it will find out in a few seconds and also check for any "broken links".
A recently released new feature is the A/B test, a well-known email marketing technique where we pre-test the "success" of several versions of emails on a small sample and then send out the most successful one, all completely automatically.
Multilingual email writing: subject lines and emails can be pre-written in two or more languages and sent out in the user's pre-set language.
Support for international teams: the translation of the admin interface itself can be extended or adapted, with translations available in around 50 languages. For example, the "insert zone" button in the editor can be changed to "insert zone", but if configured, the entire admin interface can be displayed in everyone's own language.
Tip for advanced users: you can even access the entire MySQL database from the admin interface, and even use regex commands to create complex tasks, imports and other operations on tables and fields in the database. It is a completely unique solution in this respect.
Value for money
The issue of pricing
The issue of pricing is worth addressing separately. When using AcyMailing, there are 2 main email sending solutions, which greatly affect the monthly fee. What https://www.acymailing.com/pricing/ offers as standard is its own email sending service (Sending Service), which is charged on a per band basis depending on the number of emails sent. This is not cheap and the fee increases with the number of recipients. However, if you click on the "Acymailing only" option, using your own email service provider will reduce the price to a fraction of the price and you will get unlimited (depending on your own provider) sending pricing. You can send an unlimited number of emails for a fee of 48EUR per year.
In the case of the CSCE, all correspondence is done via Microsoft 365 SMTP, because it was also important for them to have their data on their own server and to have access to all elements of the whole system. M365 is available free of charge to non-profit organisations, but many other providers can be set up. With M365, up to 10,000 emails a day are free, which is a pretty high limit, but few can go above that.
If you're a nonprofit interested in this option, it's worth knowing that Microsoft also offers Microsoft 365 Enterprise Fund and Enterprise Premium licenses as a direct donation, but these do not include the additional support and resources offered by TechSoup Europe (license setup, troubleshooting, expert consultations, etc.) Support services can be requested through the CivilTech program for NGOs, details on the NIOK Foundation CivilTech program page here >>
Tip: Email service providers typically do not limit the number of emails, but the number of emails that can be sent at one time per hour. Knowing this limit allows you to set up a corresponding schedule in Acymailing. There is a separate settings menu for this, you simply need to copy the values you know.
A simple comparison:
Acymailing Sending Service+Acymailing Editor: 10.000 emails/month = ~12EUR/month
10.000 emails/day = 4EUR/month (Acymailing gives a 25% non-profit discount)
Tip: there is a completely free version that also allows unlimited email sending (your own provider's limits apply), and the free version does not have a scheduler, so you can only use manual sending. So for larger lists this is much more time consuming, but for databases of a few hundred the free solution may be adequate. If you are interested in the tool, it is worth testing it with the free version!
Before you decide
It is also true for this online tool that you do not necessarily need IT expertise or qualifications to be able to use it, as there is plenty of documentation available. Of course, it takes work to process these and some IT affinity. It can also be mastered in video tutorials, with a 34-video tutorial youtube channel available in English. If you need specific technical help, there is a Support and Forum, also in English, where you can get quick guidance on simple questions. On request, Support will even access the admin area of our website with a dedicated account, test the reported problem and provide a solution. In fact, there have even been cases where a real bug was found as a KSZGYSZ user and corrected by the company in the next version. Typically, the software is updated on a monthly basis, which includes bug fixes and new features. By the way, to request new features, the company also provides a common voting interface, which is used to build a clear roadmap (a schedule of planned future developments), so that we can follow and shape the direction of development.
In the case of KSZGYSZ, András Pál is both the IT colleague and the newsletter manager, but the newsletter editor itself can be handled by several colleagues, it can be trained in 3-4 sessions, the interface is about as simple as the popular MailChimp. András' IT experience helps him to know that in case of formatting problems, it is also worth looking into the html source and he can overwrite it by interpreting it.
The organisation has integrated the tool into their website, meaning that not only can they insert their web articles and news with a single click, but also, for example, the image file for their entire website is simply 'there' when inserting any image. In contrast, with MailChimp, you have to upload them and write the article manually. Importantly, a prerequisite for using AcyMailing is that you have a Wordpress or Joomla site, which are free, so it is worth installing AcyMailing for these.
One area where we might need to focus our understanding and configuration skills is the issue of email authentication, which MailChimp, for example, takes over completely from the user. Here, we have to set up the appropriate DNS (Domain Name System) records with our domain provider ourselves, for which we will of course be given instructions. And if you send your emails via Microsoft 365, you also have to do a so called OAUTH authentication, which - as András Pál assures us - is not as complicated as the documentation says. The documentation is more about knowing what we are doing and why. For Microsoft 365 email servers, automatic bounce email handling does not work at the moment, but we can find a workaround for this by creating a non-bounce account using a separate domain, and redirecting M365 bounce emails to it, and then we can use the fully automatic and configurable bounce handling.
To read the rest of the article series with first-hand experiences, check them out below!