Communicating through ChurchSuite
In this article
Communicating with just the right individuals or groupings of people is at the centre of ChurchSuite, which is why you'll see a Communicate option on most view pages and reports, enabling you to communicate with some or all of the people on that page or report wherever you are working.
Most modules include a Communication section enabling you to communicate with people within the context of that module. For example, in the Address Book, you can communicate with contacts and in the Children module, you can choose to communicate with children and parents/carers; whereas, in the Rotas module, you can communicate with ministry and rota members or those in particular teams or roles.
All users can use the communication functionality in each of their permitted modules. All communication sent through ChurchSuite is sent blind-copied and respecting each recipient's communication options.
All emails sent by module users include an Unsubscribe link in the email footer, enabling recipients to self-manage their communication options, opting in or out of communication options.
However, depending on your data protection policy and the lawful basis you rely on for your various communications, users can optionally choose to override communication options - to send a message that disregards the opted-out preference of recipients. Typically, this is where there is an overriding lawful basis that does not rely on or require consent e.g. legitimate interest and legal obligation, or where there is a compelling reason to do so.
When overriding communication options, the sending user is required to enter an override reason which is shown in the footer of the sent emails and visible when viewing sent communication logs.
Sent communications are shown in the communication log on each recipient's profile page and also in the Communication report in the respective module's Reports section. Click on the Recipients pill counter or choose View from the message actions.
How does ChurchSuite send email?
While there are a number of things that you can do to reduce and resolve email deliverability issues, ChurchSuite also does a number of things to maximise the deliverability of emails sent through the platform, using several industry-standard tools and configurations which are explained below to help you better understand how we protect the deliverability and legitimacy of your emails.
Email Service Providers (ESP)
We utilise several industry-leading Email Service Providers to send emails through ChurchSuite on your behalf. This allows us to maximise resilience and ensure adequate service redundancy in the event of a service failure by a service provider which, while regrettable, is something we anticipate from time to time. Since we are unable to send emails purporting to be from your email domain - that would be considered 'spoofing' and would result in non-delivery and may adversely affect your domain reputation - the 'From' sender addresses of your sent emails will use one of our verified domains:
- tx.churchsuite.com (or tx.charitysuite.com for charitysuite.com customers)
- mg.churchsuite.com (or mg.charitysuite.com for charitysuite.com customers)
- out.churchsuite.com (or out.charitysuite.com for charitysuite.com customers)
Depending on the email service provider being used and the type of email, sent emails will look something like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com - where kingshope is the ChurchSuite account domain name in this example.
While the 'From' address will be from one of the above domains, the 'Reply-to' address is the actual sender's email address, ensuring replies are always delivered back to the original author/sender.
SPF, DKIM and DMARC
SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two protocols we use to enable recipient email service providers (like Google, Yahoo, iCloud etc.) to verify that the emails we're sending on your behalf are actually being sent from the ChurchSuite platform.
We also use DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) to monitor sent emails to ensure they are being correctly verified using SPF and DKIM.
Importantly, there's nothing you need to do - we've configured everything from our end to maximise the deliverability of the emails you send through ChurchSuite so that they are correctly validated by each recipient's email service provider.
Mandrill Integration (Legacy)
A small number of longstanding customers have completed a Mandrill integration enabling us to legitimately send emails using their own email domain in the 'From' email field e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. The integration is somewhat technical to complete - requiring the customer to add SPF and DKIM entries to their DNS records - and as such, is no longer available for new customers.
You can attach files to emails. Attachments are uploaded using a secure third-party file handling service called Filestack, which enables you to upload multiple files (one at a time) from your device, Google Drive, OneDrive, Evernote and DropBox. The maximum file upload size is 50Mb (although consideration should be given to the recipient's device and the internet download quota that will be consumed by large files). Consider hosting large files on your website, and hosting large video files on purpose-built video streaming services like YouTube or Vimeo - and then embedding a file or video link in your emails.
Important: Email attachments uploaded to Filestack are added to emails as embedded links, rather than physically added to the email body. This means that internet access is required for a recipient to access and view the attachment. Filestack retains files uploaded from your computer/device for 36 months from the date of upload; file attachments will no longer be accessible from the links on previously-sent emails after this time. Attachments uploaded from Google Drive or Dropbox are not subject to this limitation and will remain active for as long as the files exist in your Google Drive or Dropbox storage.
Video in emails
It is not possible to embed playable videos directly into the body section of an email - recipient email applications will remove this content from the message before delivery. This is a constraint with email generally and not a ChurchSuite constraint. Instead, we recommend you insert a video placeholder image into your message and then add the video URL as a link to that image. When a recipient clicks on the placeholder image the video will be open and playback in their device browser. This method requires you to host videos either on your website or using a video-streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo.
To embed a video link, select the image or text in your email body content and click the Insert/Edit Link tool from the HTML toolbar. Copy and paste the URL of your video file into the URL field and select to Open link in a new window.
Top Tip! Inserting full-width images
The maximum width of emails sent from within ChurchSuite is 580px. To have email images responsively adjust to the size of the recipient user's screen - i.e. full width rather than fixed width - right-click on the image and select the Source code tool to view the HTML code for the email.
Within the body of the HTML source code, locate the code relating to your image it will start with <img src=", as shown in the example below:
<img src="https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/MR9iRqIwSImZP7gtSBWT" alt="puppy.jpg" width="600" height="400" />
Replace the fixed height and width elements with a single style="max-width:100%;", like this...
The effect of this change will be to scale the image up or down to either the maximum resolution of the image or the width of the screen the image is being rendered on, whichever comes first. The image height will change proportionately.
When composing an email a draft unsent email will persist during your active browser session, which means that if you dismiss the compose pop-up, perhaps to do something else in another module, the unsent message is preserved until you next open an email compose pop-up. The unsent email will persist until it is sent or you select New document to clear the email body content, ready to compose a new message.
When composing an email you can choose between different email Templates. The Plain template sends the message in plain text, meaning that it is rendered in the recipient's default email font set.
There are also two branded templates:
- Branded Header applies your organisation's Logo, Colour styling, and your chosen email-friendly Font to the email
- Branded Slimline is similar but doesn't include your Logo, adding instead a more subtle emblem logo to the end of the email
You can manage the Logo, Emblem, Colour styling, Font and preferred default Template in the Brands section of the Administrator area. For further information, see the related support article on Using brands.
Top Tip - line/styling breaks and paragraph breaks
When composing an email, pressing <Enter> adds a line break, but the previous line's styling is not carried over to the new line. Pressing Shift+<Enter> adds a paragraph break and carries over the previous paragraph styling to the new paragraph.
Email open tracking
ChurchSuite supports the open tracking of sent emails, providing insight into whether and when an email was opened. This is made possible by a commonly-used marketing technique of embedding an 'open tracking pixel' into outbound emails. Recipient email providers that support open tracking return a simple 'open' response back to ChurchSuite's email provider. Only the email open date and time are maintained - all other tracking response data (recipient user agent and IP address) are discarded. You can enable or disable open tracking at any time in the Administrator > Profile section of your ChurchSuite account.
To access the open tracking of a sent email, locate the sent communication – either from the Communication log on a person's profile – or using the Communication report. Filter the report to locate the sent email you wish to view. Click View or click on the Recipients pill counter to preview the sent email...
Clicking on the recipients counter reveals a list of recipients and their open tracking status. Opened emails are distinguished in green and those whose open response is unknown are shown in grey.
Important! Not all email clients support open rate tracking
Email clients like Outlook, Hotmail and other email applications that have images in emails disabled by default can't be tracked. Where ChurchSuite has not received an 'open' tracking response this will be listed as Unknown, although your message may indeed have been opened and read! You should therefore consider 'open rates' as a broad indicator - perhaps periodically reviewing open rate percentage changes over time, rather than using them to determine if people are opening your messages. And just because a recipient has opened your message doesn't mean that they have read it!
Using your own email client for ChurchSuite communications
We've worked hard to make emailing out through ChurchSuite as intuitive, simple and effective as possible. Sometimes though, users prefer to use their familiar desktop email applications and the additional functionality those systems can offer. However, the nature of certain communications may be private and should not be logged in ChurchSuite's communication logs and reports. ChurchSuite makes it easy to "pull" the email recipient list generated in ChurchSuite into several common desktop email clients. Here are a couple of useful features to help you:
1. By clicking on any email address in ChurchSuite
Clicking on any email address on a person's profile within ChurchSuite will open your default email application on your device and populate a new email message with the person's email address. From there you can take advantage of the formatting or styling options included in the email application.
Note: The recipient's email address is populated in the "To" field. If you are emailing multiple people in the same message, you may prefer to cut and paste the addresses into the "Bcc field" to maintain recipient privacy. Note also that communications sent from outside of ChurchSuite will not respect communication options.
2. By using the "Send via email application" tool
Ordinarily, when you use ChurchSuite's communication functionality to send an email, you choose your distribution list (perhaps from a Tag or from a report) and then the ChurchSuite "Send email" pop-up editor is shown (see example below).
As an alternative to using this editor, click Cancel. Your screen now shows the email distribution list you selected. Note the Send via email application button and the drop-down menu option to Format for.
Select from a choice of popular desktop email clients. Clicking Send via email application will open the default email application for your device and populate the email distribution list into the "Bcc" field of a new blank email (formatted based on the "format for" selection made). Make sure you select the correct format so that your addresses will always pull through to your email application correctly and with the required formatting.