Communicating through ChurchSuite
In this article
Video in emails
Inserting images into emails
Restricting user communication
Email open tracking
Using your own email client for ChurchSuite communications
Communicating with just the right individuals or groupings of people is at the centre of the ChurchSuite admin-facing system, which is why you'll see a Communicate option at the top of most 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 or parents; 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 always respects each recipient's communication preference settings.
All emails sent by module Users include an Unsubscribe link in the email footer, enabling recipients to self-manage their communication settings by opting in or out of your various communication methods.
However, Users are also able to override communication settings and send a message disregarding the opted-out preference of recipients, – typically, where there is an overriding lawful basis that doesn't require consent, or where there is a compelling reason to do so. When overriding communication settings, the sending User is required to enter an 'override' reason which is added to the footer of the sent emails and is visible when viewing "sent" communication logs.
Sent communications are visible in the communication log on each recipient person's profile page, and also in the Communication report in the respective module's Reports section.
You can attach files to emails. Attachments are uploaded using a secure third-party integration called Filestack that enables you to upload multiple files (one at a time) from your computer or device, Google Drive, OneDrive, Evernote or 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 videos on purpose-built streaming services like YouTube or Vimeo - and then embedding the video link URL into your email.
Important: Email attachments uploaded to Filestack are added to emails as embedded links, rather than being physically added to the email. This means that internet access is required for a recipient to 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 video into emails in such a way that the video plays within a recipient's email client - all email applications will remove this content from emails before delivery. This is a general constraint with email 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's web browser. This method requires you to host videos either on your website or using a video-streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo. Avoid attaching large video files to emails!
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.
Inserting images in emails
The ChurchSuite email composer includes an HTML editor with a range of tools for styling and formatting your messages.
Clicking the ellipses tool shows other tools available.
There are further tools available on the right-click menu within the Body content section of a message...
To insert an image, position your cursor in the desired place where the image is to be added. Click the Insert/edit image tool icon.
You can either specify the Source URL (web address) of an existing online image (perhaps located on your website), or you can upload an image from your computer or online file storage application. Click the Upload button (located to the right of the Source box).
Clicking the Upload button opens the File Uploader - either drag and drop or copy and paste a file into the drop zone, or click + to select a file to upload, which will let you browse and navigate to a file on your computer. Note that files can only be uploaded one at a time. You can also select files from a third-party file storage account with Google Drive, OneDrive, Evernote or Dropbox.
You can insert JPG, PNG and GIF image files (including animated GIF files) up to 50Mb in size (although images no larger than 1Mb are recommended to ensure the email opens quickly and without consuming a recipient's internet download quota! Once selected, click to Upload the image.
The image is inserted into the email.
You can now click to select the inserted image and then re-click the Insert/edit image tool again set the Image description and Dimensions. The Image description field is useful where recipient email clients are not set to automatically display images in emails - some email clients' security settings do not display images by default, so a description placeholder is used. The Width and Height are automatically populated based on the original image's actual size and proportions, but you can adjust the dimensions if you wish. The padlock icon constrains the dimension so that images are not distorted when the width or height are changed.
Click Save to save the image settings.
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 user's screen (i.e. full width rather than a 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" />
Where the width of the image is set to a fixed value, remove those fixed height and width elements, and replace them 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 as well.
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 Profile section of the Administrator area. For further information, see the related support article on Personalising your ChurchSuite account.
Top Tip - text formatting within emails
When composing an email, pressing <Enter> adds a line break, but the previous line's formatting is not carried over to the new line. Pressing Shift+<Enter> adds a paragraph break and carries over the previous paragraph formatting to the new paragraph.
Restricting user communications
You can optionally restrict the maximum reach of a single communication made by a User. In the User's account in the Administrator area, select Edit user and amend the Communication restriction, either to a Fixed number or as a Percentage of total active contacts within the Address Book. That same fixed amount or percentage is applied to any communications sent from within any module.
For example, setting a fixed value of 5 will limit all communication via SMS and email by that user to a maximum of 5 individuals. Setting a value of zero will prevent any communications from being sent by email or SMS.
If a User attempts to send communication over the restriction, they'll be prevented from doing so and will be alerted to contact an Administrator for assistance. Administrators can't override the restriction; however, they can change the User's restriction so that the User can complete the 'send' process or another User with less restriction can send the communication.
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 an instance of 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 +More to preview the sent email...
Clicking on the open rate percentage reveals a list of recipients showing their open tracking status. Opened emails are distinguished in green and those for whom an open response is unknown are shown in grey.
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. Or 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 to 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.