How many emails does your organization send each day? If you’re like most nonprofits, the number is likely in the hundreds or even thousands. Out of all the emails sent, how many comply with the Federal CAN-SPAM Act?

When using VolunteerHub, you can rest easy knowing that your volunteer-related communications are in compliance. In this article, we’ll look at all the ways VolunteerHub helps keep your NPO compliant.

What is CAN-SPAM?

In a nutshell, the CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets rules for commercial email practices and offers recipients the right to opt-out of certain emails altogether. Many people think the CAN-SPAM Act only pertains to bulk email, which is a common misconception. As the FTC’s website points out, “it covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as ‘any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,’ including email that promotes content on commercial websites.”

An important educational note – the FTC differentiates between “commercial” and “transactional or relationship” emails. Here’s what the FTC says on this topic.

Violating the CAN-SPAM Act comes with a hefty fine. Penalties up to $16,000 per email sent can be assessed for failure to comply. Let’s take a look at how VolunteerHub helps you avoid compliance-related issues.

VolunteerHub’s “Transactional” Emails

Any time a new volunteer signs up within your organization’s VolunteerHub, he or she receives a confirmation email. Likewise, when volunteers register for an event they receive notifications with event details. Such emails are all considered transactional because volunteers have willingly registered within your Hub. VolunteerHub helps you facilitate the “transaction” by sending appropriate account or event details. Examples of VolunteerHub transactional emails include:

  • Confirmation emails for new volunteers
  • Event registration confirmation emails
  • Event change notifications
  • Event reminder emails

Using VolunteerHub to Send “Commercial Content” Emails

Many nonprofits also use VolunteerHub to send non-transactional emails, such as sending a promotional email to entire volunteer user groups. Here are a few examples we’ve seen in the past:

  • Promoting a new volunteer opportunity – Within VolunteerHub your organization can set up user groups, which allow you to organize your volunteers by skill or any other custom grouping. It’s logical for your event coordinator to promote new events by emailing such user groups.
  • Last-minute requests – Sometimes there’s not enough time to properly promote an event. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters can create an immediate need for volunteers. Instead of calling volunteers on the phone, you can instantly email them via VolunteerHub.
  • Promoting non-volunteer events – Many nonprofits have annual banquets or galas. Some of our customers have used VolunteerHub to invite constituents to such events.
  • Donation solicitations – Volunteers are very giving people. Many volunteers are willing to donate more than just their time. Some NPOs have used VolunteerHub to tastefully solicit financial donations from volunteers.

As part of VolunteerHub’s ongoing effort to help keep your organization CAN-SPAM compliant, we’ve added these new features:

  1. New Volunteer Opt-in Form Field During Registration: When a new volunteer registers for an account in VolunteerHub, he or she is prompted to either opt-in or opt-out of commercial email content from your organization. We find that many volunteers choose to opt-in so they can stay better informed. Here’s what the volunteer sees when he or she is registering:
    Registration Opt In
  2. Opt-out Link Included in All Non-Transactional Emails: Sometimes volunteers forget they opted-in to your commercial content. VolunteerHub provides them with a simple way to opt-out from receiving future commercial emails. Rest assured, they will still receive all transactional emails even after opting out (as long as they are still a registered user within VolunteerHub). Here’s a look at the opt-out message your volunteers will see in non-transactional emails:Commercial Email Example

What Does this Mean for Existing VolunteerHub Clients?

In the coming days, we’ll be rolling out the latest version of VolunteerHub. For existing customers, there will be a few noticeable differences. As we discussed above, new volunteers will have to opt-in during registration to receive your commercial emails. In addition, we’re automatically adding opt-out links to your non-transactional emails. Existing volunteers (those already in your Hub) will still receive both transactional and commercial emails; however, they too will have the ability to opt-out of commercial emails via the opt-out link.