Email Communications

Email is an important tool for reaching your audience. Before you hit send on a mass email message, consider several things including how to best reach your intended audience and what mass email tool to use.

Mass email at the University of Minnesota

Your primary source of information about mass emails at the U is U’s Brand website, which includes:

  • appropriate uses of mass email
  • best practices and content standards
  • design requirements
  • advice for choosing alternative communication methods
  • required content for internal messages
  • download a predesigned mass email template that you can use for your communications.

The Office of Information Technology also provides information about mass email at the University.

HIPAA policies

When sending mass email you also need to account for HIPAA policies and ensure you do not inadvertently send PHI-protected information to your audience.

Email tools available

There’s no one perfect solution for sending mass email. Rather, there’s a menu of options with different capabilities. It’s a matter of finding the right fit for what you need to do.

All of these tools are supported by the University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Academic Health Center Information Systems (AHC-IS) except the final option for using MailChimp or other external vendor.

Find more details on the U-supported tools Google Groups (internal), Salesforce marketing cloud (external), and Quickmail Block in Moodle (students) on OIT’s email comparison chart.

Tool Primary audience Number of Recipients Method for adding people to the list Format options Cost Getting Started
Listserv Internal Unlimited Auto populated from data warehouse Primarily text only (but HTML can be used if brought in from outside source and if your email browser allows you to paste it in) Free Read the listserv section below this comparison chart
Google Group Internal Under 1,000 Manually improted from an existing list Primarily text with the ability to add a banner (full HTML available if created from outside source) Free OIT Google Groups page
Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget External and Internal (only option for donors and alumni) Unlimited Auto populated from Data Warehouse, DMS. Manual import is available for lists found outside DW and DMS Template based HTML University incurs a cost of each send, but free to department

Salesforce Marketing Cloud page

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Self-help guide

Mailchimp (or other external vendor) Internal (according to University policy) Depends on the terms of your subscription Manually imported from an outside source Template based HTML Subscription cost incurred by department but a free subscription option is available MailChimp website

Internal email lists (Listserv) for the Academic Health Center

Listservs were one of the earliest forms of mass email in the AHC and are still popular today.  Listservs refer to a defined set of email addresses either pulled in from an outside data source, such as the Data Warehouse, or a custom list you maintain on your own. You send to one Listserv address and it reaches everyone.

AHC-IS manages these by an application called Listserv Manager, which is available for use by all units with the AHC.

View summary of available lists

AHC-wide lists

List name Recipients Guidelines All paid and unpaid faculty and staff of the AHC (includes Duluth and Rochester) Used for messages from AHC leadership concerning AHC faculty and staff issues All faculty, including adjuncts of the AHC (includes Duluth and Rochester) Used for messages from AHC leadership regarding AHC faculty issue All Medical School Faculty and staff (incl. Duluth) Used for messages from Medical School leadership regarding Medical School faculty and staff issues All Medical School Faculty and staff (incl. Duluth) Used for messages from Medical School leadership regarding Medical School faculty issues

These lists are moderated. Guidelines for what gets approved are stated by each list

How it works

Listserv makes sending to a large group easy because you just need to send to one Listserv email address directly from your own email account, and Listserv will distribute to the list of email addresses associated with the Listserv address. This option works really well for sending text-based messages to internal audiences. It may also be possible to import HTML designs from another source, but this is about straightforward communication and not getting too “fancy.”

Many of the internal mass email lists are moderated, that is an email must be approved before being sent to this large audience. All listservs have the option of being moderated or not.

Generally, event announcements such as seminars and workshops will not be approved for moderation. Because of the number of these kinds of notices, event announcements are best distributed through other channels such Around the AHC ( or Medical School Matters ( where event announcements can be aggregated, cutting down on the number of emails people will receive.

Need a custom listserv?

Custom listservs can be be created from queries to the Data Warehouse. AHC-IS can help you set these up. You can contact Tim De Haan with AHC-IS at for more information.

With great Listserv power comes great responsibility...

Having a single email address available to you to reach a large audience is a great convenience but also a great responsibility. If you use the Listserv too often you may find that your readers will begin to “tune you out” and ignore your message.

Be frugal in using these addresses and make sure you are sending your message to a targeted group of people rather than “spamming” a larger group with information that is not important or relevant to them. You should only send to these mass lists when the message affects a significant number of people contained within the Listserv.

One last note on the use of Listservs: Do not mix the use of Listserv with another mass communication method such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Mailchimp. Because of how these programs work and how they also require an unsubscribe link, if only one member of the Listserv were to unsubscribe from the mailing, they would be unsubscribing the Listserv address, preventing you from using it again. Listserv addresses should only be used within a standard email account.