Most readers of this blog are savvy enough to know that emails from your personal email account won’t do for mass communications (and don’t get me started on attachments).

To communicate with a wide audience, you’ll need an email marketing application. The dozens of options available (Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Patron Mail, iContact, Mail Chimp, etc.) can be overwhelming.

I have seen nonprofit organizations grind to a standstill when choosing an email marketing application. I worked with one organization that had spent six months researching various options. Six months!

All of these applications are really similar, but most of them express their prices differently. Some charge based on the number of emails you send. Some allow for unlimited sending and charge on the total number of email addresses in your database. Some have setup fees and additional “add on” services.

Here’s some pragmatic advice for choosing the right option for you: forget the slight differences among the various options, and choose based on price. To do this, calculate the following figures:

  • How big is your email list?
  • How large is it likely to grow in the next year?
  • How often do you intend to communicate with the majority of your list?

Let’s say you have a list of 500 email addresses in your database, you’re going to a public event in a month and expect to capture 100 more, and you plan to send a monthly newsletter. Examine each email application’s pricing based on those figures, and make your choice based on price alone.