Mass E-Mail and Effective Electronic Communication

Effective: April 8, 2013
Updated: April 19, 2013


Electronic communication (including e-mail, websites, listservs, and voice mail) is used extensively at Iowa State University. In particular, e-mail is a powerful communication tool, when used effectively. The university seeks to enable the distribution of e-mail as efficiently as possible.

Because of the high volume of e-mail, and our dependence on its reliable delivery, it is important we observe best practices. This ensures effective use of e-mail in a manner that is beneficial to all.

Following guidelines for large-scale or mass e-mail can help e-mail traffic flow smoothly.

The first section of this document notes existing electronic communication channels that should be used when sending a mass e-mail. The second section notes best practices for e-mail. The third section covers policies and procedures for large-scale mailing. We encourage the inclusion of the best practices noted here in departmental and college guidelines.


  • Ensure University resources are used effectively.
  • Preserve e-mail as an effective communication tool.
  • Enable smooth delivery of mass e-mails.

Existing Communication Channels

To assist with effective communication to the university community, Iowa State University has many existing electronic communications or publications. These methods are published or updated regularly. When you want to make or send an announcement to the university community, use one of these methods, rather than doing your own mass e-mail.

All faculty and staff receive Inside Update, a weekly e-mail update of university news and announcements that supplements the faculty/staff newspaper. Inside Update is sent on Wednesday evenings for arrival by Thursday morning. Departments are encouraged to submit short one-paragraph announcements that are of general interest to faculty and staff. To refer readers to additional information, include a Web address. Send submissions to

News and announcements for faculty and staff that are more specific than those included in Inside Update are posted online in Faculty/Staff Announcements . Send submissions to News and announcements specific to students are posted online in Student Announcements . Send submissions to

Both the faculty/staff and student announcements sites are linked from Iowa State's News Service . The News Service site carries news and features of interest to general audiences, including not only the campus community, but alumni, students, prospective students and their parents, Iowans, and others with an interest in Iowa State University.

E-Mail Best Practices

Is the e-mail relevant to the University's core missions, or is it important in protecting physical, financial, or human assets? If not, distributing a mailing to a university e-mail list may not be appropriate.

The following best practices for mass mailings can help with the most efficient distribution.

  • Consult with the Solution Center for mailings to more than 4000-5000 recipients to help explore all options. If possible, send mass mailings outside of University business hours, weekdays 8am - 5pm.
  • It is recommended that Account Services on the Web (ASW)  be used in establishing e-mail lists.
  • It is important to set up the addresses correctly. For large mailings, do not put a list name or list of addresses in the To: field. Instead, you should:
    • Put your own e-mail address in the To: and From: fields
    • Place the list name or list of e-mail addresses in the Bcc: field

Using this method keeps the list of recipients from being displayed, and keeps anyone replying to the e-mail from sending his or her response to the entire list.

Mass E-mail Policies and Procedures


All electronic communications are expected to comply with federal and state laws, and University regulations and policies governing public computing resources, security considerations, and ethics in computing.

Permission to mail to a group is not needed if you are the authorized agent for the group or are conducting normal University business; e.g., reminders to Library patrons about book due dates. The role of approval is delegated to specific governing groups; e.g., P&S Council may mail to P&S staff and Faculty Senate may mail to faculty. Before using a list that someone else owns, you must ask permission to use it. Access to a list does not imply permission to use.

If you wish to do a large mailing to a group and are from outside of the group, you must get permission from the associated approving office for that group. (See the table below for approving office.) Exceptions or requests that fall outside the scope of this table will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Direct your request to the head of the division or unit for the intended audience.

Intended AudienceApproving OfficeContact or Delegate
All faculty, staff or studentsPresident of appropriate Senior Vice PresidentFaculty and Staff: Human Resource Services,
Students: Registrar's Office,
Faculty and/or staff and/or students in another college or divisionAppropriate Dean, DEO, or DirectorOffice of relevant Dean, DEO, or Director


  • After obtaining approval to do a mass mailing, obtain authorization to use the mailing list. All list owners are encouraged to consider the benefits of moderating or otherwise controlling access to large lists. This applies whether a list has been created for one-time use or is maintained as a standing list; whether compiled manually or from the central database; and whether membership is involuntary or by subscription. Authorization to use a mailing list is given by the approving office.
  • If a list needs to be extracted from an Iowa State IT database, the person authorizing the use of the list must send approval to the appropriate Iowa State IT analyst. The Iowa State IT analyst will process the actual request for list extraction. Contact the Registrar's office for student e-mail lists and Human Resource Services for faculty and staff mail lists. There is a fee for list extraction.
  • If desired, Iowa State IT will send mass mailings for faculty, staff, and students for a fee. Submit mailing details by logging into the Mass e-mail Request .
  • To discuss further options and procedures, contact the Solution Center.

Mass E-mail Checklist

Before you send a large-scale mailing, ensure you can answer "yes" to each of the following questions:

  • Is e-mail the best or appropriate method to get information to your intended audience?
  • Is the message relevant to the university's core missions?
  • Have you included in the content of the message:
    • A "From:" address where replies will be received?
    • The office, organization, or individual sending the message?
    • Contact information if there is a question, comment, or complaint about the message?
    • An explanation of why the recipient is receiving the message?
    • Required information presented succinctly?
    • Pointers to Website or elsewhere for additional information, if applicable?
    • An approval notice?
  • Do you have authorization to use the mailing list?
  • Do you have approval to do a mass mailing to your intended audience if your mailing will go to more than 1,000 recipients?