12, 2007: Emailing our shareholders used to be a
huge pain for us. If your CSA has webhosting, whether or not
you have a site up, you can use web-based mailing programs
and make your life much easier.
Some programs are clearly better than others. One out-of-date
address or overloaded mailbox is enough to crash programs
like Mailman. So after spending three hours sifting through
198 email addresses to find the one bad one three years ago,
we switched to PHPlist, which our webhost—Zillionbucks.com—offers
to us as part of its lowest priced hosting plan. We can't
imagine operating without it. Our sister food co-op uses it,
PHPlist allows us to enter data into our own specified fields,
such as email address, first name, last name, as well as co-shareholder
names so we know who to remove when people go on sabbatical
or move. You also can include phone numbers and date joined
(or not) if you have this in another program like QuickBooks.
Since PHP is a web database at its core, importing/exporting
data is easy. You can mass subscribe your shareholders at
the start of a season.
Additionally, PHP allows us to create lists for our entire
membership or individual pickup points, in the event we need
to communicate specific site information like changes in parking.
You also can copy individual records between lists or entire
lists easily. Each summer we compile a “waiting”
list and move people to the next season's mailing list as
they join in late fall/winter with the click of a button.
Because it is web-based, PHPlist also allows us to send messages
remotely. So, the entire task of writing or sending a newsletter
can easily be delegated to a shareholder or divided among
You can also queue messages for later sending. The program
also stores records of each message sent, so it is always
easy to find what you or others wrote last week. If you include
phone numbers, you can delegate someone to remotely export
a phone list and start a calling tree in the event of a crisis,
say when a delivery truck breaks down.
We regularly copy our new data to our desktop machine, so
in the event we or our web host would crash, we shouldn't
We still print out newsletters for a couple of members who
don't have email, but being able to do our communication online
has saved us hundreds of dollars in paper, toner and postage
over the years. We have been able to use the savings to fund
sponsored shares for low-income members of our community and
to make micro-loans to our farmers to help pay for greenhouses
and other improvements.
PHPlist runs on most servers, and your ISP may have it running
already. To check whether yours does, go to http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/graph/
and type in your website address/URL.
Your host's servers need to be running PHP 4.3 or higher.
If your host has Fantastico setup (ask your host, or check/have
your webmaster check your site's control panel interface),
you can install PHP on your site and begin using it within