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
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 One out-of-date address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, as well.
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 shareholders.
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
We regularly copy our new data to our desktop machine, so in the
event we or our web host would crash, we shouldn't lose anything.
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 minutes.