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6 Great Ways To Introduce Email Etiquette to Your Nonprofit Team

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6 Great Ways To Introduce Email Etiquette to Your Nonprofit Team

Setting ground rules around email etiquette in the workplace for ourselves and our teams is the key to ensuring healthy, productive communication for our nonprofits.

Why is email etiquette important?

It’s important for individuals to adhere to best practices when it comes to composing and sending emails. But even the most conscientious writer can misstep when it comes to email etiquette in the workplace.


As a nonprofit leader, it’s critical to set ground rules for email correspondence for your entire organization. This is how you’ll maintain the kind of electronic communication that pushes you further toward your mission… Instead of creating problems that distract you from it!


Here are six ways to introduce email etiquette for nonprofit teams.

1. Manage Expectations Around Replies

Your team should set general expectations for how quickly they respond to messages. Depending on the needs and pace of your organization, a 24- or 48-hour turnaround might be most appropriate. 

This doesn’t mean that every email needs a reply within this time frame. But it does mean that team members should remember to clearly communicate alternative timelines – whether they require more urgency or less.

2. Use Formatting to Help Reading Comprehension

Teams should format their emails well to ensure the best results. Using bolded text, bulleted lists, headers, and plenty of white space can help bring readers’ attention to the most important parts of a message. 

Additionally, team members should know or learn how to hyperlink text, instead of including URLs that may take up several lines with a hieroglyphic array of letters, numbers, and symbols.

3. Don’t Make Email a Mystery!

The point of every email should be clear. Perhaps it’s a list of action items or a recap of a meeting or event. You may include sentences like:

  • “Kendra, John, Sean: Action items for you in this email,” or
  • “Here is a recap of today’s meeting, for your reference. No replies are necessary.”

Simple, direct language is best when it comes to communicating with a team. 

4. Streamline Document Exchange

Be mindful of emailing documents that need edits. “Version creep” is a real problem, and it’s tricky to fix once it’s happened! Use Google Docs or a similar, cloud-based application to share and work jointly on documents. 

Make sure your emails specify any relevant chain of command, including order of edits and due dates for team members. Always keep instructions clear and direct.

5. Understand Reply All, CC, and BCC

Understand and agree on the uses of the Reply All, CC, and BCC functions. For example, don’t Reply All unless you actually need everyone involved on a communication – but do be aware of creating side conversations that can be difficult to keep track of. Use your best discretion.

When CC’ing colleagues, state clearly why you’ve done so. When someone’s participation is no longer needed, move them to BCC to allow them to drop off the thread. State this clearly, as well – “Laura, moving you to BCC now. Thanks for your work getting us to this point!”

6. Restrict Emails to Business Hours

If team members find themselves writing emails at off hours, that’s okay! But these messages should be saved in a drafts folder to be sent during normal office hours. This simple courtesy can have a huge impact in a world where so many of us have inbox notifications coming directly to our phone’s lock screen. 

Email Isn’t Always the Best Choice

Remember that you’re competing with outside communications like newsletters and marketing emails in someone’s inbox – messages and files can get lost, and easily! If your organization deals with a lot of urgent, quick-turnaround items, for example, consider implementing a chat or direct-messaging option, like Slack. 

Always remember that what you write in an email is being committed to – well – writing. Be mindful and set solid ground rules to use email effectively and efficiently as a nonprofit team.


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