Email List Integration for Your Toastmasters Club

WordPress for Toastmasters supports several options for sending email to your membership, particularly for the purpose of collaborating to fill openings on the agenda. This article specifically discusses integration with Mailman, an open source mailing list management utility often included with web hosting accounts. When you add member accounts to the website, the email addresses will automatically be added to the mailing list. Email addresses will automatically be removed from the list when user accounts are deleted.

This allows you to write to an address such as members@mytmclub.org and have your message automatically sent to all club members without the need to look up their individual email addresses. I find it particularly useful for forwarding on information received from the district level, such as details about upcoming conferences, contests, or training events. Optionally, you can also establish a second email list just for officers.

Here is an example of a message sent this way, with the club name added to the subject line in brackets and a footer added to the body of the message with mailing list info.

Sample mailing list message.
Sample mailing list message.

Note: This feature is not enabled by default with the free websites I have been offering on the toastmost.org domain because I haven’t found a good way to automatically provision these accounts. The section of the administrator’s Toastmasters settings screen related to mailing list setup features is not even displayed on your accounts for that reason. However, I can set it up for you upon request.

If you are using the WordPress for Toastmasters software on your own hosting, check to see if your host supports Mailman. For example, if your web host uses the Cpanel utility for site management, the Cpanel mailing list function will take you to this setup page for creating a Mailman list.

Mailman list setup in Cpanel
Mailman list setup in Cpanel

After creating the list, click on the Manage link to go to the Mailman administrator’s dashboard. From here, you can further customize your list settings.

How Mailman Works

By default, any list member can send messages to the whole list. Any message received from an email address not on the list will be held for moderation. This helps prevent the list becoming a more efficient way of sending spam. However, you can designate a list of email addresses not on the list from which messages should be accepted.

You can designate multiple list administrators and list moderators with the authority to approve messages that are held for moderation.

Moderation tends to be an issue with members who have multiple email addresses, for example a personal email address, a work email address, and an address assigned by the Toastmasters district organization (for example, to an Area Director). If the list receives a message from one of those valid email addresses, you can approve it and add it to the “Accepts” list (messages from this address should be accepted in the future) at the same time.

Here is what that looks like:

Approving a message and adding the sender to the "Accepts" list (email address is checked and "Accepts" radio button selected).
Approving a message and adding the sender to the “Accepts” list (email address is checked and “Accepts” radio button selected).

Setup for Automatic Sync with Mailman

To keep the membership list consistent with the Mailman mailing list, want to record a few key settings on the Toastmasters settings screen in WordPress.

WordPress will post updates to the list almost exactly as a user would. For example, in my example of a list hosted at toastmost.org, the url for general options is …
https://toastmost.org/mailman/admin/voice_toastmost.org/general

… and the url for viewing the member list is …
https://toastmost.org/mailman/admin/voice_toastmost.org/members

What we’re going to record on the settings screen is the first part of that address, before the words “general” and “member”

Copying the root url for Mailman
Copying the root url for Mailman

We then record that info on the Toastmasters settings screen, along with the mailing list email address and the account password.

Mailman entries in Toastmasters settings.
Mailman entries in Toastmasters settings.

Once you have saved this information, you should be able to click on “Add current members to mailing list” to make the program sync for the first time with the email addresses of your organization’s members. Check the Members screen in Mailman to verify that it worked.

In addition to being used behind the scenes to keep the lists in sync, the account password information will be displayed to logged in members who have officers rights on the WordPress dashboard. This allows them to log in and make administrative changes manually, such as adding and removing email addresses not handled by the automated process.

Recommended Mailman Settings

You may have to experiment to find the settings that work for your club, but here are some that have worked for me.

General Settings

Add any additional list administrator / list moderator addresses. It helps to give more than one person this authority.

Prefix for subject line of postings

[Club Voice] in the example above. Defaults to the list name, so voice@toastmost.org would be just [Voice] by default

Where are replies to list messages directed?

“This list” if you want replies to automatically go to everyone. Otherwise, “Sender” so replies only go to the sender (unless the recipient clicks “Reply All”)

Send monthly password reminders:

No

Send welcome message to newly subscribed members

No (or if Yes, be sure to customize the message)

Send mail to poster when their posting is held for approval? 

Yes

Maximum length in kilobytes (KB) of a message body. Use 0 for no limit. 

0

Privacy section -> Sender Filters

List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted. 

This is where you can enter a list of alternate email addresses for members, such as a work email for someone who is on the member list under their personal email address.

Content Filtering

Should Mailman filter the content of list traffic according to the settings below?

<p”>No (unless you have trouble with inappropriate content being sent, you probably want to allow members to send file attachments and other content this might interfere with)

A Note on Security

Mailman is a separate piece of software, very established but not terribly sexy. It gets the job done. You should understand I have a limited ability to customize it. The integration method I’m using is very basic and posts the application password with each transaction. The risk of posting to a url on the same server may not be all that great, but ideally you should be posting to an encrypted version of the url (https rather than http).

Setting up encryption on your website is less complicated and expensive than it used to be, thanks to the Let’s Encrypt project to distribute free SSL digital security certificates. If your host uses Cpanel, check to see if Let’s Encrypt is enabled for your account or ask your host if it can be turned on for your account.

I actually used this feature unencrypted on the website for my home club for years and never had a problem, but your mileage may vary.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Comments

comments