Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

The CAN SPAM Law and your church’s email distributions

Because many of us who visit this blog are doing work for churches, charities and other community-oriented organizations – we sometimes don’t take into consideration, or perhaps even know some of the laws that may impact the operation of the websites we manage. Take for instance, the CAN SPAM Law of 2003; ever consider how it affects the management of your email lists?

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 – (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) effective as of January 1, 2004, established requirements for those who send commercial email, spelling out penalties whom advertise in spam – while also spelling out the rights of consumers to opt-out of such distributions.

“Yeah, fine Dean, but my church isn’t a commercial entity …” an argument understood, however, would it hurt us to engage in many if not all of the provisions of the law? Such as:

  • Accurate header information – this means insuring the “From,” “To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – are accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.
  • Honest and up-front subject lines – avoid subject lines that mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
  • Provide opt-out methods – give email recipients the ability to opt-out by providing provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address within 30 days of such a request.
  • Include a valid physical postal address – hey, how can that hurt if one of your organization’s overall goals are to either get them in the door, or have them send contributions the same?

By voluntarily providing such options, we as a Church body receive several benefits:

  • more efficient targeted email
  • better community relations
  • better responses
  • more willingness to sign up for mailings

I could think of about 20 more good reasons, but the point is: considering the alarming number and seriousness of charity email scams out there, not practicing the above recommendations will inevitably lead to a legislator proposing and enacting laws that will compel law-abiding charities to take on the expense of adding these and other mechanisms.

Basically it’s a matter of pay me now or pay me later when it’s more expensive. I’m no lawyer, but I’d think there are more advantages to the entire community making more efforts to abide by the tenets of the existing law, rather than attempting to afford the expense and potential entanglements of future laws.

Be nice to your users, and play by the rules. How can that possibly hurt your witness? Or as the writer of Romans penned in chapter 13, verse 1:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”