This is the third in a series of posts for Creating a Web Presence for your Community Group. In this post I will take a look at Email for your Community Group. This is a bit of a long post and has a lot of technical details and involved steps, but the good news is that you only ever need to do it once!
Most community groups have a President, a Treasurer and various other committee positions. The main feature of community groups is that the people in these roles change regularly – at least once per year. If you are dealing with suppliers or members of the public, the email communications may get lost when things transfer from the outgoing President to the incoming President. You usually remember to transfer hard copy files, and even maybe soft copy documents, but what about the email history of the group, that is harder.
This is where I will suggest one option only – Google Apps for Your Domain – because it is great, it’s FREE and it works so well for community groups and small businesses (See my previous post on Google Aps for Your Domain for small business).
The Set Up
Here are the steps to getting up and running with GAFYD Email for your community group:
- Sign up for Google Apps by choosing the Standard Edition of Google Apps for Your Domain – this is the FREE version.
- Enter your domain name and follow the prompts through the setup process. It is quite straightforward. There is a great step by step guide for the whole process.
- Now you need to verify that you own the domain you said you did. For this you go back to your WordPress.com site you previously set up (if you chose not to set up a WordPress.com site see the instructions here).
- You will be given a verification code from Google Apps – it starts with google and has a long string of numbers and letters after it.
- In WordPress go to Settings, then Domains then click on Edit DNS. Halfway down the page enter your verification code, click on Generate DNS which enters the correct DNS records into the box at the top. Now click the Save DNS Records button.
- Now go back into your Google Apps account and click the Verify button to finish the process in the Google Apps control panel. You’ll know when verification is complete by checking the status of your services. Next to Calendar, for example, it will say Active instead of Updating.
Note that it could take up to 48 hours for the verification to apply because it can take that long for the DNS servers to update.
You should now be able to send and receive email from your Google Apps account, with the initial account you set up.
Create the Users
The next step is then to create an email address for each member of your community group. Create generic email addresses such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. There is a step by step guide on how to create users in Google Apps. Assign each user a generic, easy to remember password for now.
It will be annoying for your users to keep checking their email from your community group domain, so now you want to forward your email to the individual’s own existing email address. They can do this themselves, or you can do it for them before you let them know about the account you have just created for them. Here’s how to do it:
- Log out of the admin of the domain and in to the newly created firstname.lastname@example.org email account. Use the URL of http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com.au to get to the email.
- Follow these steps to set up the forwarding.
- Log out of that user, and into the account of the other users and do the same thing.
You may also want to set up a group email called email@example.com. That way, to email the whole committee, people just need to use the one email address. Follow these steps for setting up groups in your domain.
The URL of http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com.au is a pretty long URL to remember and may not be so easy for your committee members. So in this step you will set up some sub domains for each of the Google Apps, apps (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Docs etc). We have not delved into the other apps other than Mail – that will be covered in one of the next posts in the series.
The subdomain for mail will be http://mail.yourdomain.com.au
This is the steps to set up the sub domains.
- Log back into WordPress.com and go to Settings then Domains and click on Edit DNS.
- In the DNS box enter the following CNAME entries.
- Click on the Save DNS Records button.
- Now come back into your Google Apps admin, go to Service Settings, and follow these steps to set up the mappings for the sub domains for each app. However, when you are in the page to change the url for Mail, there is a link to “Change URLs for all domain services”. If you click on that link you can do all the sub domain URL’s in one hit.
- Now log out of the Admin and test your new subdomain by going to http://mail.yourdomain.com.au (as with other DNS changes it may take up to 48 hours for it to work).
CNAME mail ghs.google.com. CNAME docs ghs.google.com. CNAME sites ghs.google.com. CNAME calendar ghs.google.com. CNAME contacts ghs.google.com.
Spread the Word
Now email your committee members and let them know the following:
- The new email address for their committee position
- The fact that the emails sent to that address will be coming directly to their own inbox.
- The general committee email address for sending emails to the whole committee.
- The URL http://mail.yourdomain.com.au to log into the email
- The password that you created originally (tell them to change it right away by following these steps).
I would suggest the following rules for using the president, treasurer etc emails. If they are replying to an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org it is fine to come from their own email address (if you are particular about keeping a full audit trail of communications both ways, then ask them to cc or bcc the president email address in all replies). If they are sending an “official” email on behalf of the group then they should log into the mail account to send the email from there (eg an email out to all members).
Or, if they already use Gmail for their own personal mail, they can use this trick to send your group’s email right from within their own Gmail account and have it come from their yourdomain.com.au email address.
In the next post I will talk about options for managing your members, and communicating with your members.