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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

with Mary Lou McNatt

Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

Computer Image

~ June 2004 ~ Topics

Arrow Image Making your E-Mailbox an Effective Tool for Your Program Arrow Image

Email! We're getting more of it everyday. What do we do with it all? How do we manage it? Are there any tricks to keeping track of it all? There are a variety of features in email programs that help us gain control over our email. Here are a few tips to help you keep control and make your mailbox an effective tool for your program.

  • A lot of incoming email can be read once, then promptly deleted - this means less email clutter to wade through. Try to schedule time at least once a month to do a clean up.
  • Delete unneeded emails regularly. You usually only need to save the last message of an ongoing "conversation" - the most recent message contains quote backs of all previous messages.
  • You can create email folders for specific volunteers, projects, or subject areas, rather than leaving them in your Inbox forever. By organizing your email this way it makes it easy to archive mail related to a particular project when that project is complete. You can drag and drop to file each email, or you can create filters to drive emails automatically to a folder you designate.
    • To keep all the mail from a certain address (i.e., vtnews@volunteertoday.com) in a special folder, set up a filter that checks the From field of all messages and sends any messages from vtnews@volunteertoday.com into a special folder called Volunteer Today. Check your email software program on how to organize your incoming email into folders.
    • If your email software doesn't allow you to create folders, an alternative is to use Save As to save emails as text files. You can group them into directories by volunteers, projects, functions, etc.
  • Use detailed subject headers - sometimes the whole message can be in the header! This saves time when searching for old emails later on.
  • Keep your Inbox clean and lean so it becomes an extension of your To Do list. Everything you must keep can be dragged into the correct folder. A good rule to follow is to keep only emails that require action in the Inbox for more than a day.

If you're not already using some of these tips, give them a try. With your email inbox functionally organized it will save you time when you have to go back to look for something later. If you have questions on any of these tips, please feel free to contact me at mlmcnatt@indra.com.

Mary Lou McNatt has many years of experience working with volunteer programs, advancing our profession and has a passion for introducing the advantages of technology to volunteer programs. She was instrumental in obtaining Ivan Scheier’s body of work on volunteerism and putting it online. She can be reached at mlmcnatt@indra.com.

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