1. How do I create documents for emailing to my constituents?

Some of this material is also covered in How-to videos.

Email Format

The body of an email message can be formatted as a plain text document, a picture, or an HTML page. Sumac supports all these formats.

Plain text documents can be created using any text editor, or created with a word processor then saved as a text-only document. Few people send plain text emails because the appearance is rather boring: no pictures, colours, styles, fonts.

Sending a picture as the body of an email can be quite effective. For example, you may send a flyer or poster that announces an upcoming event. The problem with this is that sending a picture is a common spamming technique, so many spam filters block emails whose body content is a picture.

Therefore it’s better to sent bulk email as HTML pages. HTML is a standard way of formatting data so that email programs and web browsers can display the data. In fact, a web site consists of many HTML pages linked together.

Creating An HTML Page

You create an HTML page much like you create a word processing document. Only instead of using a word processor like Word or OpenOffice, you need a program that edits HTML pages.

You may be tempted to use Microsoft Word to create a page, then save it as HTML. Don’t do this. It won’t work. The HTML produced by Microsoft products is non-standard; it only works with a few email client programs, so many of the recipients of your email will not be able to read it properly.

Get An HTML Editor

If you already have a favourite HTML editor, perhaps for maintaining your web site, you can use it. If not, we recommend SeaMonkey (for Linux, Macintosh and Windows), a good HTML editor that produces standard HTML that can be displayed correctly by virtually all email programs. Click here to download SeaMonkey.

Then you need to install it. SeaMonkey is an integrated web program: it does browsing, email, address book, chat, and HTML page composition. You probably do not need to use it for anything except page composition. To eliminate all but the page composition functionality, when you first run SeaMonkey, choose Edit/Preferences, click Appearance, then click to turn off all but the Composer, then click OK to save the preferences. Quit and start again, and you will have an empty HTML page to edit.

Use The HTML Editor

Entering text into your document is much like putting text into a word processing document. Type the text, select and change its appearance.

Pictures are done differently. While it is possible to embed pictures into an HTML page, this is usually a bad idea because it delays email download time, and also runs into trouble with spam checkers. Instead, you put the image (e.g. a jpg or gif file) on your web site, in a folder that is not generally viewed by web browsers. Then you choose Insert/Image to insert a link from your HTML page to the image.

For example if your web site is, and you put the images in a folder on your web server that is named newsletterImages, and the particular image file is named logo.jpg, then you would specify this example link to cause your page to show the specified image:


Putting Pictures On Your Website

Website content, like pictures, is usually put on a website by transferring files from your computer to the website server. This is typically done using FTP: file transfer protocol.

To manage files on your website using FTP, you need to install a special FTP program. We recommend Filezilla client, which you can get here.

    1. Why can’t Sumac connect to the SMTP server to send email?

If you are using Sumac to send bulk email for the first time, probably the information about the SMTP server is configured incorrectly or not at all. A Sumac administrator needs to set up the details of your SMTP server in the Office record (Utilities/Customize Database/Office edit the office record paying special attention to these fields: SMTP Server Port; SMTP Server; SMTP Server User; and SMTP Server User Password). If you are sending email during a busy time of day, is it possible that the SMTP server is busy. Wait 30 seconds and try again. When sending email, Sumac tries five times to establish a connection to the SMTP server for each email. If the SMTP server does not respond, then either the SMTP server is unavailable, or your connection to the Internet has failed.

    1. How do I set up Sumac to send bulk email?

Before sending bulk email you should have a discussion with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Explain to the ISP:

      1. that you are a charity,
      2. that the recipients of the email have asked to receive it and can opt out whenever they want to, and
      3. the level of traffic you anticipate, e.g. send email to 1000 contacts twice per month.

Then ask the ISP how email traffic should be timed. Perhaps the ISP will ask that the email be send mostly at night, or that you space emails at least 10 seconds apart.

Once your ISP is informed, you need to configure Sumac. All computer programs send email by connecting to an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server. So you need to tell Sumac which SMTP server to use, and how to connect to it. This information is stored in Sumac using an office record. Here is how to edit it:

      1. Log on to Sumac as an administrator.
      2. Click Utilities/Customize Database/Offices.
      3. Double click to edit the office record for the office that is trying to send email.
      4. Specify all the SMTP Server fields (port, server URL, user ID and password). Also, specify the Outgoing Email fields (display name and the return email address). Then save the office record.

Once these administrative tasks are done, you search to find people to receive an email, then click Send Bulk Email to send mail. The Sumac Users Guide explains how to do this.

    1. People receiving our email cannot see the pictures. What’s wrong?

If you send an HTML email which contains links to pictures stored on your web server, here are some things that could go wrong:

      1. The picture is not actually on the server. In this case, put the picture on the server.
      2. The picture is on the server but its file name on the server is different from the name in the link in the HTML email. If this is the problem, fix the name in the HTML document. Note that some web servers are case sensitive with respect to file names: PICTURE.jpg is not the same as picture.jpg. So make sure that words are entered precisely.
      3. The picture is on the server and its name is correct, but the directory holding the picture is not publicly accessible. Move the picture to a public directory on the server and change the HTML document or, alternatively, make the directory publicly accessible.
    1. Sometimes we get messages saying email was not delivered. What’s wrong?

Most often, these types of messages arise because the email address is invalid. Perhaps the recipient is no longer at the email address being used, or the organization has changed how it forms email addresses.

Occasionally, an email may be undeliverable because the destination email server was down for awhile. If you try again the next day it may be up and the email will be delivered. Try waiting at least 24 hours and sending the undeliverables a second time. If they fail a second time, then you can conclude that probably the email address no longer works. You should still not delete the contact, although you may want to delete their email address. You should follow up to find out the person’s correct email address.

It could also be that you, as an email sender, are being blocked by the recipient’s ISP. Speak with the ISP to find out if this is the case. In this case, it may be necessary for the recipient to contact their ISP and ask them to allow transmission of emails from you.

It is possible that the email address refers to a domain that has no email service. Sumac Analyze Email command (in the Contacts list window) can quickly check this for you.

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