Technology

Nonprofit Launches Open-Source Take on Email Marketing

By / Sep 18, 2017 (via FreeCodeCamp's Medium page)

FreeCodeCamp, a nonprofit that offers coding help to fellow nonprofits, recently launched an open-source email marketing tool to send bulk messages on the cheap.

If you send a lot of marketing emails, you know the pain of the high costs that can come with such messaging.

Many email marketing tools have an upfront charge based on the number of subscribers you have, and if you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of readers, that cost can add up to thousands of dollars each year—before you even send a single message. The state of affairs is one that has some (including me) wondering if a market correction might happen someday.

FreeCodeCamp, a nonprofit group that offers coding assistance to other nonprofits (it’s also an educational community to teach others how to code), was dealing with this problem itself, because its list was proving unwieldy. Sending messages to the 1 million people on the list using MailChimp would have cost $4,399 each month.

So, being adept at code, FreeCodeCamp built its own solution. Mail for Good, an open-source offering, relies on Amazon’s Simple Email Service, a cloud-based tool, to distribute emails at a minimal cost.

“These are high-deliverability emails—sent through Amazon Web Services—and they only cost our nonprofit $0.0001 each,” said Quincy Larson, FreeCodeCamp’s founder, in a Medium blog post. “This means I’m able to send out all 1,000,000 emails—while avoiding most spam filters—for a grand total of only $100.”

The tool his team created, which it released to the public in an open-source form last week, makes it possible for any organization to send messages cheaply, complete with tracking codes, sign-up widgets, and analytics tools—though Larson says the tool is actually intended for other nonprofits.

“We are a nonprofit, and we built this tool with nonprofits in mind,” Larson noted. “But entrepreneurs, businesses, and even governments could use Mail for Good and save a considerable amount of money in the process.”

The tool, the fruit of thousands of hours of work by a handful of developers, won’t replace a full-service email marketing team in its current form, but it is showing the potential for long-term success. Mail for Good recently gained notice in the Hacker News developer community and is a trending project on GitHub.

Of course, as with any open-source offering, you’ll be in charge of running your own servers if you use Mail for Good. If you don’t want to do that, similar offerings based on Amazon’s SES are set up in a software-as-a-service format, such as BigMailer and EmailOctopus. Additionally, there is a pay tool called Sendy that does something similar.

But an open-source tool built by a nonprofit for nonprofits is worth watching.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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