When to Include an Unsubscribe Link

The benefits of sending email directly from Salesforce are that you can automate when they go out, you can send up to 5,000 emails per day, and email templates are really simple to set up.

woman using white smartphone on front of table
Dear Asses and Donkeys Trust, I no longer want to receive your email. XOXO, Belinda

But any time you’re emailing groups of people, you should be mindful of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM law (which I just learned isn’t called the “Canned Spam” law). CAN-SPAM requires that emails, in certain scenarios, provide an option for the recipient to unsubscribe.

I am writing to you on my personal blog as a puzzle-solving Salesforce admin, not a Salesforce employee. Your decisions around unsubscribe options can have legal implications for your organization so please do not take anything from this post as legal guidance or means to make your communications legally compliant.  That decision is between you and your lawyers.

If you’re using something like Marketing Cloud, Mailchimp or Constant Contact, they include a link to allow recipients to unsubscribe. And if you’re sending transactional emails like gift acknowledgements from Salesforce, you don’t need to worry about it either. However, if you’re using Salesforce for other commercial purposes, you may want to include an unsubscribe link. Also, it’s just nice. People like to be in charge of their inboxes. #zeroinbox

Here are the types of email and the requirements according to this Salesforce.com interpretation of the the CAN-SPAM law:

Type Examples Unsubscribe Link Required
Transactional Receipt for a donation or RSVP confirmation. The recipient expects to hear back from you. No
Relational Email between two people No
Commercial E-newsletter, call to action, anything promotional YES

If you’re at a non-profit or school, you’re most likely thinking, “my newsletter isn’t commercial!” But the law would possibly disagree with you. Sure, you’re not necessarily selling something, but you are promoting something. So be careful — a lot of email can fall into this category.

The most basic way to allow someone to unsubscribe is to ask them to respond to your email and let you know. Unfortunately, in that case, a human would need to update the Salesforce record. Plus, you run the risk of not being in compliance with another requirement from CAN-SPAM: when someone requests to unsubscribe, you must process that request within 10 days!

I have previously handled (as far as I know, I didn’t talk to an attorney) this by creating my own unsubscribe link to include in all “commercial” email that’s sent out through Salesforce.

In my next post, I will show you how to install a package I created and set up your own unsubscribe link.

More resources:

Salesforce.org Webinars

This post accompanies my new six part series Getting Started: Engagement for Nonprofits starting on Dec. 11 in which we’ll show you how to use Salesforce to connect with your constituents and track interactions over time. The first webinar in the six part Getting Started series will begin with the basics: what you can do today with Salesforce and Nonprofit Success Pack, to more effectively engage with your donors and community members. In later webinars, we’ll help you consider adding additional apps for outreach, marketing and communication. We’ll also share best practices for using Salesforce campaigns, engagement plans and levels. In the final webinars we’ll explore adding Marketing Cloud and Pardot for sophisticated marketing automation, and Community Cloud to deepen your constituent relationships.

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Jessie joined Salesforce.org in 2018 to give introductory webinars to nonprofit customers. She now is a Senior Solution Developer supporting nonprofits and education customers at Salesforce. All opinions expressed on this blog are her own or those of the contributors. She's spent 17 years more or less in CRMs and databases, but didn't meet Salesforce until 2011. Jessie co-led the Seattle Salesforce Nonprofit User Group in 2015-2016. She wrote a sh*tty first draft of a novel and hopes to turn it into a screenplay!

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