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Guidelines for Electronic Newsletters in Unitarian Universalist Congregations

Adapted from guidelines written by Kok Heong McNaughton, administrator at the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos (March 2000).

An electronic version of a church's newsletter can exist as a web page linked from the congregation's website, an email message, or as attachments sent to known subscribers. The guidelines for each version are different.

Putting Newsletters on the Web

Sensitive Information

Unlike the email form, which, like the printed version, is sent to selected groups of people like members, friends and other Unitarian Universalists (UUs), the web newsletter is accessible to the entire world and open to scrutiny from all. For this reason, it is often inappropriate to put certain sensitive information there.

It is advisable that an editor goes through the content of the newsletter with an eye toward protecting the privacy of those served by the congregation. The following guidelines relate to privacy issues:

  • No last names of minors should be published
  • No phone numbers, addresses or email addresses should be published except for those of church staff members
  • Phone numbers and email addresses of contact persons for special events or interest groups may be published with their permission
  • Personal news of interest to the congregation only but not to the entire world should not be placed on the web. Examples would include items such as "Among Ourselves", "Joys and Concerns," or other columns which serve similar functions.

Know Your Intended Audience

When making decision about what to post on the web, ask the question: "Who is the intended audience?" Besides offering a convenient option for people who already receive the printed or email version of your newsletter, is it the aim of a web newsletter to attract visitors to the church?

Accessibility Concerns

The following guidelines may be helpful when considering questions of accessibility (who has access to your congregation and its news and services):

The web newsletter need not replace printed copies. Everyone who receives printed copies should be able to continue to do so unless requested otherwise.

Make the web newsletter as easily accessible as possible. This means presenting it as simple html text rather than with lots of bells and whistles that a reader must have special programs (or a high speed modem) to access.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) offers information and guidance regarding disability and accessibility concerns in congregations, including tips on making documents accessible to people with visual impairments.  

Tips to Maintain and Expand Readership

Sunday morning service program notes and calendar of events are the most important parts of the newsletter to attract visitors. Put these first. Regular columns from Ministers, the DRE and the congregation's presidents can be a big draw, particularly if they are upbeat.

Consider putting columns as individual links from the main page so that visitors can pick and choose what to read.

Update the page regularly so that visitors don't find outdated event listings.

Sending Email Versions of the Newsletter

There need not be any difference in the content between a printed version and an email version.

Since the content is unchanged, an email newsletter may replace the printed version at the subscriber's request.

If at all possible, it is advisable to send the entire newsletter as text in the main body of the email.

If attachment is preferred, consider sending it as an RTF (rich text format) file, or, if resources allow, as an PDF (portable data format) file, which can overcome the compatibility problem without compromising the formatting.

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Last updated on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

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