Managing Email Traffic

Adrianne DuMond

Author: Adrianne DuMond

Executive Coaches of Orange County

You can ‘unsubscribe’ to commercial emails, but how does one handle the deluge of email traffic from Board colleagues – especially if you are a Board officer or staff official.?  Many small nonprofits conduct a lot of business through emails. It is often quicker and more efficient. But sometimes the traffic can be overwhelming to a busy schedule.

 Here are some helpful hints to follow from Mary Broach, co-president of Impact100 in Philadelphia (

  •  Use an easily recognized subject line – get it noticed the first time, and easily retrieved if needed later.
  • If you receive an email that seems important, but is nebulous and maybe controversial, pick up the phone and find out the particulars rather than stirring the pot with distribution to other Board members or staff.
  • Have a clear proposal and/or possible alternatives when emailing to other busy people.
  •  Don’t ask open-ended questions in an email. 
  •             Not  — Do you think we should meet?
  •             But  —  Can the three of us meet at noon Thursday?
  •  If you are upset or angry, wait 24 hours before responding.
  •  If you receive an email from someone who is upset or angry, don’t use ‘reply to all’.
  •  Keep the email traffic contained to only the people who are involved in a decision until a consensus can be reached. Then it can be distributed to those parties concerned.
  •  Remember that an email is a postcard that can be published anytime.

Good luck, and I welcome any more helpful hints that Mary Broach and I may have overlooked.