Everyday Tasks

This chapter contains step-by-step instructions for performing important everyday tasks with email.

Send an email to one person (with CC and BCC)

You can use CiviCRM to send an email to individuals. Using CiviCRM for this purpose is useful if you want other people at your organisation to see the email or if you want to send an email based on a pre-defined template.

  1. Find the person you wish to email. There are two common ways to do this:
    • Use the Quick Search box on the top left. Click inside the box and begin typing a part of the person's name or email address. Choose the person from the choices that are presented.
    • Navigate to Search > Find Contact.  Enter part of the person's name or email address. Click Search and click on the person's name when it shows up on the search results screen.
  2. From the contact summary page, click Actions > New Activity > Send an email.
  3. You can add additional recipients using the CC and BCC fields.
  4. If you have templates defined, you can choose one to use for this email. Selecting a template populates the text content and HTML content fields with the message content from the particular template you have chosen. You can then edit that content. You can also update the template, either changing the original template or saving it as a new template.

    Note: Choosing a template overwrites any text you have in the message text area and on the subject line. If you would like to add a template to an existing message, it is best to insert the template first. If you have already typed some text in the message area, copy it into a separate document before applying a template.
  5. Enter a subject line for your email, or modify the subject from the selected template as necessary.
  6. If you just wish to send a Plain Text version of your email, ignore the HTML section and click on the Plain Text section. Enter your message in the box.
  7. Click Send to send your message.

To see the activity that was just recorded of the email sent, click the Activities tab of the contact. 

Sending a quick email to less than 50 contacts

In the results from a search, CiviCRM makes "Send an email" available from the actions dropdown menu. This allows you to send an email to more than one contact at a time. Sending an email this way is relatively quick but provides no options for tracking email and doesn't give contacts the option to opt out.  It is bad practice to use this method for mass mailings, which is why it is limited to 50 contacts.  For mass mailings, use CiviMail.

  1. Click Search > Find Contacts  (Advanced Search).  Choose your search criteria and click Search (or use any other search to find the contacts that you wish to email).
  2. From the search results screen, choose some or all of the contacts and click - actions -  > Send Email to Contacts.
  3. Follow the same steps as in sending an email to one person.
Each of the recipient contacts will have this email recorded as an activity activity. An activity will also be recorded for the sender. The acitivity record will also list all the other message recipients. Unlike with mass mailing (see below) there is no one place where all emails sent via CiviCRM are listed.

Note: If a message is sent to multiple recipients, each recipient will only see their email address (equivalent to sending via BCC).

Because the recipients don't see who else received the email, you might want to mention whom you are sending it to in the text of your mail (for instance: "TO: Members of the board, staff")

Sending a mass mailing through CiviMail

Using the Mailings functionality offered by CiviMail provides many benefits over  the "Send an email" action, allowing you to track respondents to your mailing, process bounces and allow people to unsubscribe from your mailings.

There are two ways to select the recipients for your mailing.

  • If you are sending mail to an existing group, go to Mailings > New Mailing. From this screen you can choose the groups you want to send the mailing to. You can also choose to exclude contacts who are members of another group or contacts who have received previous mailings.
  • Perform a search (for example, using the advanced search) and then choose "Schedule/Send a Mass Mailing" from the - actions - drop down. You will be redirected to the New Mailing screen (step 1), where you have to name the mailing and choose an "Unsubscription group" for your mailing.

    Note: Mailings sent to recipients based on a search cannot be reused or saved for editing later.

    Because the mailing is using the results of a search to provide the recipient list, specifying an unsubscription group is necessary to manage unsubscriptions to this mailing. If a contact who matches your search results is already unsubscribed from the Unsubscription Group (meaning this group is listed as a past group), that contact will be removed from the recipient lists.

    If a contact unsubscribes via the unsubscription link in this mailing, they will be unsubscribed from this group. If they are already in the group, then they will be removed. If the contact is not yet in this group, they will first be added and then marked as removed.

    Contacts who are in the Unsubscription Group but do not match your search critera will not be included in the mailing. If you wish to include these contacts please include the relevant group.

The  process for sending the mailing then proceeds in 5 steps using 5 consecutive screens. You can move between these screens by using the Next/Previous buttons. You can also at any stage save your mailing by clicking on the Save & Continue Later button (Note: Mass mailings based on searches cannot be edited later).

Step 1: Select recipients

This screen contains several options:

  1. Name your mailing: Enter a name for this mailing. Select a name that will allow you and others in your organization to clearly identify the purpose of this mailing. It is recommended that you start each name with a date (e.g. "08/15/10 monthly newsletter"). This will make it easier to include or exclude recipients of this mailing in future mailings. This name is for internal use only and will not be shown to recipients. You will be asked to enter the Subject of the email later.
  2. Mailing recipients: In this area you can choose who will recieve the mailing. Mailing recipients can be defined by a group or by a recipients to a previous mailing. You can refine your recipient list by excluding groups or recipients of a previous mailing.

    For instance, you may want to resend an email only to contacts that have been added to a mailing list since the last time you an email to avoid sending the same email twice to some people. In that case, choose the same group for recipients as in the original mailing but add the mailing to the EXCLUDE Recipients of These Mailing(s) area. This will then send them message only to those member of the group who did not receive the excluded mailing.

You will see the final number of recipients on the next screen after you click on the Next button.

Step 2: Track and Respond

This step of the process offers options for Tracking and Responding. You can set the following options.


  1. Track Click-throughs: This option will keep track of how many users and which users clicked on all the links in your message. This is accomplished by redirecting all links through your server. This means that all links will be overwritten with custom links containing your domain name.

    Note for HTML mail: Some phishing filters may mark links that are displayed differently in HTML code and in the text as unsafe. It is therefore best not to use something like <a href=""></a> but rather <a href="">click here to go to Google</a>.

    Note for Plain Text email: If you use short, user-frienly URLs in your email, they will all be overwritten with long links containing the name of your site and a long code looking like this
  2. Track Opens: This option allows you to track how many people opened the email you received. However, there are limitations to the effectiveness of this method. See Set-up section for details.


  1. Track Replies: Checking this option will send replies from the mailing's recipients to CiviCRM rather than the person specified as sender. Checking this box will open other options.
  2. Forward Replies: This option is only visible if Track replies is checked. You will need this option if you want the email specified as sender to also receive the replies sent by recipients.
  3. Auto-respond to Replies: This option allows you to send a specific automatic reply to anybody who replies to your mailing. You need to set up an autoresponder ahead of time in Administer > CiviMail > Headers, Footers, and Automated Messages.

Online Publication

This option makes it possible to make the contents of the email accessible to users as a web page. This option is only relevant if you insert the Mailing permalink token ({mailing.viewUrl}) in your message in the next step. This token generates a URL on which the message can be viewed (remember to insert the code in the appropriate HTML tags). 

You have two options to specify the visibility of the mailing:

  1. "public pages" will make the content of this mailing be viewable as a web page by everyone who has the permission of "view public CiviMail content"
  2. "user and user admin" only means that only users that received the mailing or administrators can view the content of this email as a web page; the recipients will have to log in to be able to view the message

Step 3: Mailing Content

This section will allow you to compose content for your mailing.  If you have templates defined, you can choose one to use for this email. Selecting a template populates the text content and HTML content fields with the message content from the particular template you have chosen. You can then edit that content. You can also update the template, either changing the original template or saving it as a new template.

  1. As you write your content, remember that every email will be sent individually. CiviCRM offers the ability to personalize each email using tokens. See "Using tokens in emails" later in this chapter.
  2. If you just wish to send a text version of your email, ignore the HTML section and click on the Plain Text section. Enter your message in the box. You can also use tokens in the text version of the message. There is also a token link at the top right of the Text box.
  3. Choose a Mailing Header and Mailing Footer. You can have additional Headers and Footers defined via Administer > CiviMail > Headers, Footers, and Automated Messages (See Set-up for details).
Note: The message editing text area displays all text as Arial. However, the actual default is Times New Roman. You should change all text to your target font at the very end because future text edits often revert to Times New Roman.

Step 4: Test

You can test your message in one of two ways:

  1. Test mailing: You can specify an individual email address or a test group for your test mailing. The test mailing will fill in all the Tokens and include any attachments you are planning to send

    It is a good idea to test your email by sending it your yourself and viewing it in your email client to make sure it looks as you expect. If you are sending a mail with a complex layout, send it to your test group and verify it from various mail clients. It is preferable to have more than one person receive your test email and give you feedback.
  2. Preview mailing: The preview will show you all the HTML formating and converted tokens with your data. It will not include the attachment. It cannot be guarateed that all email clients will display the email exactly as it is shown in this preview but it is useful to ensure things like font consistency, basic layout and color.

Step 5:  Schedule or Send

This section will allow you to either send the email immediately or schedule a day and time for it to be sent. By default, CiviMail checks every 15 minutes whether an email is ready to be sent, so there can be a delay of up to 15 minutes after you request the email to be sent.

Mailings sent to large numbers of recipients are sent in batches of about 400 to avoid the emails being caught up by spam filters. Therefore the actual sending of your mass mailing can take several hours depending on your server configuration.

Tracking sent mass mailings

To review key statistics about the To see these statistics, click on Mailings > Scheduled and Sent Mailings, find your mailing, and click on Report. This will show information about all the tracked actions including Bounces. See Managing bounces below.

Also, when the mass mailing is sent to recipients, an Activity "Bulk Email" is recorded under their Activities tab. To see the activity that was just recorded of the email sent, click the Activities tab of the different contacts.

Managing mass mailings

Mass mailings can be found in one of three areas accessible via the Mailings menu:

  1. Draft and Unscheduled Mailings: As soon as you name your message in Step 1 and click Next, it is placed in this area. If you click Save and Continue Later or simply abandon a message after some steps, you can continue working on it by clicking on the "Continue" link next to the message listed here (Note: Mailings started based on search results will not have the Continue link listed).

    You can also delete draft messages here.
  2. Scheduled and Sent Mailings: When you send or schedule a mailing, it will be placed in this area and remain there until it is archived or deleted.

    You can track the success of delivery by clicking on the Report link next to the message.

    You can also start another mailing based on a previous mailing by clicking on the Re-Use link.

    The Archive and Delete links are available under the More link.

  3. Archived Mailings: This area lists all messages that were archived from the Scheduled and Sent mailings area. Mailings listed in here are not available to be included or excluded from the recipient list.

    It provides exactly same functionality including the possibility to view Reports and Re-Use.

Using tokens in emails

You can use tokens to insert personalised text, such as a person's name, into a mailing sent with CiviCRM.  Tokens are replaced by the appropriate value at the time the email is sent out.

For instance, if you want each email to address the person after "Dear " you would type the space and then click on the Token link at the top left of the HTML box. The popup that appears enables you to find the appropriate token. Start typing "First name" in the box and choose the token that corresponds. Click Close and you will see that your message now reads "Dear {firstname}". When the email is sent the appropriate first name will be inserted into each message.

To view the list of available contact tokens, click on the Token link. Tokens for the display name and email greeting are particularly useful.

Only contact fields and actions can be inserted in your email as tokens. Related records, such as the name of the event for which the contacts have pending enrollments, cannot be included. However, you could provide a link to the person's contact dashboard so that they can review their registration details for themselves (once logged in). You can also use a checksum token that generates a unique URL for each contact so they can modify their information without having to login.

In the HTML format editing area, tokens that generate URLs (links) need to be placed in the URL field of the Link creation screen. Otherwise, they will display as text an not a clickable link in the email client of the recipient.

See Tokens and Mail Merge chapter in the Working with Your Data section.

Managing bounces and contacts with invalid emails

If your server is set up to process bounces, contacts will be marked as On Hold when their email bounces. Further messages to those addresses will be suppressed.  You can search for emails that are on hold either from the Bounces report or with an advanced search, and then investigate why the emails are bouncing.

You should check the report of each mailing several hours after sending it to review a list of bounces by clicking on the Bounces link. You can see the reasons for individual bounces such as incorrect email addresses (e.g., fix them and remove their On Hold status. You can then re-use the mailing and simply add it to the EXCLUDE Recipients of These Mailing(s) list on the Select Recipients screen of the re-used mailing setup.