Email is easy and can reach a wide range of residents. If you have email lists available to you for outreach, you can send invitations through your city or organization’s email.
Before doing so, we suggest you consider where these email lists came from. We recommend against using email lists that users have not voluntarily opted into, or have opted into for completely different reasons (not related to providing feedback or receiving updates/news); sending emails to unreceptive audiences can lead to higher instances of recipients marking as spam, and may negatively impact both the survey effort and your organization’s reputation with the community. Additionally, if a list hasn’t been used recently, it may incur high bounce rates and not be very effective.
With those caveats in mind, here are some options to consider:
Inventory all your email lists from different departments (communications, utilities, libraries, housing, recreation centers and programs, etc.).
Check in with non-governmental partners who may be willing to send invitations to their email lists (sports leagues, arts groups, other affinity groups, Chambers of Commerce, service leagues, neighborhood associations, religious groups, etc.).
Ask other public agencies to spread the word (school and other special districts).
Think about how to reach residents with diverse backgrounds and broad interests.
If your jurisdiction regularly sends out an email newsletter, share the news there. You can include a link to more information on your website, link to the Polco survey/poll itself, or even embed Polco questions on a MailChimp post (if you use it).
Here’s a template email message that you can use as a starting point; edit to be true and relevant for your organization and residents!
Dear Resident [or use the actual first name if you can pipe that in],
We think your input is critical to good government and are excited to introduce a new and easy way for you to provide your opinions on specific topics to the City of XYZ. Your feedback will help us be sure that our policies and programs align with our residents’ values.
We just posted a question about [topic] on Polco that you can answer here: polco.us/[shorturl]. It will take only a few minutes. Polco will help us efficiently manage responses from you and your neighbors across the City as we reach out via email, social media and other channels.
Once you have answered the question, you will be asked to provide your ZIP code to confirm where you live. This allows us to be sure we are hearing from each person only once and to know which general area of the city they live in. Your response will remain anonymous to the City, but your information will be securely stored on Polco.
In addition, we hope you will choose to provide an email address to Polco, so we can contact you with new questions. Your email will be used only to let you know about questions from public agencies that need your feedback.
Thank you for your time!
[position with the City]