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 > Send an email or click the Activities tab and choose Send an Email from the dropdown menu.
  3. You can add additional recipients using the CC and BCC fields.
  4. If you have templates defined, you can choose one from the Use Template dropdown menu. 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. 
  5. Enter your content or add content to your template. If you just wish to send a Plain Text version of your email, ignore the HTML Format section and click on the Plain Text Format section. Enter your message in the box.
  6. Note: Choosing a template overwrites any text you have in the message text area and on the subject line. If you would like to use a template, you should select it before adding any text. If you have already typed some text in the message area, copy it into a separate document before applying a template. 

  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 Email to Contacts" 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 it 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  (or 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 in their record. An activity will also be recorded for the sender. The activity 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 the Send Email function are listed.

Note: If a message is sent to multiple recipients, each recipient will see only their own email address in the To field. 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")

Inserting an image in an email

Click the image button in the WYSIWYG editor. 

The Image Properties window will appear. Click Browse Server to look for image files on your server.

In the left sidebar, you will see a directory of files. If the image you need is already uploaded to your server, navigate to it in the directory and select it. If not, Click Upload to choose a file from your computer.

Your computer's file-browsing window will open. Find the image file you want,
click to select it and click Open. You can repeat this process to upload multiple files to CiviCRM at once.

To insert, double click on the image you want. You'll return to the Image Properties window of your email.

Here you can add adjust the size and alignment of the image and the border around it. You can also fill in the Alternative Text field, which is text that appears when the image is not available to the reader (if they choose not to load images in their email client, or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment). The alternative text ensures no information is lost; it's a best practice to always include alt text for images to make email accessible to all user communities.

Click OK to insert the image.

Sending a mass mailing through CiviMail

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

Choosing recipients: Groups versus search results

There are two ways to select the recipients for your mailing—sending to existing Groups and sending to search results—and although the workflow to create the mailings is mostly the same, there are two important differences.

The first and most important is that when you're setting up Mailings to send to Groups, you can save your work at any point and continue it later. Mailings to search results cannot be saved for later editing; when you start to prepare your mailing to search results, make sure you have time to finish it.

The other difference is that for mailings to search results, you are required to choose a Group from the Unsubscription Group dropdown menu. Here's why: Every mass mailing needs a way to track unsubscribe requests. Mailings sent to Groups have this capacity built-in—the next time a mass email is sent to that Group, anyone who has unsubscribed will not be included. However, mailings sent to search results do not have this built-in way to track who has unsubscribed, so you need to provide one.

Here's how it works: If a contact who matches your search results is already unsubscribed from the Unsubscription Group that you designate, that contact will not be sent the mailing. If a contact unsubscribes via the unsubscription link in this mailing, they will be unsubscribed from this Group and therefore not receive any more emails sent to this group. This is true whether they were originally a member of the Group or not.

The Unsubscription Group you designate collects unsubscribe information only; it does not supply any contacts to the mailing. In other words, contacts who are in the Unsubscription Group but do not match your search criteria will not be included in the mailing. (If you wish to include these contacts you should include the relevant Group.)

For example: Your organization is having a big event next week. Several emails have already gone out about it, but you have added many new people to your database in the last week and you want to send them an event announcement. You do a search for new contacts via Search > Custom Search > Date Added to CiviCRM. This is the search that is the basis of the mailing. Your organisation stores its event email list in a Group called Event Alerts, so for this mailing, you would probably want to choose that as your Unsubscription Group.

If you do not already have a Group that would be appropriate for the Unsubscribe Group for a mailing you're planning, you may want to create one and call it something like Miscellaneous Mail Unsubscribes. You could then add that Group to other future mailings to ensure that the people who have unsubscribed are excluded from those future mailings.

The Mailing set-up screens

If you are sending mail to an existing Group, go to Mailings > New Mailing

If you're using search, perform your search (for example, using the Search > Advanced Search) and then choose Schedule/Send a Mass Mailing from the - actions - drop down.

The process for sending the mailing then proceeds via the following screens. You can move between these screens by using the Next/Previous buttons. For mailings sent to Groups, you can also save your mailing at any stage by clicking on the Save & Continue Later button.

Step 1: Select recipients

Fill out the following fields:

  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. Remove duplicate emails: CiviCRM will always dedupe your mailing based on unique contact records. For example, if a contact is in three of the groups you are including in your mailing, they will only be sent one copy of the email. However, if the same email is used by multiple contacts, that email address will receive multiple copies of the email—one for each contact using that address. Checking this box will ensure only one email is sent to each address
  3. (Additional) Mailing Recipients: This is where you can choose who will receive the mailing (if mailing to Groups) or further refine your mailing (if mailing to search results). You can choose Groups to include and exclude. You can also refine your recipient list by including and excluding recipients of previous mailings.

    For instance, you may want to resend an email only to contacts that have been added to a Group since the last time you sent them email, to avoid sending the same email twice to some people. In that case, choose the original mailing in the EXCLUDE Recipients of These Mailing(s) area. This will then send the message only to those members of the group who did not receive the original 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; section headers here match the onscreen sections.


  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-friendly 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. If the recipient does not show images in their email client (often referred to as "blocking remote content"), their email will not be marked as opened even if they do open it. Blocking remote content is a very common practice.


  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 the two options described next.
  2. Forward Replies: This option is only visible if Track Replies is checked. You will need to check this option if you want the From address 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 Mailings > Headers, Footers, and Automated Messages.

Online Publication

There is only one field in this section: Mailing Visibility; its dropdown menu offers two options, "User and User Admin Only" and "Public Pages." Choosing Public Pages makes this content viewable as a web page by everyone who has the permission of "view public CiviMail content."

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.

To link to the web version in your email, insert the Mailing permalink token in your message in the next step. This token generates a URL on which the message can be viewed; in order to display it properly in HTML messages, you'll need to add the proper link tags using the Source icon in the editor. 

    Step 3: Mailing Content

    This section will allow you to compose content for your mailing. If you have made any templates, you can choose one to use for this email. Selecting a template populates the HTML Format and Plain-Text Format fields with the message content from the template. 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 Mailings > 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 to 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 (see Testing templates in the Set-up section for more tips on this). 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 formatting and converted tokens with your data. It will not include the attachment. There is no guarantee 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 date 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 in 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 mailings sent in the past, go to Mailings > Scheduled and Sent Mailings. Once you have found your mailing in the list, or searched for it using the filters above, click Report in the "action" column. This will display basic information on all of the tracked actions, including the number of opens, link click-throughs or the percentage of bounces (see "Managing bounces" below).


      To expand on this information, click the name of one of the statistics to display a list of the contacts to whom it applies, and various other details such as the time the email was opened (tracked opens). Where a mass mailing has been sent to a contact, you also view the "Bulk Email" record of the mailing in the Activities tab of their profile.

      Now you might want to filter this information further. For example, of all the recipients who opened the mass email, you might only be interested in those who are between the ages of 21 and 30, or registered for a given event. Click "Advanced Search" next to a statistic to start an advanced search with the email attributes pre-filled; e.g. if the link next to "Tracked Opens" is clicked, the search fields will be set to look for all contacts who opened the email, ready for you to add extra criteria. For more information on advanced searches, see "Searching". 

      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 & 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. (Note, the Re-Use link is not available for mailings based on search results.)

        The Archive and Delete links are available under the more link. For mailings that are scheduled but not yet sent, a Cancel link is available instead of Archive.

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

        It provides exactly same functionality as Scheduled and Sent Mailings, including the possibility to view Reports and Re-Use.

      Using tokens in emails

      You can use tokens to insert personalized text (such as a person's name), to add action links (such as an unsubscribe option), or display standard organization information (such as domain address) into a mass mailing sent with CiviCRM. Tokens are replaced by the appropriate value at the time the email is sent out.

      To view the list of available contact tokens, click on Insert Tokens. For more information about tokens in general, see Mail merge functions (a.k.a. using Tokens) in the Working with Your Data section of this book.

      Contact data tokens

      If you want each email to address the person by first name after "Dear," you would type a space and then click on Insert Tokens at the top right of the HTML Format field. The popup that appears enables you to find the appropriate token by 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. Browse the Inset Tokens pop-up for a complete list of contact data tokens, including any of the custom fields that have been created for your site. You can also refer to: for more details.

      Action and Organizational Tokens

      You can also insert action tokens, such as opt-out, unsubscribe and forwarding tokens. These tokens insert links to take the specified action; in order to display the links properly in HTML messages, you'll need to add the proper link tags using the Source icon in the editor.

      You can also insert standard organization information, such as "Domain (organizational) address," which displays the address of your organization as defined at Administer > Communications > Organization Address and Contact Info. For a complete list of action and organizational tokens, see:

      NOTE: You are required to include a token for either opt-out OR unsubscribe, as well as the organizational (domain) address token in every CiviMail mailing. These can be placed directly in the body of your mailing body, or you can put them in the mailing header or footer. If your organization has developed a standard mailing footer, just include these tokens in the footer so that folks don't have to think about them each time they create a new mailing.

      In general, including click-able unsubscribe and opt-out links are a bit friendlier for recipients (as opposed to the reply-to via email method). You can also provide both options. More details at:

      Custom and Checksum Tokens

      Only contact fields, action links and organizational information 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 can provide a link to the person's contact dashboard so that they can review their registration details for themselves (once logged in).

      You can create and use a token for custom data fields that you have created to store data about your contacts. You can also create a checksum token that generates a unique URL for each contact so they can modify their information without having to log in. See more information about custom and checksum tokens, including how to construct URLs you need, at

      Note: 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 and not a clickable link in the email client of the recipient.

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