Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Using an Email Signature

signature_sheetThe way we communicate has changed radically in the past couple of decades. The advent of the answering machine alone was revolutionary. The fax was the next big thing, allowing us to transmit written information practically instantaneously. Then came email. Again, this mode of communication was nothing less than revolutionary! Things are still changing, of course, with text messaging becoming increasingly useful, and “Facebook” being used as a verb.

Even though things are changing, it is unlikely that nonprofits and businesses will be moving away from email any time soon. It’s such a convenient way to communicate, and all of our messages are easily stored. Programs like Outlook allow us to immediately add items to our to-do lists or schedule them on a calendar, too. Because this form of communication is so important, we should take advantage of all it has to offer.

One simple way to make your emails more useful is to include a “signature” at the bottom. An email signature doesn’t generally have anything in common with the one you scratch out at the bottom of a contract, though. Instead, it refers to some pre-determined information that is automatically included at the bottom of every email you send.

Again, your email program will likely allow you to set it up so that an email signature is included with each message. You simply have to click “send,” and it does all the work.

If you have your email signature professionally designed, it can almost act as sort of a letterhead for your electronic messages. In addition to being pretty, however, it also provides valuable information to the recipient. You’ll want to include your name, of course, but you can also add other methods of contact, such as your phone number, address, and even your web site. After all the work you’ve likely done on the site, you want as many people as possible to actually visit it, right? This gives them a direct link that can send them right to your online presence.

A couple more tips:

  • Keep your email signature fairly short (3-4 lines). Adding in a bunch of quotes or your organization’s full mission statement is tempting, but a signature that is too long will look unprofessional.
  • Avoid putting in personal information such as your home phone number or IM details.
  • Don’t make the entire signature a graphic image. Many of your recipients’ email programs will strip out the image, and they’ll never see it anyway.
  • Consider a confidentiality clause carefully. A confidentiality clause can theoretically protect you, but the safest approach is not to include sensitive information in your emails.
There are prescribed methods for designing an email signature, but there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. It’s OK to be a bit creative, as long as you are erring on the side of professionalism. In the end, you have one more simple tool that can help affix your organization’s “brand” in your recipients’ minds.
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