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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Virtual nonprofits - Nuts and Bolts - Forwarding to multiple recipients in gmail.

This is an open-ended series to share things we've discovered about running a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates entirely online and in virtual worlds. 

One of New Media Arts' challenges is online communications. We have six board members, who, in a nonprofit, are the bosses – legally and personally responsible for the actions of the company. Some of us are also officers, with specific responsibilities, such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary, Treasurer. Some are project heads, such as Creative Director or Publicity Director. We hire contractors, we take in donations and program service revenue, we pay bills and file tax returns.

It's like any other business, except that none of us owns the company, we don't usually pay income taxes, and we have to follow a whole lot more rules than a for-profit company. One of our particular quirks is that we don't keep a physical office and we live far away from each other in the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands.

Setting up google accounts can be tricky. If a nonprofit is using any of Google's business services, such as cloud storage, or benefits for nonprofits, such as a Google Adwords grant, then its main company gmail account can be linked to a bank account or a company credit card. This means means the CFO or the Treasurer, for internal control reasons, may need to be the person managing the settings and setting up security.

All corporations are required to keep their email records. Here's a good guide for nonprofits if you want to know what to keep and for how long. We're a tiny nonprofit and don't want to pay for another server to store them. We also needed a better way to keep each other in the loop on our various projects and ideas. 

Jamie Jordan, our Communications Director, came up with the idea of setting up a separate gmail account that would act as a dump for email storage, and that also forwards to all of the directors.  

I'm the CFO, I needed to figure it out and get it set up. No problem, right? I'm reasonably intelligent and can follow directions. I went to Google and about five forums. Half a day later, no joy. Didn't work, nobody's getting anything. The directions have some missing steps. Though they did point me to getting email address forwards verified, and setting up filters, which was a considerable start. I experimented.

This is what's working now. If you google searched and found this blog, check the date – this stuff goes stale fast. I'll try to keep it updated


1.    Set up a gmail account that you want to use as your communications forwarding and storage dump. Something short like “XXXX (company initials)– CC@gmail.com” that everyone can remember and type easily.

2.   Log in to your new account, and at the top right, click the gear icon and select “Settings”.

3.   Select the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
  • Click on the circle: Forward a copy of incoming mail to:
  • Click on the box “Add a forwarding address”.
  • Enter one of the email address you want to forward to.
  • Click Next.
  • A pop-up box should appear with the email address. Click on “Proceed
  • Another window will open: “Add a forwarding addresses A confirmation code has been sent to [email address] to verify permission.
  • Click OK. [Don't click on the “x”]. That email address should now appear under “Verify” at the Forwarding tab.
The recipient who owns that email address will get a long email that starts with “xxxx-cc@gmail.com has requested to automatically forward mail to your email” and includes a verification code and a link. Have the recipient of this click on the link and confirm. If that doesn't work, he or she can give you the code and you can enter it manually at the website. We usually use Skype for this kind of quick communication, very handy.

 4.   Back at your gmail: click on Inbox, find the refresh button, click it, then go back to Settings and the Forwarding tab. The email address should have disappeared from “Verify” and show up in the drop-down list next to “Forward a copy of incoming mail to”.

If you're only forwarding to one person, you're done.

If you want to forward to more than one person, you also need to set up a filter for each recipient:
  • Back in Settings, click on “Filters and Blocked Addresses:
  • Click “Create a new filter
  • In our case, we want all the emails that arrive at the email dump (from everyone's CC bar) to be stored here and also forwarded to all the other directors. So leave all the fields in this screen blank except for “To” (the second one down).
  • Input your XXXX-CC@gmail.com address in the “To” field and click on “Create filter with this search”.
  • This brings up another screen. Click on the box “Forward to”, and make sure it stays checked. Then choose the forward-to email address from the drop-down and click “add forwarding address”.
  • Click the button Create filter.
  • You can click other checkboxes to apply to the received email, such as Mark as Read; for our purposes I left them all blank except for one spam-catcher.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each person who should get the forwards.

Send out a test message from a email account that's not on the list, see if you got the forward. Check with the other recipients to make sure they're getting forwards.

  • I didn't see a “Save Changes“ on every screen, but occasionally did, and never did figure out what the criteria are. If you see that button, Click on it
  • It's a good idea to go back and check all your work. A couple of times while I was working, I'd go back and discover that a check box I had clicked on was longer checked. Especially "Forward to" in the filters window.
  • If I add the email dump address into my CC line, it will forward to all the other directors, but not to me. If another director does the same thing, it will forward to all the other directors, including me, but not to him or her.
  • We're still testing this - it's hard to tell the difference between bugs and errors. 
That's it! I hope it's useful.

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