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Special Olympics of Maryland, Prince George’s County (SOMDPG) Case Study

From  Karen Reznek:

Could you please provide some perspective on the importance of non-profit entities’ email lists for organizational, informational, fundraising and community-building communications?

It has been extremely useful to have a means of getting information out to our team families. With Listserv, it is possible to both send individual team messages, as well as get messages out to the entire local Special Olympics community. Using one overall list, with the individual lists as sub-lists under that, makes it possible to send general information, fundraising appeals, and anything important for the entire community through the top list, and subscribers receive only one copy, instead of one from each team they might be part of.

Could you please give some background on why, how, when and by whom SOMDPG was formed and how it’s evolved over the years?

It has been extremely useful to have a means of getting information out to our team families. With Listserv, it is possible to both send individual team messages, as well as get messages out to the entire local Special Olympics community. Using one overall list, with the individual lists as sub-lists under that, makes it possible to send general information, fundraising appeals, and anything important for the entire community through the top list, and subscribers receive only one copy, instead of one from each team they might be part of.

I had been running the lists under Google Groups, which left something to be desired. Especially because I was already very familiar with the ease of running lists under Listserv. I was grousing with Ben Parker - our now-retired, incredible ICORS support person - and he suggested asking about setting up those lists under L-Soft. And the response was affirmative!
 

I had already gotten through most of the resistance from the management team when I had set up the Goggle Groups - many were not tech-savvy and were unfamiliar with how email lists could work. Moving to Listserv created some complications with them due to the donation status, but we were able to work through that and begin using the lists.

 

While we still have some team coaches who refuse to use their list, but will subscribe their families so they can receive the general interest posts, those who do use them find them to be very helpful.

If you were to describe the “vibe” or overall experience of the SOMDPG discussion community as a whole, what would that be?

The lists are mostly information based - practice dates, qualifications, requirements, etc. Some support, as families face challenges, or when something really good happens to an athlete. 

Could you please provide the current number of subscribers to SOMDPG and the countries represented by your list’s membership?

This is all local, for the Special Olympics families who live in Prince Georges County, Maryland. 247 subscriptions to individual lists, but many of those are subscribed to multiple team lists, and/or subscribed with more than one address.  

Could you please describe your experiences with SOMDPG, for instance, how and why you first got involved and some highlights?

My daughter had wanted to join the swim team for several years, but I was unable to find a contact who would respond. When I was finally put in touch with someone, I resolved to make it much easier for families to find us. To that end, I joined the management team, and offered my services to get the information out there, with contacts who would respond. Eventually, people realized how much easier it was to get information out to team members without coaches having to maintain their own lists of email addresses, and I made sure that the information was out there.  

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Karen Reznek's daugther Abby who wanted to join the swim team for several years.

Could you please give a glimpse into SOMDPG’s organization and process, including role structure, list guidelines, subscriber management and anything else you’d like to add? As SOMDPG is such a successful list, this is very helpful for owners of other LISTSERV® lists and people who would like to start a topic-focused discussion list.

Basically, there is one master list, so anyone subscribed to a team list will receive posts sent from that list. Under it are lists for each team, including the management team. When a person signs up to do a sport, they and/or a family member is subscribed to the related list.Under normal circumstances, the lists share information on training and competition. Sadly, during the pandemic, they have also been used to share the loss of some of our members. On the upside, they have enabled teammates to keep in touch with each other when in-person training was not possible.
 

Lists are set to reply to sender, and everyone other than the coaches and anyone who needs to get information out quickly is moderated. This prevents the lists from being overwhelmed by people asking the same questions, sending thank you posts, and anything that does not need to be seen by every single subscriber.

Could you please give a glimpse into SOMDPG’s organization and process, including role structure, list guidelines, subscriber management and anything else you’d like to add? As SOMDPG is such a successful list, this is very helpful for owners of other LISTSERV® lists and people who would like to start a topic-focused discussion list.

Basically, ​there is one master list, so anyone subscribed to a team list will receive posts sent from that list. Under it are lists for each team, including the management team. When a person signs up to do a sport, they and/or a family member is subscribed to the related list.Under normal circumstances, the lists share information on training and competition. Sadly, during the pandemic, they have also been used to share the loss of some of our members. On the upside, they have enabled teammates to keep in touch with each other when in-person training was not possible.

Lists are set to reply to sender, and everyone other than the coaches and anyone who needs to get information out quickly is moderated. This prevents the lists from being overwhelmed by people asking the same questions, sending thank you posts, and anything that does not need to be seen by every single subscriber.

Could you please share any specific examples you’d like to illustrate how SOMDPG is helpful in organizing and sharing information for the athletes, parents, coaches and more. For instance: quotes, anecdotes, tips, best practices, insights and words of wisdom from yourself and other list owners, along with admins and subscribers of SOMDPG who give permission for their input to be included in the materials? All perspectives are very much welcomed.

From Sharilyn: It helps me to stay informed on events and connect with our sports family 

Could you please share any main challenges SOMDPG has encountered and how these were resolved?

Resistance from people who did not understand how helpful email lists  - and particularly Listserv lists - could be. I had to keep demonstrating their usefulness, and pointing out the issues of not leaving communications in the hands of people who were unable to understand it.
 

For example, after my daughter had been on the team for a few years, I changed email addresses. I repeatedly notified the person sending out email of the change every time they used the old address (I had access to both for a few months). And my daughter ended up missing the first few weeks of the next season’s practices because they continued to use my old address, and the bounces were ignored. A subscriber being able to change their address themself is so much better.

Could you please share any key positive impacts SOMDPG has made and how these were achieved?

It has been easier to reach people, and get information to them. Searchable archives are a huge plus for those who join later in the season, or have lost an email with important information. 

With newer social media like Facebook and Twitter, have you seen any change in the role of discussion lists like SOMDPG?

No. Given Facebook’s tendency to curate what is seen on a feed, too much important information would be missed to use it. 

What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know about SOMDPG?

That it provides valuable experiences for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as the health benefits of exercise for an often neglected population. 

Please share which LISTSERV features and functions are most helpful to the running of SOMDPG and any overall experience with  LISTSERV and L-Soft and any feedback you’d like to add.

The ability for subscribers to control their subscriptions, the ability to moderate, and the master-sublist option.

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