Whether it's to prevent web scrapers from harvesting your members' email addresses or for privacy purposes, you have the option to hide all member email addresses listed in the member directory using a member-to-member contact form.
Keep in mind, while this can be an awesome feature, there are some significant considerations you'll need to be aware of before using this which we'll cover in this article. We highly recommend that you elevate this discussion and decision to the appropriate decision-maker(s) in your organization, perhaps even including your Board of Directors.
Example Contact Form:
Remember, You Decide Who Has Access
When it comes to member directory info, there are a few options. You can make the directory listings fully open to the public, you can have them visible to the public with contact info hidden to logged-in members, or you can completely lock them down to certain member types.
There are lots of great accessibility and user-friendliness reasons to leave the directory listings accessible to the public. In many associations, the loudest voices calling for an open directory come from supplier partners who can invest heavily in membership or the directory itself.
There are also some serious downsides to making your directory open to the public. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what level of access is correct for your organization. While you're making that decision, we suggest that you keep the following in mind.
You Will Not Control the Content
Using a member-to-member contact form will severely curtail bots and web scrapers. However, human beings will still have access to use the form.
Anyone with access to your directory will be able to send an uncensored message, and that message will have your logo at the top.
Where most people will use the functionality as intended, there may come a day when an overly aggressive supplier manually emails your traditional members with their $1 off window cleaning coupon. In this case, it is highly likely that your association's staff will receive an irate call from the offended member. You'll need a policy for how to handle this.
Worse yet, true spammers exist all over the Internet. Believe it or not, there are real people who visit websites and send horrible spam through contact forms. Sometimes it can be a poor attempt at advertising a product, and other times it can be a phishing attempt. These communications can also be quite offensive in nature. How will you handle that phone call?
Possible Policy Implications
On the business side, you might want to have an abuse policy that clearly communicates how the form may or may not be used. This might help avoid a sticky situation should a vendor member get a little ambitious.
As an organization, you will want to make sure that your members understand why they are receiving these emails. You'll also want to give them an easy way to opt-out of being contacted. We would much rather the member opt-out of sharing their contact information in the member directory than press the "spam" button on your emails since this could affect the delivery of your own emails.
For this reason, we give added control over the content of the introductory text as well as the footer text.
Here is the default text:
Introduction: This is NOT an official ABCA correspondence. You are receiving this message because a visitor to the ABCA website viewed your listing in our member directory and wanted to get in touch with you. Your email is protected and not accessible to the sender unless you reply. Many of these contacts will be legitimate, and some may be from spammers. As with anything on the Internet, please use your due diligence in reading the message before responding. If you no longer wish to receive emails of this nature from ABCA visitors, please see the instructions at the bottom of this email.
Footer: If you no longer wish to receive communication from visitors to the ABCA website, please click here to hide your contact information in our directory. If your contact information is out of date or you need to change the email address that receives this type of communication, please contact us.
Setting Up Your Contact Form
After reading the considerations above, if you would like to use this feature, you can check the box to enable the member-to-member contact form in the Membership section of your Association Settings.
Turning this feature on will remove all email addresses from your member directory and replace them with a link to a contact form.
Utilize the Contact Form Limit setting to limit the number of messages a user can send to other members via the contact form. The system will check a few different identification points for users to enforce this limitation.
After checking the box to enable the form, you will be able to customize the following fields:
Once a user attempts to contact a member, a contact form (shown below) will appear. The contact form will allow logged-in users to set the Subject line of the communication as well as write a custom message.
The From Name and From Email of a logged-in user will automatically populate in the contact form. If a user is not logged in, the contact form will prompt the sender to add their name and email.
If a member is set to not display contact information on the website, then the icon/link to the contact form is not displayed for that member. Other users will not be able to contact them.
What It Looks Like
Any messages sent via the contact form will be delivered to the member's primary email. If there is no email address associated with a particular member, the form will not be available on their directory profile.
When an email is sent via the contact form, in order to follow standard email guidelines, it will be "from" the association's email address (same as all other transactional emails that are sent from the website, based on your settings). When the recipient clicks "reply" the email will be sent to the sender's email address that was entered in the contact form, not to the association.
The form will be easy to use for both the sender and receiver since it shows who the message is from (name and email) as well as the subject and message.
Members can choose to opt-out of all member-to-member communications by:
Clicking a link at the bottom of the email they receive that states "Hide my contact information in the directory."
Or by contacting your association to turn on the "Hide Contact Information on Website" setting for them. There's also a setting to "Hide on Website" if they don't want their profile displayed at all. Both of these can be found on the backend by going to the Settings tab of the record.