Electronic Discussion Lists

Discussion makes a community. Community builds knowledge, interest and camaraderie. The Council on Foundations hosts 17 electronic discussion lists for its members as a way to encourage discussion and share information.

What is an electronic discussion list?

An electronic discussion list is a subscription-based e-mail group. It provides a forum in which people with common interests may discuss topics related to the list, and it’s a great way to share information between colleagues.

What lists are currently available?

The Council sponsors 17 lists for its foundation members. Only one of the discussion lists, SuppNet, is open to members of the Council that do not meet the definition of a community foundation, but that work to support the community foundation field. See below for details on each list, followed by its intended audience.

AdNet

Advancement, resource development and donor services staff

Aff-Able

Community foundation affiliates, staff and volunteers, as well as those members interested in affiliates

CEONet

CEOs, executive directors and presidents (exclusively)

CFBoardList

Community foundation board members (exclusively)

CommA

Communications and marketing professionals (subscribers must be approved by the CommA Steering Committee)

CorpServ

For corporate foundations and giving programs

DisasterNet

For foundations interested in disaster support and rebuiliding

Family

For family foundations and philanthropies

FAOG

CFOs, finance staff, and administrative personnel

HRNet

Human resources staff and those charged with personnel issues

Global 

For foundations interested in global affairs

Independent

For private independent foundations

PFCEOs

For CEOs of private independent and family foundations

ProNet

Program and grantmaking staff

ScholarNet

Community foundation staff who establish, administer or implement scholarship funds

SuppNet

Organizations and/or consultants that provide support services to community foundations (not supporting organizations/foundations)

TechNet

Information technology professionals, technical staff and application users

How does it work?

When you request a subscription, the list manager verifies your eligibility and subscribes you to the appropriate list(s). Once subscribed, you may send messages to and receive messages from the entire group. In addition, you can access archived messages using Lyris’ web interface (unrelated to the Council’s website).

Why should I take part?

An e-mail discussion group is a great forum in which to ask questions of other foundation staff and board members across the country. For example, you might want to know how other foundations perform self-assessments, engage their communities or define policy. Ask a question, or answer one. Sometimes there’s no assistance like peer assistance.

Who participates?

Because it’s important to speak your mind freely, membership is limited to foundation members of the Council. Each list is targeted to a specific audience or functional area. Council staff help to monitor and manage each list.

What type of information will I receive?

Subscribers post and reply to questions about foundation practices, related to their specific functional areas. Council members and staff also share information about upcoming events and resources relevant to foundation staff and board members.

Will I be overwhelmed with e-mail messages?

You have the ability to determine the frequency with which you participate on each list. You may choose to participate in real time (“normal” subscription) — that is, to receive each message as it is posted to the list. Alternatively, you may choose to participate in summary (“mimedigest” subscription) — that is, to receive one e-mail message per day including all of that day’s activity.

List participants may also utilize popular e-mail programs such as Microsoft Outlook to manage their incoming e-mail by setting up rules or filters on incoming mail.

E-mail discussion groups are effective means of communicating with your colleagues around the country, but only when used properly and with great professional courtesy. For further details, see the “netiquette” section described later in this document

How do I subscribe to a list?

  • Address an e-mail message to cflistadmin@cof.org.
  • In the subject line, indicate the name of the list(s) you would like to join (e.g., Join AdNet). If you opt for the digest version (one daily compilation of all messages posted that day), please indicate your choice in the subject line (e.g., Join AdNet Digest).
  • In the body of the e-mail message, provide your full name, title, e-mail address and foundation name. Your request cannot be processed without this information.
  • Send the message.
  • You will receive an automated response indicating that your subscription request will be processed within seven business days. How do I unsubscribe?
  • Address an e-mail message to cflistadmin@cof.org.
  • In the subject line, indicate the name of the list from which you would like to be removed (e.g., Unsubscribe AdNet).
  • In the body of the e-mail message, provide your full name, title, e-mail address and foundation name. If appropriate, please indicate the reason you are unsubscribing (e.g., retiring from the foundation) and include contact information for your replacement or other staff at your foundation who might wish to subscribe.
  • Send the message.
  • You will receive an automated response indicating that your unsubscribe request will be processed within seven business days.

How do I send a message?

Once you are subscribed to a particular list, you may send an email to the full discussion group.  You will receive instructions on how to send the list once you are subscribed.  You may only send a message to a particular list if you are subscribed to that list; if you are not subscribed or you use an alternate e-mail address, your message will be rejected. Because messages are sometimes posted to multiple lists, please indicate the recipient(s) somewhere in the body of your message (e.g.,.

We strongly suggest that senders designate the content of e-mail messages by clearly identifying the content in the subject line. Examples of subject-line indicators include POSTBACK and BANTER; both of which are described later in this document.

You may reply to an individual (the person who posted the message to the list) or to the entire list. Click “reply” and your response will be sent only to the individual who posed the question. Click “reply all” to respond to the entire list if you think your answer or comment would be of interest to others on the list or would stimulate further discussion. Please do not reply to a message if your sole response is “please postback.” It is assumed and requested that each participant will postback his/her replies for the benefit of all subscribers.

What if I don’t want to say anything?

Most online communities consist of three types of people: those who ask questions, those who answer and those who just listen (commonly known as “lurking”). You can play the role with which you are most comfortable. Questions start dialogue. Answers build it. Dissenters add spice. Readers listen and learn. Each member adds to the dynamic that builds the dialogue, which reinforces the community. Remember, though, the value of the list correlates directly to the level and quality of subscriber participation. What is a “postback”?

After you post a question and receive responses, please share those responses with the list by performing a postback so that everyone on the list may learn from your question. This is an excellent method for sharing what you’ve learned and for archiving responses for future use. There is no established timeframe in which to perform a postback, but a good rule of thumb is 7-10 days.

To perform a postback, copy and paste your original question and all relevant responses into a Microsoft Word document. Be sure to include the respondents’ contact information (if supplied), as well as your own! Remember also to include any attachments (Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, etc.) if necessary. Finally, send your compilation to the list and mark it as a postback by including the word POSTBACK, along with the original subject, in the subject line.

Each e-mail message posted to the list(s) is limited to 5 mb (5,000 kb). If your postback exceeds this limit, your message will be rejected. It is recommended that you WinZip files to compress file size and/or to perform postbacks in multiple parts if there are a large number of attachments. For example, if your postback all together is over the 5 mb limit, you may opt to post two POSTBACK messages to the list(s). It is important to label each appropriately so other subscribers know there is more coming (e.g., POSTBACK: XYZ Policy Samples - Part 1 of 2).  

How do I know the information posted on the list or in response to my query is correct?

This is a forum for peer exchange and we don’t monitor for accuracy. However, Council staff act as moderators and provide relevant and timely information where appropriate. Council staff may also feed the conversation with comments or questions. Often, staff will just listen to ensure the list is operating effectively. If your question is of an extremely complex and/or detailed legal or financial nature, it may be more appropriate to seek counsel or to contact Council staff directly, rather than posting an intricate question to the list(s). Moreover, each message posted to the list(s) is amended with the following disclaimer:

The [name of] e-mail list is sponsored by the Council on Foundations. Discussions on this list do not reflect the official opinion or endorsement of the Council on Foundations. Queries posted to this list sometimes involve issues that require interpreting the law of charitable giving or of tax-exempt organizations. Please remember that you should never rely on any contribution to this, or any, Internet discussion forum for advice on important legal questions. Neither this list nor any other Internet discussion forum is a substitute for the careful legal advice of a competent attorney at law retained by you to discuss your specific situation.

Manage Your Subscription Online

How do I update my account information?
You may update your name, e-mail address, password and membership type online. To do so, follow these simple instructions.

  • Go to http://lyris.cof.org/read/login.
  • Enter your e-mail address.
  • Enter your password.
  • Click the MY ACCOUNT tab.
  • If desired, you may verify/update your e-mail address, name and/or membership type on the ESSENTIALS tab.
  • If desired, you may change your password on the ADVANCED tab.
  • Click SAVE CHANGES.

My e-mail address wasn’t recognized. What do I do?

If your e-mail address recently changed (e.g., you foundation implemented a new e-mail server or you were married), first try entering your old e-mail address. If you are unsuccessful, send an e-mail message to cflistadmin@cof.org. Include your name, title, affiliation, phone number, e-mail address and the name of the list(s) you are trying access.

What if I forgot my password?

  • Go to http://lyris.cof.org/read/login.
  • Enter your e-mail address.
  • Enter your password—or what you think is your password.
  • If your password is incorrect, a message will display.
  • Click EMAIL PASSWORD to retrieve your password.
  • You will receive an automatic reply within one hour.

I clicked "EMAIL PASSWORD" and I’ve waited one hour, but I haven’t received a response. What do I do?

Send an e-mail message to cflistadmin@cof.org. Include your name, title, affiliation, phone number, e-mail address and the name of the list(s) you are trying access.

A Note About Passwords

If you are subscribed to more than one list, it is possible for you to have a unique password for each list. In this case, when you login with a unique password, only that list will display in MY FORUMS. A single, common password is recommended in order to access all of your subscriptions in MY FORUMS at once.

What is “membership type”?

Membership type refers to the way in which messages are delivered to your inbox. The most common options are NORMAL and MIMEDIGEST. If you choose NORMAL, you’ll receive each message as it is posted to the list. If you choose MIMEDIGEST, you’ll receive one e-mail message per day including all of that day’s activity.

Can I suspend my subscription without unsubscribing?

You may not wish to receive e-mail messages from the group while you are away from the office for an extended period of time (e.g., on maternity leave or vacation). To suspend your subscription, select NOMAIL as your membership type. To reinstate your account, select NORMAL or MIMEDIGEST.

Search the Online Archives

Can I access old messages and postbacks online?
Yes! To do so, follow these simple instructions.

  • Go to http://lyris.cof.org/read/login.
  • Enter your e-mail address.
  • Enter your password.
  • Click the MY FORUMS tab, if it is not already active.
  • Select the list you wish to view.
  • Messages are, by default, shown in descending chronological order.
  • To search for a message, or for any messages on a particular topic, click the SEARCH tab.
  • For a simple search, enter the appropriate keyword(s). Be as specific or as general as necessitated by the topic in which you’re interested. For best results, use as few words as possible.
  • For an advanced search, click on the highlighted link. Complete the advanced search fields, being as specific or as general as necessitated by the topic in which you’re interested. You may limit your search to the message body only, to the header only (e.g., e-mail address, name, date, subject line) or by excluding words.
  • You may search for messages posted by a particular person by entering that person’s name or e-mail address and selecting the “header” button. You may also view all messages posted by a particular person by clicking on their highlighted name anywhere it is displayed.
  • To view a message (on any screen), click on the highlighted subject line.

How long are messages stored online?

Messages are stored for a period of one year.

How may I obtain assistance?
If you’re having trouble using the online archives or you can’t find what you need in the online archives, write to cflistadmin@cof.org. Please explain your situation or request in detail to ensure an appropriate response.