Three Tips to Improve Out of Office Messages

Three Tips to Improve Out of Office Messages

As the holidays and New Year quickly approach, many staff are going to be taking time off over the next few weeks. Writing an effective out of office message is often an afterthought as staff race out of the office on their last day before vacation.

There is increased pressure for staff at small and mid-sized nonprofit organization to write a helpful out of office message as they have fewer resources to direct their volunteers to.

Below are four quick tips to help you write a more effective out of office message.

Utilize the subject line

Don’t just use a generic out of office subject line. The subject line is an opportunity to let people know exactly when you’ll be out. It saves time for folks to see it in the subject line and avoid digging through an email. While it’s an obvious first step, it’s important to indicate exactly when you’ll be out. If a volunteer thinks that you’re coming back on a particular date, they’ll likely expect a response on that day.

Be honest about how often you’ll be checking your email

When leaving for vacation, it’s easy to think that you’ll be able to check email periodically. If you’re not sure how much time you’re going to have, don’t write that you’ll “have limited access to email.” It’s always better to exceed expectations than to under-communicate. A constituent who thinks that they have an urgent question may be expecting a response if you say that you’ll be checking in periodically.

Emergencies happen – give people options

Most constituents are respectful and understanding if a staff person is taking time off, but emergencies do come up from time to time. It’s important to try and include a way to reach someone if they need urgent help. This is a challenge for small nonprofits, but you can work internally to set up one staff person who will be responsible for checking voicemail and email each day that an office may be closed. Be as specific as you can in your directions so that your volunteers know what their options are. If you can, define what an emergency is. Every organization has a volunteer that thinks their issue is an emergency, be specific to define, “If you are trying to reach someone to make a year-end gift please call…” or “If you are in need of urgent patient service, please call…”

We hope these quick tips help your organization be more effective during the holiday season.


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