AOL: Non-Profits Get Free Certified Email

America Online announced today that qualified not-for-profit organizations will never have to pay to deliver their messages to AOL customers in a manner comparable to commercial paying AOL on a per-message basis to ensure their messages reach AOL members.

“Our announcement today guarantees that every certified not-for-profit will get the same benefits as private-sector companies that have decided to utilize Goodmail’s Certified Email system,” said Charles Stiles, AOL postmaster.

According to AOL, non-profits have two options to get messages to their constituents on AOL. The first is AOL’s Enhanced White List, available to organizations which abide by AOL’s anti-spam and email policy standards. The Enhanced White List provides for delivery of email (complete with images and links) to AOL users “on a comparable basis to the “certified Email program administered by Goodmail.” These messages would not be marked as “certified,” but according to AOL would otherwise be handled in exactly the same way as certified email.

A second option for non-profits would be to use “one or several” third party email accreditation service providers to authenticate their email messages, with AOL picking up the tab. According to AOL, these services typically charge a flat, non-recurring fee to quality, and AOL will pay “flat-rate, sign-up” costs on a pro-bono basis. AOL says it’s talking to email accreditation providers now, and plans to “identify” one or more providers within 30 to 60 days, and have the program up and running within 90 days.

“We announce this today to make sure that there is no further confusion or question about what not-for-profits would need to do to be able to communicate to AOL members on a level commensurate with large, commercial email providers who opt to use Goodmail’s Certified Email program. There will be no requirement, ever, for not-for-profits who deliver email to AOL members to pay for email certification and delivery,” said Stiles.

AOL’s planning implementation of Goodmail’s Certified Email program has drawn fire from a diverse group of industry and political groups who argued the system amounts to an “email tax.” Yahoo also plans to utilize Goodmail Certified Email, but, so far, only for transactional messages (ecommerce receipts, accounts statements, etc.) rather than for general mailing.