Answer email efficiently PLUS 10 email tips

By John Gardner
“I’m fairly certain that you’re the only high school band director in this part of the state that actually responds to e-mails from the public.”
Thanks. I try to respond to most emails quickly. Comes from 30yrs experience in the BUSINESS world. I’m staring to think I know how to function much more productively in THAT world than in the crazy bureaucracy laden, politically correct, fake smiles world of EDUCATION. In MY world, you are recognized, rewarded and promoted based on PERFORMANCE, not by SENIORITY as defined on p29 of an inCREDible contract. But yeah, answering email is basic courtesy-101.
MORE ABOUT THE POST. In a followup msg, I learned that the person making the post was emailing area band directors offering to volunteer time and services (a Doctoral Candidate woodwind and repair specialist) and had not heard back from a single one of them.
As a business owner, I am generally responding to a variety of email
– VENDORS. (Educational equivalent = Administrators). You NEED vendors and their cooperation and quick responses can ensure that you continue to get the products, services and support needed. A vendor can cut you off (fire you) and force you to look elsewhere for an opportunity to generate income.
– CUSTOMERS. (Educational equivalent = Students/Parents). You NEED customers to survive in business. An unhappy customer takes his/her business elsewhere. A disgruntled student gossips or quits band. A Parent withdraws support, pulls the child out of the program or contacts an administrator to complain.
– OTHER BUSINESS OWNERS. (Educational equivalent = Band Directors). Sometimes businesses who compete can also collaborate. For example, in the fundraising business, I will respond to a request from a competitor who needs some brochures that the vendor is temporarily out of, but I have on hand. And then, when one of my vendors is backordered on a product, I will ask a competitor if I can purchase some of their stock. A Band Director should always respond quickly to another Band Director.

ASSUME NOTHING. Don’t assume the sender will patiently wait for a response. They will be getting angry. If you are not clear on the question or comment, ask for clarification (that also gives you more time to contemplate a response).
Never email in anger. If someone sends something that irritates you, let it sit for a while (maybe a day). At least write and SAVE DRAFT for editing prior to sending. If it is not an over the top confrontation, consider confirming receipt and write that you will respond later.
Carefully select your recipients AND ATTACHMENTS. Sending documents and pictures to unintended recipients can be embarrassing, harmful or even illegal.
If you have a choice between saying less or saying more, SAY LESS. I have a lawyer friend who always amazes me with how few words he can put in writing. If they ask for more detail or clarification, at least you know they read your note.
If you don’t know the answer, at least respond to acknowledge receipt. If you say you’re going to follow up, FOLLOW UP and/or send updates.
KEEP actionable emails where you can see them. Once done, delete or MOVE to a file. If you keep everything in your inbox, you will lose it.
Regularly empty your SPAM folder contents so that, should you need to look for an incoming email that may have gone there, you don’t have to look through all the tricky spammers who find ways to get their stuff at the top of the list.
Be careful with sarcasm or joking via email. The recipient doesn’t have your tone of voice to hear or your facial expression to help with their interpretation. If you are kidding, use something like: lol, haha or jk.
BE CAREFUL what you write. It is out there forever.
If you have a verbal agreement with someone, CONFIRM IT IN AN EMAIL so that you have proof. It also gives the other person a chance to correct or adjust a misunderstanding before it becomes a major issue.
Thanks for reading
John Gardner

John Gardner

17 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them. Also 4yrs as proprietor of, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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