Several times in the past few weeks I have had conversations with different non-profit organizations about their use of emails and the confusion that exists about how they use member email lists. And, I'm confident this same confusion crosses over to for-profit corporations as well.
The dilemma comes up when the organization wants to advertise a specific event coming up and they encourage its board members (and others) to give their personal email lists to the organization so they can get the word out about the upcoming event and increase its email base.
Seems simple enough - wouldn't my friends want to know about my favorite organization's event? I bet they would even like to come to it. If I give my email list to the organization to use so I don't have to forward their emails - my friends could get the information straight from the organization and join in the fun. Less hassle for me if I just let the organization send the information to my friends directly.
So what's the problem?
The problem is - it probably does not comply with the Federal Can Spam act that makes it illegal to send information to an email recipient unless that person has specifically opted in to receive emails from that specific organization.
So, while you as an individual can forward an email you got to all your friends, it would be illegal for everyone to just give their whole email list over to the organization to use -- unless the recipients opted in.
The solution? Everyone should email their friends - forward the information on about the organization - and tell them to go the web page and sign up to be on their email list. That way, they are opted in, get information on upcoming events - AND, they comply with the regs.