Here's what I can tell you -- I "expect" that any email newsletter that I receive, gives me the right to "opt-out" -- and if you sent me something I did not plan on receiving, I can tell you, I will report it as spam - and opt-out --- BOTH.
Even as non-profits, we need to hold ourselves to a high standard, for if we don't, then we are no better than the spammers of the world.
Isn't this violative of the principles of free speech?
Well, first of all, free speech in the Constitutional sense refers to the government restricting your speech (not CC or any other company). And secondly, your "right" to speak ends with my right to choose not to hear it.
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 specifically leaves out non-profits, religious and political emails. Why? A very good reason.. it's too easy to use it as a weapon to silence those you don't agree with. Don't like a politician? Have a few dozen people report his emails as spam and he's blacklisted. Don't like a religion? Get all their churches blacklisted. You just can't allow a few people to silence free speech. Yes, politicians will continue to buy voter lists and spam for money. That's the way elections work in this country. If you don't want to read it, delete it, but don't sit there and complain about what they have to do to raise the money to run. I for one have forwarded my experiences with Constant Contact and their spam policy to my elected representatives and party officials.
The major problem I have is, they can't do this with the US Post Office. There's no way the Direct Mail industry would get away with creating a "black list" and putting a political candidate on it because 10 people in a city of 20,000 reported him as a junk mailer. They'd lose a First Amendment challenge immediately. The email industry shouldn't be able to get away with it either. Congress saw fit to exempt political campaigns, but the email industry thinks they know better and will impose their own regulations. I hope our elected officials act, and remind these companies exactly who enacts laws, and who doesn't.