Sending SharePoint alerts to a distribution list…

I had an interesting question posed to me recently. Someone wanted to create SharePoint alerts on a document library, and they wanted it scheduled to run weekly on all new items. In addition, they wanted to send the alerts to a distribution list so that they didn’t have to maintain separate alerts for each individual. That all sounded well and good, as editing alerts (other than to just delete and recreate them) is not possible without 3rd-party tools.

I created the alerts and tried to send it to a distribution list we had set up in Active Directory (AD). Unfortunately, the alert emails never showed up for anyone on the list. I tested the alert with it going to me specifically, and that worked fine. So why wasn’t the distribution list working? I’ll admit, I was stumped…

Some research got me to the answer that I didn’t want to hear. Distribution lists in AD can only be used in alerts if they are also set to double as security groups in SharePoint. That’s problematic for us, because our security area doesn’t want distribution list AD groups to also be used for security purposes.

I toyed around with other ideas on how to get the equivalent of a weekly email of new items in a library to send out to a group, but each option had some drawbacks. SharePoint Designer workflows would only send one item at a time, and our SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) configuration doesn’t have the email service turned on. The customer could send an email to everyone once a week with the new items in it, but she doesn’t want to have to do that manually.

Bottom line… how can I get the alert feature to work for a distribution list?

My solution was to let SharePoint generate the alert to the customer, and then have the customer set up an Outlook rule to forward it to the distribution group. That way, we have nothing custom that has to be maintained in SharePoint, and she has full control over how often the alert runs and who it goes to.

Following are the instructions I sent her on how to set that up. I’m sharing it here so I won’t forget. 🙂

What I am suggesting is to set the alerts like you had planned (weekly on Wednesday and Friday), and address them to yourself. Then by using Outlook mail rules for those alert emails, you can forward it to a distribution list (or select individuals) of your choosing. Exchange and Outlook will run the rules regardless of whether you’re logged in or not, and people will get the alerts just as if they were individually subscribed. You can maintain the delivery list as it’s your rule, and we don’t have anything extra or custom to support in SharePoint.

 All the other ideas we had (workflows, Reporting Services, views of the last seven days of information) had various side effects that would either require extra work on your part or would mean extra clicks for the reader to see the actual list of articles. This approach maintains the value of the alert listing all the weekly updates, without the need to delete and recreate the alerts for individuals if anything ever changes.

Here’s how I set it up…

Go into the library (Articles Of Interest or New Learnings) and click on the Alert Me > Set alert on this library option: 20150225Image01

 Set up your alert as you normally would, routing it to yourself on whatever schedule is desired: 20150225Image02

 You’ll receive an email saying the alert has been created: 20150225Image03

 Once the alert is triggered the first time, you’ll get an email that lists all the items based on your criteria: 20150225Image04

 When that email comes in the first time, we’ll set a rule for those alerts. Click on Rules > Create Rule: 20150225Image05

 On the Create Rule dialog box, select Advanced Options: 20150225Image06

 Check the entry for the subject line phrase, and click on that phrase at the bottom of the dialog box. We are going to change the phrase: 20150225Image07

 Remove the You have successfully… phrase by clicking the Remove button: 20150225Image08

 Change the phrase to the name of the alert (in this case, Articles Of Interest) and click Add: 20150225Image09

 Once that’s done, click OK: 20150225Image10

 Click OK to proceed to the addressing part of the rule: 20150225Image11

 Select the action to forward the alert to people or a distribution list and click on the people or public group at the bottom of the dialog box: 20150225Image12

 Select your distribution list or the names of the people you want to have get the alert and click OK: 20150225Image13

 Click on Next to go to the Exceptions dialog box: 20150225Image14

 Since there are no exceptions, click Next: 20150225Image15

 Your alert is done. Give it a meaningful name, make sure the rule is turned on, and click Finish: 20150225Image16

 Next time you get the alert, it will come into your inbox like normal: 20150225Image17

 Moments later, that email will be forwarded to the distribution list: 20150225Image18


3 responses to “Sending SharePoint alerts to a distribution list…

  1. What happens if the user want’s to modify their alert settings, the in lies the problem.

  2. Thanks for such great article. I got the same issue and you are right only 2 solutions can solve that issue. Workflow or to point it to a user mailbox then a forward rule to forward all mails to this distribution group.

  3. Excellent Post, Saved my day. thanks

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