MS365 Groups, Distribution Lists, and Shared Mailboxes

MS365 groups, Distribution Lists, and Shared Mailboxes are various forms of collaborative emails. Each are similar, but have differences which make each better suited towards specific tasks. This guide is intended to disambiguate these various options. 


If you’re interested in exploring one or more of these options, reach out to us at and we can help discuss your needs and set you up with the correct tools for your team. 

Table of Contents 

Shared Mailboxes 
Distribution Lists (Listservs) 
MS365 Groups 


Shared Mailboxes 

Shared mailboxes are an email mailbox for others to reach your group at a single access, and for members to send mail from the associated address to others. For example, is a shared mailbox. 

Each individual member adds the mailbox and views it as a separate inbox within outlook. You can learn how to add a shared mailbox here

Note: Members can see all previous emails sent to/from the mailbox. 

Access to existing mailboxes, and creating new mailboxes is granted by T&I upon request. 

How should you use a shared mailbox? 

Shared mailboxes are best used as a way for the general campus to reach your department, and for your department to email others from a centralized address. 

When shouldn’t a shared mailbox be used? 

Shared mailboxes shouldn’t be used for sharing information within your department- think of them as a tool for connecting the broader campus to your department. 

You also should not use shared mailboxes for sensitive or private information. 


Distribution Lists 

These distribution lists are most commonly referred to as Listservs, and are intended for the use of disseminating information to a group of people within Davidson. 

Imagine a distribution list as a collection of email addresses, and nothing more. For instance, if you entered ‘digital campus - Org. Group’ into Outlook’s ‘to’ line, and select the associated Distribution List, outlook will automatically populate all members of the group. 

T&I can help to create a distribution list that meets your needs, but you should know that T&I Generated Distribution Lists already exist as a subset, and are automatically populated based on Org Group data populated by HR. When using these ‘org group’ distribution lists, it’s recommended that you periodically expand the list to double check for mistaken additions/removals.

Because these addresses populate per email sent, members cannot see previous emails from before they were granted access. 

How should you use a distribution list?

Distribution lists are best for regular communication to all members of the department, or inviting the whole department to calendar events. 

When shouldn’t a distribution list be used? 

Distribution lists aren’t great for collaborating in long email chains, since every member will receive every single message in the chain. If longer email chains are needed, breaking off into a different email is recommended. 

Distribution lists are also limited to Davidson email addresses, and can’t be used to email groups outside of the college. 


Microsoft 365 (MS365) Groups 

MS365 groups are groups intended for collaboration. The group name is also turned into an email address associated with a Shared Mailbox. These groups offer a wide array of collaborative tools and flexibility, at the cost of complexity. 

You can also choose to enable mail to the shared mailbox to go directly into member’s own mailboxes, serving the same functionality as a distribution list. 

Additionally, MS365 groups contain a shared calendar which members can see and view. 

To learn more about MS365 groups, see our guide here. 

Please note that when new members are added, they can see all previous emails and calendar events 

How should you use an MS365 group? 

MS365 groups are best used as a collaboration tool within a department or smaller sub-teams. They are perfect for shared resources such as departmental events calendars, or sharing individual projects within a department. They are also used when the functionalities of both a shared mailbox and listserv are needed together. 

When shouldn’t an MS365 group be used? 

MS365 groups should be used when you need a vast swath of different tools, and shouldn’t be used as solely another listserv or shared mailbox. 

Because new members can see historical emails and calendar items, they also shouldn’t be used for communicating sensitive information or hiring committees/processes. 

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