I recommend you read Part One, Why You Should Send eMail News first before reading these how-to’s.
I’m organizing these suggestions from baby steps to giant steps. Wherever you find yourself in these scenarios, try the next step up!
I’m sure you’ve collected some eMail addresses and are already responding to eMails from your partners. If you want one small new step to take, plan to send an eNewsletter with ministry and family news halfway between sending your paper newsletters. (Read Plan Ahead to Publish Regular Prayer Letters to schedule your prayer letters and eNewsletters.)
You could also do this through blogging if you want to skip ahead to that section.
Just a great photo and four sentences is all you may need. It’s very likely your friends are reading this eMail on their mobile device. I actually write four short paragraphs. At any rate, try to avoid being very wordy.
I use TntMPD to send a mass mailing to over 400 eMail addresses. Generally, mass mailings have been fine for us. My greeting is “Hi!” and I compose the letter as if I’m writing it to my sister, so it’s personable.
If I want to do a more advanced mailing, I use merged mailings with personal greetings (when I’m sending less than 50 eMails). My tools for merged mailings are: Outlook, TntMPD, Google Sync for Outlook, and Cru mail. It’s all synced so I just do it from within TntMPD. I’m not necessarily opening each tool to do this. I’ll be glad to post a tutorial for these steps.
About PDF attachments
Really, PDF letters should be sent only to your partners who are going to print them for some reason.
Some disadvantages to PDF prayer letters:
- Your reader may not click to open, so put your information right in the body of the eMail instead.
- A PDF file can be huge which can cause a problem for sending or receiving.
- PDFs are not easy to read on mobile devices.
- They’re not interactive (social).
Don’t wait for me to write a post about this… if you need more convincing to give up sending your PDF letters, higher education groups (and others) were abandoning PDFs in 2011. I recommend reading Liberate Your PDF Newsletter Content and Using WordPress for Your Mobile-Ready, Social-Friendly Newsletter.
Blogging as an option
You could use a blog to communicate regularly (see more in the next section). It’s a great way to send little updates that are more time-sensitive to what’s happening in your family and in ministry.
WordPress offers an eMail subscription that you can encourage your donors to sign up for (but will they?) If they do, you don’t know how engaged they are with your blog since they are subscribed through WordPress. Alternatively, almost all blogs offer an RSS feed so your friends could use a feed reader to follow you (but how many of your donors, especially the older ones, are doing this?)
I’m not trying to discourage you. These are viable options for them to receive an eMail or feed of your latest post. You can also alert them to a new post in social media… but I have a better option in the next section.
After sending eNewsletters for years, I switched to sending this “supplemental letter” through MailChimp (you can use other eMail services). Before, I only knew if people were reading the eMails if they happened to write back to us (usually the same three people). Now, I can go into my MailChimp account to see who’s reading our eMail news and which eNewsletters were more popular (usually the ones covering family events in our case). I have 318 MailChimp subscriptions and over 200 of them are actively reading these eMails ( most of which are feeds from my blog posts).
MailChimp tells me who my active readers are and exactly which eNewsletters they’re reading. Subscribers who don’t read HTML eMails receive a text version of your eNewsletter from MailChimp.
I’ve also found that our current donors who receive additional news through eMails have a higher average monthly donation amount than our other donors.
About Prayer Letters via eMail
We have over 200 names of friends who want our prayer letters and to keep up with our ministry, but aren’t donating. I post our prayer letters in our blog, MikeandSus.org, and then use our RSS feed eMail through MailChimp to alert these friends to our latest letter. If you don’t blog, we know of other staff who simply put their prayer letter content in an eMail or in a MailChimp eNewsletter (read how to do this here).
Official Cru policy is to still send paper prayer letters, so be wise in choosing who receives prayer letters only through eMail. (Some donors may request you send your letters via eMail.) Check through this list regularly; these friends may be potential donors. One Cru staff found new donors by checking how engaged their friends were with their ministry news that came through MailChimp.
What are you going to do to improve your communication with your financial partners?