Your Options to Replace PDF Letters


In the previous post, I listed pros and cons for using PDF files to send prayer letters.  I’m encouraging you, instead, to make an attractive letter in the body of an email so your friends can read it straight away. You may have to be willing for your emailed prayer letter to look differently from your paper version. Again, keep in mind these “must-do’s” you need to consider for great communication with your financial partners (explained in Your Must-Have Tech Tools for MPD).:

  • How can I have more social connection?
  • How does my content look on a mobile device?
  • Does my reader have to do too many clicks to get to where I want them to go (less is better)?

Your Options

I picked out just four of the problems with PDF files from part one:

  1. The more “clicks” required to read something, the more likely you’ll lose readers.
  2. PDF files are awkward to read on mobile devices.
  3. You can’t be sure your readers will click to read your PDF letter.
  4. The “social” aspect of sending a PDF file attachment is very limited.

The following solutions match these four problems with PDF files. In my opinion, a blog and / or using MailChimp (or another email service) are your best solutions. I use MailChimp, so that’s what I’ll refer to. I’ll also include options for a do-it-yourself approach.

MailChimp Scenario

  1. You can put your entire letter into a MailChimp email. Recipients can read your letter as soon as they open the email. (Your email also merges with a personal greeting.)
  2. MailChimp offers themes that adjust automatically to different mobile devices.
  3. MailChimp tracks opens and clicks for your emailings. You’ll know who’s reading your letters and also which letters are more popular.
  4. You can choose to connect MailChimp to your Twitter and Facebook accounts to automatically post your emailings there and / or include Tweet, Like, and other social buttons in your emails to let your readers share your letters with their friends.

MailChimp is also free at the level of use for most staff members. There’s a learning curve for MailChimp, but you can find a lot of help online as well as here on e4e.

DIY Options

  1. You can write a letter in the body of your email yourself, but you’ll want to send yourself test copies to work through all the differences. If you paste a letter from Word, for example, you’ll need to set line-spacing because the default spacing will probably be different in the email.    Also, if you’re using a special font, your reader may not have this font on their computer and a default, i.e., “uglier,” font will mar that beautiful letter you crafted. (Using merged names in a greeting adds some more layers of complexity which I won’t go into for this post.)
  2. Your letter may not look the same to your recipients, whether or not they’re using a mobile device, and especially if you’re including photos. One way to keep your photos in place is to use a table. (See Make Your Letter Stand Out with a Table and also see #3, next).
  3. The only way I know to track opens and clicks for emails within Outlook or Gmail is through Yesware. I’ve only recently started using Yesware to track emails within Chrome and Gmail. I’m not sure, but I assume the templates are adjustable to mobile devices. The free version has a limited number of emails that you may track. (See  A Big “Yes” to Yesware: Insanely Easy Email Tracking.)
  4. This option does not integrate with Facebook and other social media.

How ’bout a Blog?

Another option is to post your prayer letter in your ministry blog.

  1. Your letter would automatically be delivered with your blog’s feed, preferably in a MailChimp email. (See #3, below.)
  2. You will need to choose a blog theme that is “responsive,” adjusting to screen sizes for mobile devices.
  3. I recommend using MailChimp’s “RSS-Driven campaigns” so you can track opens and clicks. Knowing who’s tracking with your letters can help you find potential new financial partners.
  4. Blogs offer lots of social connection through the blog platform and also through other social media.

I didn’t mention that using MailChimp can help keep your letter out of your friend’s junk mail folder, too.

So, what are you going to do? What’s your first step and when will you take it?

NOTE: I don’t send our prayer letters to donors via email; however, I do send these letters by email to many non-donors who are interested in our news.  I’ve been sending eNewsletters for years inbetween the times we send our regular prayer letters.  Our friends and ministry partners have told us they appreciate this “extra,” and often personal, news. (I also do this through blog posts.)

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10 thoughts on “Your Options to Replace PDF Letters

  1. So do you have a separate list on mailchimp for donors and non-donors? I’m wondering how to send a mailchimp email to people who have already possibly read our letter as a PDF (which our organization automatically sends) or in the mail. Should I begin with a disclaimer that explains it’s a duplicate? It seems like a lame way to start an enewsletter, but I don’t want people who already read the paper copy/PDF to feel like it’s just repeat info… Thanks!


    1. Also, do you have any wisdom for how to actually make a mailchimp campaign out of a previously made prayer letter? (I use publisher to write our hardcopy letter). I’m familiar with using mailchimp for between-prayer letter updates… but haven’t ever made one from a prayer letter. Do you just copy and paste?


      1. I send prayer letters by posting them in my blog, but if I were to send it by MailChimp, I’d simply cut-and-paste and not worry about duplicating the appearance. I have a friend who may be able to give you a better reply. I’ll ask him if he can weigh in on your question.


    2. Hi, Kelly,

      I would keep one MailChimp list and segment it. That’s also easier to maintain because people move from donor to non-donor and vice versa. I send the same content to both sets, so it’s not necessary for me, but if you need to send out different content, depending on your audience, this is the best way to do it. Using segmented lists is easy to do.


    3. In response to the PDF that your organization sends out, you could send an eMail explaining that you’re offering the same letter in a format that is easier to read on a mobile device (be sure to use a mobile-friendly MailChimp template). It’s likely that half of your readers are using a mobile device to check their eMail and will prefer to read your version. Try reading the PDF on a smartphone to see what they’re experiencing. They may not even be reading it. (See and recommend this article to your organization so that they abandon PDF attachments. It’s not helping.)


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