3 Ideas for the New Year to Build Relationships with Ministry Partners

Thank you for following along with me this month as I plan and prepare for the new year. Today, I’d like to help you be the friend and encourager you want to be to your partners and their families.

3 Ideas for the New Year to Build Relationships with Ministry Partners

Last week, I explained some of the financial things I do for MPD. Today we’ll focus on your relationships with your ministry partners. 

Follow a Plan for Regular Prayer Letters

I’ve been doing prayer letters on the same schedule for years. I tweak it when we have a big trip or family wedding. Otherwise, I’ve stuck with this plan. It takes us two weeks from starting the process of a prayer letter to sending it out. We haven’t been able to do a monthly letter. Our plan is one prayer letter approximately every six weeks (plus blog posts, annual greeting cards, and thank you notes.) This is my MPD Correspondence Plan with 2019 dates. (If you use my Shared Life Calendar, these recurring dates are in the calendar. I’ll write about this calendar next week.)

I hope this plan helps you be more consistent.

Send an Annual Thank You Note to Each Partner

Do you send at least one hand-written thank you note each year to every partner?

I would run dry trying to come up with wording for thank you notes. I finally decided to use the same wording for all thank-yous in a year.

Help yourself to some wording for your 2019 (and 2024) thank-yous. Make this document your own. In January, I start using the thank you note words for the year. Under each heading is the thank you for that year.  (I have other headings, too, like for very large gifts, fund appeals, “in memorium,”etc.). I’ve included “in memorium” for you in the document.

Each year, come up with a unique way to say thank you and add it to your document. After five years, recycle these.

Bonus: Thank You Note Insert

For four years now, our thank you note also has a ministry story that I enclose. Since we work at headquarters, I find a nice “field story” and write it up on a half-sheet of paper with a photo. Every donor receives one human-interest ministry story in a hand-addressed thank you. I change to a new story every January. Here’s two you can use to get started with this new habit. (The second one is a two-sided document.)

Send a Greeting Card to Each Partner

I’ve suggested over the years that you send greeting cards to all your donors. I’ve done this for many years. My most recent post on the topic is How to Divide Your Partners by Priority. If you’d like to prioritize how many greeting cards you send to whom, that’s the post to read. Today, I thought of a simpler way to send an annual greeting card to each of your ministry partners. (I hear someone saying, “Finally!”)

Divide Your Names

First, divide up your names so you aren’t addressing over a hundred envelopes all at once.

Identify your widows and older single women to receive Valentine’s cards. Identify pastors to send a card on Pastor Appreciation Sunday in October. (I do pastor appreciation emails.) If you know some birthdays and anniversaries, plan to send those cards.

You’ve now planned for 20% of your partners.

Depending on what you want to do about Christmas cards, divide your remaining names in half or in thirds. If everyone receives a Christmas card, divide the names in half for Easter and Thanksgiving. This is not equal halves. If you have more time in the spring, send more cards at Easter. For instance, I send Easter cards to annual donors. They would then have a greeting card in the spring and a thank you at the end of the year, hearing from us “twice.”

I send 30 Valentine’s, 80 Easter, 80 Thanksgiving, and 79 Christmas cards. Some of our donors receive more than one card.


I enclose a tea bag in the Valentine’s card.

I also enclosed a homemade bookmark recently to a donor which made the envelope “lumpy.” If you do this, you may want to have non-machinable stamps on hand. This is a new surcharge for envelopes that can’t go through the USPS machine. Greeting card envelopes with butterfly icons are an odd size and can’t go through the machine as well. Buy the non-machinable butterfly stamps at USPS.com.


I check Facebook for birthdays every morning. I have bookmarks in my browser for a “his” and for a “her” Dayspring e-card, changing the bookmarks every January. That is, I send women the same greeting all year and men their greeting. Here are the Dayspring e-cards I used last year (you may also send these through email):

Bonus: Start Sending Sympathy Cards

I have a lot of greeting cards in my home office. In my collection, I also have sympathy cards. When I send these, I enclose a half-sheet of old prose with a note. I often hear back from our friends that this quote has ministered to them. I’m sharing my stationery half-sheet with the Henry Van Dyke quote.


Checklist of Ideas for Building Relationships with Your Ministry Partners

Here’s a checklist of what I’ve been doing every January (you’ll recognize some from this post). I don’t want to overwhelm you. Find a few things you’d like to start doing.

  • Look through Christmas newsletters you received to record personal information: job changes, weddings, births, etc.
  • Are you missing a donation from an annual donor? Feel free to adapt this Letter to annual donor for next donation.
  • Follow a plan for regular prayer letters.
  • Use a thank you note template, sending at least one thank you to everyone every year.
    • Create five thank-you messages to rotate over five years.
    • Enclose a Cru changed-life story in your thank you note.
  • Send regular greeting cards.
    • Bookmark and use social greeting cards.
    • Send sympathy cards.
  • Make a plan for your partners such as phoning all your Top 50% partners once during the year (for us, three per month). See How to Divide Your Partners by Priority.


Last week’s post, 3 MPD Financial Tips for the New Year, was financial in tone, but I’m not done. I need to submit a reimbursement and clear my card. The different things I’m doing in January don’t fit only in each week that I write about them. These tasks often relate to each other or take longer than a week to do.  I do financial, relationship, and calendar items throughout the month. I’ll write about calendars as a beginning-of-year task next week, as promised. I’ve already been doing calendar items (I’m sending our January prayer letter this week).


I mention these things about me for two reasons. I wish I could have told you everything at once so you would be aware of the timing of the different parts. That firehose approach would have been too much for you and not as useful. So, I’m sharing a Google calendar with you that I hope you’ll adapt and make your own. I’ll write about it next week, but feel free to grab it and start using it now. This is a shared version of my Life Calendar. It will help you manage your life.

I’ve shared this calendar early because:

  • You might be interested in my prayer letter schedule, which I’ve already started for 2019.
  • I recommend ordering Valentine’s and Easter cards on January 16th (or this week). I have links to cards in the calendar entry today. Some are on sale.
  • I’m also recommending you order postage stamps before U.S. rates go up on January 27th. Order them online at the USPS Store.

Please share these January posts with your staff friends, too.


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