Your prayer letters are your supply line, for both prayer and finances, so you want to have a healthy, growing list.
When you're in the field, your prayer letters are your primary means for building relationships with existing and potential supporters. Therefore, it's important to include a wide mix of people on your mailing list.
This is the pool of people who will be most likely to help you meet any financial needs that come up. As people transition off your support team for various reasons, having prospective supporters on your list can be the difference between staying in the field and having to return to full-time support-raising.
Every donor should be on your mailing list unless they specifically ask you to remove them from all communications (it can happen, but it's fairly rare).
For most people, the cost of sending a year's worth of prayer letters to a donor is well under 1% of that person's annual giving. Since prayer letters are how you keep up that relationship, it's unwise to try and lower costs in this area.
Lapsed donors are people who used to give regularly, but for one reason or another have stopped doing so.
In most cases, you should keep these people on your list for several years. They may be still interested in your ministry, but currently lack the means to give, and you show your appreciation for their past involvement by keeping them on your list.
These people will often give end-of-year gifts if you send out a special appeal, provided you've continued to send them updates throughout the year. If you maintain your relationship with them, they may also start giving on a regular basis again. Both of these scenarios help your ministry, and it also helps them be involved in ministry.
If you've completely lost contact with someone (i.e. they still receive your letters, but never reply by mail, phone, email, or financial gifts), it makes sense to remove them from your list after 3-5 years.
If someone has committed to pray regularly for your ministry, they should absolutely be on your prayer letter list. You should also consider having a special prayer chain email list just for them, and send out weekly or biweekly short email updates with specific prayer requests for the coming week or two.
Churches should get both a printed copy and a PDF version of your prayer letter by email, to allow for easier distribution to Sunday School classes, the missions committee, and the prayer team.
Ask the church secretary or the missions committee if it would be helpful for you to send several printed copies of your letter in one envelope to distribute or post on bulletin boards (if appropriate for your location).
This group is easy to overlook, but they can make the difference between staying in the field or having to come back early to raise more funds.
Potential supporters are people you meet, often through referrals or church visits, who don't commit right away to supporting you financially or through regular prayer. Some of these people may sign up for your list just to be polite. Many others are genuinely interested, but aren't yet comfortable enough with your ministry to commit.
Your prayer letters are especially important for these people, because they're where you communicate your passion for what you're doing, and show the type of ministry that they can be supporting through their prayers and gifts.
Aim to have at least three potential supporters on your mailing list for every donor. This will give you a large pool of people who could join your ministry over time as you build a relationship with them, and a 3:1 ratio keeps your prayer letter costs easy to manage.
Contact each supporter at least twice during the year. One of those (typically in November or December) can be an appeal to make a one-time gift to meet special needs, or to start making a monthly gift.
The second contact should be a personal, short email asking for a quick reply. It should not be in November or December, when many people are getting bombarded by donation requests. You're basically checking for a pulse to make sure they're still interested in your ministry. If someone repeatedly fails to reply to these attempts, they're probably not actually interested in your ministry, and can be removed from your list.
An easy way to do this is to confirm that their mailing address is still correct, so that they can just send a quick "Yes" reply immediately.
Family and Friends
Finally, include your immediate family and close friends on your prayer letter list. Add more family members and friends based on their interest. They may or may not be financial or prayer supporters (or even Christians), but they're people who care about you and what you're doing, and it's a good and easy way to keep up your relationship while you're away.
If you have young kids, this is even more important, as you'll frequently include pictures of your kids in your letters. Be sure all grandparents are on your list in this case!
This is where a prayer letter service comes in. If you've ever sent a mailing by hand, you know that it's not much fun, especially after the first few letters. A prayer letter service specializes in printing and mailing letters for you, so you can stay focused on people rather than printers, paper, and envelopes.
We hope that you'll try us out. If you have any questions about prayer letters or prayer letter services, please contact us. We're also typically available by live chat during business hours.Take a Tour