One of the challenges of a center is keeping in contact with your supporters. Larger centers can afford regular newsletters, but rural centers often don't have the resources or skill to produce one. In this electronic age, however, there is a very effective, cost-free way to keep people in touch with your ministry—an e-letter. I send out regular e-letters to my e-mail list. Without a doubt, this is the most effective communication I have with supporters.
The first step is to set up a system where you get interested persons' e-mail addresses along with their street addresses. We have a program where everyone involved in the ministry carries information cards. When they talk to anyone who is interested in the ministry, they pull one out and have the person fill it out. (See my article detailing this by clicking here.) The street addresses put them on our main newsletter mailing, but the e-mail addresses put them on my e-letter list, which is incredibly productive.
There are very few needs that I share in my e-letter that don't get met. I also include pictures of our babies, stories from clients, exciting things that are happening, etc. My e-mails aren't sophisticated, but clip art and photos make them exciting and inviting to read. I get many reply e-mails telling me how much recipients enjoy being kept up to date on the ministry and seeing all the babies and moms.
Now, let's get to the technical part. To get a program that sends out high numbers of e-mails at once is often expensive and beyond the expertise of most rural centers. When I started this, I didn't know that option was available. I just started a "group" in my Microsoft Outlook e-mail program and continued adding to it till I was notified I had too many names to send in one mailing. The obvious solution was to start a second group, a third group... and now I have eight!
There are 80-100 in each group. I send the first e-mail, and then go to the "sent" folder and forward the rest. It takes a little time, but the power of this method is unbelievable. I have asked for and received a refrigerator, a copy machine, sponsorship for tuition, Christian CDs, televisions, VCRs, and so much more. Supporters also feel involved with the ministry through the updates, stories, and photos.
My techie son, Brandon Monahan, provided the next technical part. He says that all Microsoft computers have the Outlook Express client pre-installed on them. Just go to your "Start Menu" and look for an icon labeled "Outlook Express." If you can't find the icon, ask for help from someone who knows computers.
After you set up Outlook Express to send e-mails through your Internet Service Provider's outgoing mail server (call them for help with this if you need it), go to "Tools" on your header bar, then to "Address Book." Click "New" and then "New Group" to set up your group of recipients. Now simply add new contacts, and you are on your way. To e-mail to an entire group at once, just type the name of the group in the "To:" box after you have prepared the e-mail. My groups are numbered WCPC1, WCPC2, etc. Stay under 100 and your group will go through with no problem.
Sending newsletters is expensive and out of reach for many rural centers, but this is free and relatively simple. (I figured it out, so it has to be!) It is more effective than any newsletter mailing I have ever done. If you would like a sample of one of my e-letters, I would be happy to send it.
Dinah Monahan is the Heartbeat International Consultant for Rural and Small Centers. She can be reached at Dinah@hh76.com.