Keeping in touch with people who we don’t see regularly takes initiative.
I remember during college, when I wasn’t doing a good job of calling home, my dad would say to me, “You make time to do the things you want to do.” My parents knew I had a full schedule with work, school and ministry, but that didn’t make them feel any better about my lack of communication. Really, all they wanted to know was that in my busy schedule, they were a priority.
Similarly, keeping in touch with our supporters is a way we show that we value and care about them. My dad was right, we make time to do the things we want to do. Raising support is where we begin our ministry. We are asking people to partner with us, and we need to steward those relationships well. Communicating with them once we launch should remain part of our regular ministry rhythm.
Based on the parental encouragement I needed to communicate regularly during college, it’s probably not surprising that when I moved 9,000 miles away after college to begin a new ministry, the struggle continued. I was learning a new job, culture, language, and team, but I also wanted to honor the people partnering with me.
I knew in order to be successful in communication, I would need to set some goals for myself. Here are some of those goals along with lessons I have learned through years of long distance communication with supporters. Although my experience is primarily communicating from overseas, many of these ideas are applicable to local workers as well.
- Aim to send 12 newsletters a year. Use services like Mailchimp to help you create visually appealing email updates. Mailchimp also helps you track how many people are opening your update and how many links people click from your newsletter.
- Keep monthly newsletters short and include more pictures. Use this question as a filter: if someone only had a few minutes, could they read this and know the highlights of the month? Of course, there may be some people who are willing to spend 10-20 minutes reading a long newsletter, but the majority of people will look at your pictures and read the captions alongside of them. Short, frequent newsletters strengthen the connection better than wordy sporadic communication.
- In addition to your regular newsletter, you could send out an email asking your supporters how you can pray for them. I started doing this when I moved overseas on our monthly day of prayer. Anywhere from 10-30 people will respond with specific ways I can pray for them, and I always reply with at least, “Thanks for sending that! I just prayed for you.” This is a way for you to keep up with what is happening in their lives, as well as sharing with them what you are doing.
Thank You Cards
- If there was one way to keep in touch with supporters that I think we could all improve on, it would be sending thank you cards. It takes time, and we are all busy, but it can be done. I am so incredibly thankful for each person and family who sacrifices so that I get to do my job. I love getting to write them a note letting them know I’m praying for them, thanking them for being on my team and telling them in 2-3 sentences how their involvement has brought someone into the Kingdom or into a deeper relationship with God.
- In my time overseas, my goal was to send each person at least 1 handwritten note a year. Most of the time, I would send these notes in November so they would double as Christmas cards (it took that long for them to arrive in the states). Several times I had people message me in March to say their Christmas card had finally arrived!
- If you are in a place that doesn’t allow you to send a handwritten note, you could use an app like Ink Cards or Postagram which allow you to design and personalize a card from your phone to be mailed within the US. Chalkline is another option for sending postcards, thank you notes and even prayer magnets.
Text Message Groups
- Creating a group on WhatsApp (a texting app that works well overseas) or GroupMe (stateside) is another way to keep in touch more frequently. This is a great option for people who are on your prayer team. If there is an event in your ministry that you’d like prayer for outside of your regular newsletter requests, you could send a quick text to mobilize prayer. You can actually create a link for people to click and join the group you’ve created. This link will take you to the WhatsApp instruction page for how to do this.
- I think these are a great option if the majority of your ministry partners use Facebook regularly. It provides a way to post pictures of ministry events, ask for prayer, and update people about things you may not have the room to include in a newsletter.
This list is certainly not comprehensive. Comment with any successful strategies you have found for keeping in touch with your supporters, and let’s learn from each other. Most of us have room to grow in this area, so pick an initiative you aren’t currently using and add it to your partner communication this month. Let’s “make time to do the thing we want to do” and communicate to our supporters how valuable they are to our ministries!