Last week I wrote about the incredibly important need for missionaries to communicate with their partners (donors). I argued that communicating with partners is part of the job of a missionary and that those who do not communicate often with be the first to be dropped by donors who want and expect communication. I set forth an example of a simple rhythm for weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual communication.
The most important thing is that missionaries do communicate at least something with regularity. Secondly, it is important how they communicate. This week I want to give a few tips on how to communicate because some missionaries, in my opinion, are going about it the wrong way.
Whether you agree or disagree, I welcome your comments.
Go-To vs. Come-To Communication
In today’s and age of social media, far too many missionaries rely on what I call “come-to communication” such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Come-to communication asks partners to do the work of coming to you. They have to follow you on social media. You may post something, but they may or may not see it based on any number of factors. In my opinion, this is a lazy way to communicate. They have to take the initiative to follow you.
“Go-to communication” is where you you take the initiative to communicate to your donors. Old fashioned letters and emails (even mass emails) show that you are taking initiative to send something to them. Of course they can choose to read them or not, just like come-to communication, but the difference is that you have initiated and that makes all the difference.
Here is where many of you may disagree with me. When it comes to go-to communication, you should not rely on email only. I believe it is a mistake for you to only communicate via email, even if all of your donors give online and do not need return envelopes to mail checks. You should mail letters to your partners simply because it shows greater initiative.
The personal initiative shown in doing the and hard work of sending letters will result in more funding too. If you’re concerned about the cost, don’t be. It will pay for itself. The “cost excuse,” in my opinion, is a smoke screen for the real reason missionaries don’t send letters. Most missionaries don’t want to spend the time writing letters and “stuffing, sticking, and licking” them.
While it takes time, that’s the point. Time and effort communicate more than any come-to method or mass email.
Short vs. Long Communication
Any communication is better than no communication, but some communication is just TMI (too much information). Partners do not want to know about every detail of your work. They simply want an encouraging story, a tangible prayer request, or a quick update on a project. The most committed partners (family and closest friends) will read anything you send, no matter the length. The majority of your team, however, will not read super long emails or letters.
This is good news! Sometimes I hear missionaries say, “Well I didn’t know what to write them about.” It’s easy. Just send a short email sharing about one thing you are doing that week and how they can pray. Just one thing. If you’re writing a newsletter, that does require a little more thought but not much more. Just write 3-4 sentences on 2-3 of the things you have been doing. Like I said, this is good news. Keep it simple and just say something (but not too much).
In my opinion, emails should be short while letters can be a bit longer so long as they are organized in a way that gives short updates on several different things. Referring back to my rhythm of communication, I recommend weekly emails be 4-5 sentences, monthly newsletters be one page, quarterly newsletters be 2-4 pages with multiple stories and updates, and annual letters be some form of personal communication (meaning a short handwritten note).
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.