Thursday, August 21, 2014

A very important message about mailing lists...

We all know how important your mailing list is as a ministry tool. As we refine the Chalk Line process of ordering and using our prayer letter service as a ministry tool, we wanted spend some time talking about mailing lists, as there have are some common questions about how best to handle them that we wanted to address.

- I don't know what program to send my order in?
- Can you format my database for me?
- I don't know how to format my mailing list?
- I have multiple groups to send to... How should I separate them?
- How do I send my addresses through the order form?
- How does Chalk Line handle address corrections?

The first and most common question we wanted to talk about is what program we need your mailing list in. While each individual customer approaches their lists differently, we do have a preference. For us, we have found that the very best tool for mailing lists is a spreadsheet - whether it is Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or a CSV file exported from a database management tool such as MS Access or TNT MPD. You will see this on the order form when you are uploading your list: “Preferred Mailing List format is XLS, Numbers, or CSV spreadsheet. We can accept Labels; however, we will convert that to a spreadsheet format and send back to you for future use. Please be advised that spreadsheets with multiple sheets are NOT recommended.

The reason we prefer a spreadsheet is due to our printing process. For mailing, we print your addresses directly onto the envelopes – we do not use mailing labels. It is more efficient for us and assures us more accuracy if we have your addresses in a spreadsheet.

Although we are generally very flexible on what format you send your mailing list in, we always need to convert it to a spreadsheet before we can print. If your mailing list is not formatted correctly for print, we will correct it for you, and send it back for you to use in the future. We will do this once for free - however, because of the time and labor of the correction, we cannot continue to correct it each time any longer - if your mailing list continues to have problems, we will contact you and request that you either use the mailing list that we fixed previously, or we can fix the new database for a flat $25 database management fee.

When setting up your spreadsheet, we find that it is most effective if you have a separate column for each individual piece of information - so a column for Name, Address, City, State, and ZIP code, and if you are sending e-mails to these folks also, a column for e-mail. You can also include other information for your ministry in this as well (such as birthday, phone number, etc.), but unless that information is needed for your mailing, we delete it in our mailing list on file. 

If you submit an address block, we must have it correctly formatted so that the cell wraps the information on individual lines. It is more and more common to see address list where there is information that is intended to wrap but ends up all in one line like so:  

When this happens, we have to go through each individual name and correct it, and it causes additional time and labor for each mailing list that needs to be corrected. Please go go through your list before you send and make sure that each line is separated by a return.

In order to fix this issue, there is a helpful shortcut we use ourselves: Place your cursor where you would like to enter your line break in the cell. If you are using Excel on PC, hold down the "ALT" key and press "ENTER". If you are on Excel for Mac, hold down "CTRL" + "ALT" and press "RETURN". If you are using Numbers, hold down "OPTION" and press "RETURN".  This will move the information to the next line within the cell (not the next cell). 

Another common issue that can cause confusion is sending a list with multiple sheets. We do prefer that all orders are accompanied by only one address list with only one address sheet. If you have multiple groups or multiple sheets, these groups need to be separated into single sheet databases and submitted as separate orders. If you have a column in your spreadsheet that indicates what group to send to (such as a "Send Newsletter", or "A/B groups"), please sort before you send so that we receive ONLY the people you want to mail to.

Once you have your address list formatted and saved, submitting your database on our order form is easy. When you reach the document submission page on the order form, which is the last page of the form, the database information on the top right will ask how you are submitting your database information, and you have three choices: "Upload Current Database", "Use Mailing List on File", or "Use my database on Google Share".

You can submit your address list here, or if you are using a format that cannot be uploaded (such as VCard, MS Access, or Word Perfect), you can use our Uploads page after you have submitted your order form.
Certain formats, such as VCards and Access files, are very difficult for us to use to print, and although we have found a way to convert them, it can cause confusion if the conversion tool does not get all of the data included. We strongly advise that you convert your list to a spreadsheet before sending, or use the converted spreadsheet we send back for the future.

Finally, we would ask that you make address changes BEFORE you submit to Chalk Line, and always double check your mailing list. It is good practice to open up your mailing list and double check how many you have before you submit to Chalk Line; By doing this you can always enter the correct quantity needed. It also gives you the opportunity to correct any addresses you may notice are wrong, or take out any information that is incorrect before you send. PLEASE review your list before you send.

If you submit the wrong database, and we haven't begun to process your order, you can submit an updated address list by e-mailing us at either or, or by uploading it on our uploads page - you do not have to submit a new order form. (But remember, the uploads page is not the order form! You must submit via the order form for each order.)

However, if your order has already begun printing, we may not be able to substitute the updated mailing list, and you will be responsible for the costs of reprinting if necessary. 


It is our hope that this information will better help you as you are working on your ministry communication each time you send a newsletter. We are striving to give you more information about the ordering and printing processes, and we are working with TNT MPD and MPDx software to make it easier for you to send your database to Chalk Line when you order in the format that works best – look for an announcement about these programs in the coming weeks. Important and regular communication is key to keeping your ministry partners involved in your ministry – and mailing list management is an important tool in your ministry toolbox, just like Chalk Line. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

100% Reach - Send your letter on snail mail AND e-mail!

Here’s a bit of news we’ve discovered: the average e-mail open rate for e-mail communication is 32%*. That’s a little distressing. Whether your supporter is too busy to read his or her e-mails regularly, or your e-mail is lost in the deluge of e-mail that he or she gets, that statistic means that if you are sending your newsletter through e-mail only, 68% of your supporters aren’t reading the e-mails you send.
Can you imagine having to read through 185 emails?!
In this age of new technology, using it to your
advantage is tricky business.

Imagine reaching 100% of your supporters – the best way to start is by sending through regular mail and e-mail together!

We want to make sure we can help get your ministry news in your supporters’ hands. Chalk Line can help you send an e-mail copy of your printed letter just by choosing an option on the order form. 
Check "Yes" on the order form, and we'll turn your printed letter into an e-mail!

The option to send your letter via email is on the order form, so it's easy to send both!

How the process works: When you choose to send your e-mail and letter together via Chalk Line, our service will use a PDF of your letter to create an image that will be embedded in an e-mail. When we embed the image in the e-mail, it comes through as a part of the e-mail, not as an attachment.

Our e-mail service sends out individual e-mails to each recipient – we’re not “BCC”ing all your recipients, and we’ll use YOUR e-mail address, so that any replies will come straight to you.

All you need to do is send your e-mail list along with your regular mailing list. You can upload as a separate mailing list in our order form, or you can include the e-mail addresses in your regular printed mailing list. We’ll do the heavy lifting and send the e-mails at the same time we send your regular letters.

We want you to reach all your supporters, whether it's via e-mail or through snail mail – 100% reached is our goal.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chalk Mail is now on the Chalk Line Order Form!

Putting together a letter is a lot of work, whether it’s for the post or via e-mail - We know you’re busy, and so we've made sending e-mail with Chalk Line as easy as sending in your printed prayer letter!

You can now submit your e-mail newsletter order at the same time as you submit your regular prayer letter order.

Our Chalk Mail e-mail service will send your e-mails for you for just $7.99, plus 1¢ per e-mail.

If you’d like to try sending your letter via e-mail with your next printed prayer letter, the process is simple:
  • On the Chalk Line order form, check “YES” when it asks “Would you like to send your letter via e-mail?”  
  • Submit your list of e-mail list at the same time as your newsletter and regular mailing list.
  • Our staff will create your e-mail using the prayer letter you submitted for print by embedding the images of your print letter into an e-mail.
  • If you haven’t set up a Chalk Mail account, we’ll send you a verification e-mail to the e-mail address you provide.
  • Once you've verified your e-mail address, we will send your Chalk Mail letter from your e-mail address, and all your supporters can reply directly to you.

Our hope is that we can continue to serve you in your ministry better every day and keep you in the field so you don’t have to worry about your letters! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Designing Magnets...

Here at Chalk Line, we’re happy to help design your magnet. If you’ve never designed anything with Chalk Line before, here’s how it works:  

Submit your order information, along with your picture you’d like to use for the magnet and your text on the order form. For the text, most folks will include their name, ministry, ministry logo, a short tagline, and their contact information, but you’re welcome to include more or less – it’s up to you!

Give us 1-2 days to put together a proof – we’ll send a PDF proof back to you for you to review, and you can make as many changes as you need before we print. Send your changes via e-mail, and we’ll reply back with the corrected pdf proof as soon as we’re able.

Once you’ve got a design that’s ready to print, let us know you’re ready to put the magnet order in line to print. We’ll have your order details from the order page, and we’ll get started as soon as possible.

If you’re ready to try your hand at designing your own magnet, remember that we’ve got some design requirements that need to be met when putting the magnet together. The two most important requirements are these:
  1. Use a high resolution photo (300 dpi or higher) for your magnet
  2. Make sure to create your magnet with the correct “bleed” room – we require .125” bleed room from the edge and an additional .25” safe zone to ensure that nothing important is cut off when we create the magnets.
You can use our “how-to” guide available here to help guide you through the magnet set-up process. If you’re in doubt, send the magnet proof to and we’ll let you know if your magnet is print-ready. J

If you have any questions about the design process, just let us know. We're excited to see what you put together! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

That Special Time of Year: More about End of Year Asks

So here we are, about to go into the busiest time of year… the End of Year/Christmas mailing season. We know that your time is precious, and so we’ve developed a quick guide to putting together your end of year ask. You may remember that we gave a few suggestions about end of year asks back in April, which can be read here: “Standing Out in the Crowd: A Quick Guide to Special Asks”.

Now, as we go into the holidays, we know there is more to putting together an ask than just the color of the envelope! There are a lot of details and special requests, and we want to make sure you know about how best to request those.

Timing is everything…

The first question I get asked a lot is this: “I want my letter to arrive the day after Thanksgiving/right around Christmas, etc.… When should I send my letter in so that it will go out and arrive by then?

Since we send all letters via USPS first-class mail, all letters usually arrive after sending within 3 business days in most cases. However, during the holiday season, not only do the post office get a little overwhelmed, but Chalk Line does too. This is why we always recommend getting your ask in early! One suggestion we give often is to send in your order a week or so early, and specify what date you’d like it to mail. If you include the instructions in the comment box on the order form, we will mark it for mailing on the date you specify.

Also, as we enumerated in our previous blog post, we want to encourage all folks to follow this handy guide to mailing:

  • For end of year mailings to arrive around the Thanksgiving holidays (November 28-29, 2013), please send all items to Chalk Line by November 20.
  • For mailings that need to be sent before Christmas (December 25, 2013), we are recommending them be sent to Chalk Line by December 20, 2013.

Because this is a busy season, please allow a few extra days for your mailing to go out. Your patience is appreciated and we are so thankful to be able to help you in your busy time!

Also, we will be out of the office for the Thanksgiving Holiday on November 28-Dec 1,  and the Christmas Holiday (dates TBD), and we will respond to any requests/orders received over those days as soon as we are able.

Keep it Simple, sir…

Everyone has a way that they like to send an ask letter… We know everyone is unique, and there are as many ways to send an ask as there are creatures in God’s creation. However, there are a few combinations that I see often, and I like to break them down into categories.
  1. A simple ask. This has a letter and a response envelope included, which can sometimes be a pre-printed envelope sent to us by the customer or the ministry headquarters.
  2. An ask with a commitment card. This will usually include a commitment card along with the letter and response envelope. With Chalk Line’s perforated legal paper, our customers have the option to include the commitment card on the perforated part of their letter.
  3. A Combination Ask & Christmas gift – this will include a commitment card, response envelope, and a little special something extra they want to give to their supporters as a thank you for their support. Often, this will be a magnet or photo card printed by Chalk Line, or a pre-printed photo sent to us from a company like Snapfish or Shutterfly, or a small paper item picked up in their country of ministry. (We’ve seen bookmarks from East Asia, paper crafts from Southeast Asia, Chai tea from the Middle East, Christmas ornaments from Eastern European countries like Russia and Ukraine… the list goes on!) 
Obviously, the thing all of these have in common is the addition of extra inserts, which can sometimes complicate an order. We are using each day to refine the order process on our order form, but hopefully, you’ll find whatever you need there. You'll also notice that each of these has a response envelope of some type included. If you have indicated in your letter or instructions that this is an ask and you aren't including an envelope, we may ask if you'd like to include one, as they are the item most commonly requested with an ask letter. 

Here’s a handy guide for pricing on some of the items that are often included:

Response Envelopes:

  • Pre-printed ministry giving envelope …  Free to Insert
  • Pre-printed CRU giving envelope with Cru address … Free to Insert (see image above)
  • Pre-Printed CRU giving envelope with YOUR address printed by Chalk Line … $0.05 (see image above)
  • Response envelope printed by Chalk Line without postage … $0.20
  • Response envelope printed by Chalk Line WITH postage … $0.69

Commitment Cards:
  • Response card printed by Chalk Line - $0.15-$0.18, depending on size
  • ½ page insert on paper - $0.35
  • Additional letter-size insert 1-sided in color … $0.45
  • Additional letter-size insert 2-sided in color … $0.45
  • Additional letter-size insert, 1-sided in b/w… $0.30
  • Additional letter-size insert, 2-sided in b/w … $0.35

Special paper/envelopes
  • Special perforated legal-size paper - $0.10
  • 28lb semi-gloss paper - $0.10
  • Pastel colored special paper - $0.03
  • Pastel colored envelopes - $0.10
  • Astrobright colored special paper  - $0.03
  • Astrobright colored special paper - $0.10
  • 6 x 9 envelope - $0.17 
  • There are many other items that folks will ask for and include in their letters, but they are not as common and may not be on the order form. If you have a special request for your mailing that you do not know the price for, let us know, and we will do our best to send an estimate for you to review. 

Less is more…

As you can see, there are a lot of different choices, not just in additional items that can be included, but also the colors and types of paper and envelopes that can be used.  As you may imagine, whenever you add items to an order, it does require a little more special attention. That’s why you may see a “hand-labor” charge on your order. Many unusual items which may not go through our machine or may not fit in a normal size envelope will require one or more of the following hand labor charges:
  • Hand insert
  • Hand fold
  • Hand stamp
  • Hand seal

Each of these hand labors will incur an additional $0.10 per recipient, and so if you have a combination ask, where you’ve got a letter, a response card, a response envelope, and a family photo, that might have two hand-insert fees, as our machine will only insert a letter and one additional piece per recipient.  Or, if you were sending something bulky, or something magnetic along with your letter, you would see a hand-insert and a hand-seal, because the addition of the letter would cause the letter to not be able to be sealed by the machine – the magnet gets stuck in the metal machinery.

Also, remember that if you have enough items in your mailing, your mailing may go over 1 oz. in weight, which will require additional postage. In this case, not only will there be additional postage costs (usually $0.20), but also a hand-stamp fee, since it will need to have a non-machineable stamp.

We want to make sure that your mailing stands out in the crowd, but we also want to make sure your money is spent wisely. Sometimes, a mailing that can sound like a good idea can actually be more than you bargained for.  If you have a special idea for a mailing and want a price quote, ask ahead of time so that we can send an estimate without delaying your mailing.

Make it personal…

And the best way to do that is to make your supporter feel special. And sometimes, the best way to do that is to give it some extra TLC. A lot of folks, because of their busy schedules, can’t do the whole shebang, but they do want to write a little note or slip a little something extra into the letters to their close friends and family. That’s why we are happy to do as much of the work as we can, and then ship the order back for you to finish… That way, if you want to write a note to cousin Emma, or put a special something in the envelope to your Mom and Dad, you can do so! Just let us know in the comment box of the order form, and we’ll be happy to do as much or as little of the printing/stuffing/stamping, and when we’re done, we’ll ship it back to you for you to finish up.

Remember the reason for the season

The holidays are busy, with lots of hustle, bustle, business, parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and everything in between. When putting together your mailings, remember that it’s not just about an appeal or a magnet or a thank you card… it’s about celebrating the gift of Jesus Christ and sharing that gift with your supporters. We are here to do our best to make you look your best, and we hope that our service to you at this special time of year helps not just you, but also your supporters, friends, and family, have a joyous holiday season.

We’re excited to see what this season has in store for you and for us – may this season bring you many blessings! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall News from Chalk Line - October 2013

October is here, and with it comes the busiest time of year! As many of you may know, the upcoming holiday season brings a unique opportunity to connect with your supporters, and Chalk Line is here to help you make those connections in any way we can. As this busy season starts, we just wanted to let you know about a few things that are new or helpful at Chalk Line!

Meet the new, improved Order Form

As you may be aware, Chalk Line has been in the process of updating our order form to make your ordering process faster and more efficient. We are encouraging everyone to use this form to submit their orders, and we are adding new features and functionality to it as we listen to your feedback.

Starting January 1, 2014, we will no longer be accepting orders via e-mail/attachments. All orders must be placed via the order form.

Many features we've added to the order form are helping everyday customers such as yourself make their order process go more smoothly. It has everything you need in one place!

  • Update your return address, billing information, and other account information
  • Use the multiple upload spots to upload your letter, mailing list, and return envelope graphic
  • Upload all file types, including PDF, Word, Excel, CSV, Pages, Publisher, Numbers, etc.
  • Estimate your total cost and choose your exact order details
  • Include special instructions in the comment box
  • Submit promotional codes for special offers
And there are many more features available - The order form is easy to use and there are less complications and confusion. We hope that this order form will make your experience with Chalk Line even better!

End of Year Appeals & Christmas Mailings

You may think it's too early to think about your special End of Year appeal letter. We know from experience that the holidays can leave many last-minute mailers in the lurch. We're committed to start giving you details now so that you can think about your mailing before it's too late.

Many folks ask, “Can Chalk Line help with my end of year ask?” and the answer is YES! We can include many special inserts, such as response cards, response envelopes, or pre-printed inserts that you provide to us.
  • 1/3 or 1/4 commitment cards printed by Chalk Line
  • Response envelopes (stamped or unstamped) that will return to your address printed by Chalk Line
  • Pre-printed response envelopes that will return to your ministry headquarters
  • Prayer magnets, prayer cards, or photo cards printed by Chalk Line
  • Family photos, prayer cards, or magnets printed and send to Chalk Line
  • Various irregular items supplied by creative customers and many other items we haven’t even seen yet!
At Chalk Line, we want to do our best to accommodate your end of year mailing needs – most importantly, we want you to start thinking about the process now. Because of the late holiday schedule this year (Thanksgiving is November 28), we want to make sure you know when the best time to submit your mailing is.
  • We are recommending end of year mailings that are being mailed to arrive around the Thanksgiving holiday be sent to Chalk Line by November 20 so that we can prepare them for mailing by November 25.
  • Also, we recommend any mailings that need to be sent before Christmas we are recommending be sent to Chalk Line before December 16 so they can be prepared for mailing by December 20.
Look for a follow-up e-mail from Chalk Line with all this information about the End of Year mailing process, pricing, and more coming in the following weeks.

More details on Magnets!

As we discovered at the 2013 Cru All-Staff Conference this year, many of our customers were excited that Chalk Line prints magnets! We are excited too – We've been printing magnets for a year, and we are so thrilled at the great response our customers have had!

If you are interested in printing magnets this Fall, here are the details for our magnets:
  • Standard Size (4.75” x 3.25”) - $0.85 per magnet. Must be ordered in quantities of 10. Rounded corners.
  • Business Card Size (3.5” x 2”) - $0.55 per magnet. Must be ordered in quantities of 20. Square corners.
Use our order form to submit your magnet order, where you can choose your magnet size, quantity and shipping method!

If you are designing and submitting your own magnet, please be aware that all magnets must be submitted with a .125” bleed zone on all sides, so the submitted magnet must be 5” x 3.5” or 3.75” x 2.25”. We also recommend your magnet photo be 300 dpi or higher. Find out more about designing your own magnet using our how-to guide, available to download here.

Chalk Line will also design your magnet for no additional cost. You will need to submit your picture through the order form, choosing magnet design in the services section, and include what you’d like the magnet to say in the “comments or instructions” box at the end of the order. We will put a draft together and send a PDF proof for you to review. Make as many changes as needed, and once we have your final approval, we’ll put the print order in.

We look forward to seeing the beautiful magnets that we'll print for you!

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Spring is one of my favorite seasons - Spring Break, Easter and celebrating the Lord's sacrifice and Resurrection, warmer weather, winding down on campus... So much is going on! 

Beautiful spring flowers that
our accountant's husband brought her!
Spring is also the time of year when a lot of special projects are happening, and people are prepping for big mission trips overseas or here at home. Other folks are getting ready for a season of ministry partner development, which can include months on the road, traveling and visiting with friends and family, and reconnecting with partners and churches to update them on your ministry.

All this activity is always very stressful, and one of the biggest factors in that can be making sure you have enough funds in your ministry account to cover the extra expenses - which means sending your supporters a special-ask letter.

Sending a special ask can be taxing, especially since it's one of those things you only do once or twice a year, and every aspect is considered and prayed over and examined before you send it. The minutiae of getting your ask to stand out and get noticed can be a little confusing, and many of the questions I get asked most frequently involve what options are best for sending your letter to get it noticed. Every person is different, but the Chalk Line team has noticed some trends over the years, and we wanted to fill you in on some of the tips we've seen and some of the options you have if you send your letter through Chalkline.

Some of the most important things to do are fairly common sense:

  • Put a date on the letter, make sure your name and contact information are clearly visible. 
  • Keep the letter to one page, use a mail merge to address your partner personally. 
  • Make sure to address where you are at in ministry and be specific about your need, especially if you are asking for a specific project or event. 
  • Invite the partner to give based on how the Lord leads them, and make a commitment to them to follow up the letter with a phone call or e-mail. 
  • Include a self-addressed envelope for them (it doesn't have to be pre-stamped). 
  • Don't wait until the last minute - you want to give yourself plenty of time for follow-up and to make sure all the details are correct. 

And most importantly, remember that the Lord our God "will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19.

Now, you might say "That's all nice, Tiffany, but what can I do to REALLY stand out?" Well, we have a few things that might be able to help:

  • Send in a brightly colored envelope, or put a picture of you and your family on the front of the envelope to draw attention to the letter
  • Use a "handwritten font" (such as Dakota, Segoe Script, or Lucida Handwriting) on the front of the envelope to mimic the appearance of hand writing the addresses
  • Take advantage of the back of the envelope for extra emphasis- Chalkline now offers backside envelope printing!
  • Use a colored paper, or a nicer paper (such as our Hammermill Semi-Gloss, or an Ivory Linen paper)  for a special look
  • If you need to include a response card or prayer card, you can have that printed on a colored cardstock, or you can use our special legal perforated paper, which has a perforation at the 11" mark, allowing the bottom 3" to be used for a response card. (You can download the template here:

We do our best to accommodate most special requests, and if you have any specific questions about sending a special ask, just contact us.

Finally, I will pass on these two pieces of advice: 1) you know your supporters so much better than we do, and 2) the most effective letters I've seen have been some of the most simply-designed. Often, it's not about standing out in the crowd, it's being honest, prayerful, and remembering that God is our provider. 

And we can't say this enough: We at Chalkline are thankful to be a part of your ministry process. :) Your ministry to further the Gospel is a blessing to us!