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.