Many times in our day and age, a missionary needs to get some piece of information to people who are computer illiterate. That means sending a paper and ink letter. When the postal service in the country is just not up to par (I have had a letter from Mexico to the US take up to 6 months to get there, and many times they get lost in the mail), you need some other way of getting that letter out.
Using a home church, mission board, or individual
Over my 30 years of being a missionary, I have used these things. Basically, they work, although sometimes they can take up to a week or more to “get it out”. Mission boards charge, and usually a good clip at that. Your home church usually is free, but again when it goes out is not always as soon as you would like. Usually, the quality is good.
Using individuals depends totally on the individual, but in general, when the individual is conscientious, they will mail it within a few days of sending out the letter. In the case of the individual, usually, it is something of a burden on that person. For the mission board, they have office staff, and it is no burden.
As far as confidentiality, that is a problem with all of these. Sending out donor information is what the mission board should be doing, but they usually do it as they see fit for their reporting view. They send out for IRS tax information etc, but they are not going to send out anything extra unless you pay for it. Sometimes if you are corresponding with individuals (family or friends) on an individual basis, they are not too happy with taking care of your mailings.
In the home church and individual situation, it can just be that you don’t want people (especially those you know and are involved in your ministry) to see everything you are doing. Not that you are doing anything wrong, but they don’t understand the amount of money coming in and going out, or other details. My mom used to always complain to me about me signing my prayer letters. She thought I should individually sign each one. I just typed in “In Christ, David Cox”.
I am going to review some Mail services at this point, and basically, what you like you can use.
There is a difference here between a monthly prayer letter and a letter. You can use these services for your prayer letter, but there are really better prayer letter services set up for receiving a CSV (Comma-separated value file) and processing that. I will review that in another post.
These are basically just for sending a single letter, or like a letter to donors. The idea of these services is that you either enter their website online and upload your information that way or you setup an account with them and email the letter to them and they send it out via snail mail.
Actually, when you consider that we are computer people these days (more easily creating and editing electronic data than manipulating manual printing and such), these services make good sense. US letter rate is now .49 cents, and much of these services are under a dollar per piece. When you consider keeping envelopes and paper are you to always use, the printing, folding, and taking to the post office, those prices are not so bad.
Color pieces coming in at a little over a dollar, that is not bad either. I would not exactly ditch my printer yet though. I think that the best thing to do is to do a dual-use kind of thing, i.e. you print your own letters, and use that a lot of the time, and you have one of these services as an auxiliary help. For example, I
For example, I think every time you go to a church and speak, you should AS A RULE send a thank you note. When they give you a love offering, you should send a thank you note. When people take you out to eat, do something special for you, or give you something special you should send them a thank you note. Also when you are going to a church for a meeting, you should send reminders of your meeting with them, and tell them any special needs you might have, telling them how many are coming etc. Most of the time email or text messages on phones work, but there are still a lot of pastors that are not “on board” on these things, and when you are away from your home and need to get a contact to such a pastor, these things can be very useful.
They give free registration. You buy a $10 prepaid card (or a larger amount), and you use up that amount as a credit. Their costs are $1.02 for a black-and-white letter and $1.12 for color. They can do duplex printing and color. (after 1st page, every additional page is .18 cents. $1.50 for international letters. The more you purchase on the card (like a debit card), the lower the rate gets.
The good thing about Letterstream is that they have different ways of sending your letter, for example, FedEx, or registered mail, certified mail. Regular letters are only .84 each. You can also send Postcards (.60 cents). They also have an “Address List Cleanup” service that will take your mailing list and identify what is not a valid mailing address saving you sending it to have it come back.
When I was searching for these services I came across this one, and I like it very much.
Packet Mailing – Here think missionary presentation to pastors. These cost $2.03 each (up to 75 pages).
PostCards – These postcards are great for mailing a picture of your family, like at Christmas. They charge .60 cents each.
Newsletter – They specifically do newsletters.
Mail a Letter
This service is a quick and easy write a letter online and they mail it for you. Their front page is a word processor editor. These guys are bit pricey though, $1.52 first page, and .46 cents each additional page. They can do tracking, certified mail, express mail, registered mail, etc.
This is one of the cheaper ones, and their base price is .33 cents per one sided and .37 two sided, and color is .47, and .60. 6 cents each additional page, and color page 1 cents each. $5 minimum order excluding postage. I am assuming here that these prices are for everything except postage. It isn’t clear on their website.
Send-via-usps PDF Filler
This one is kind of weird. Okay, so it is working with documents on your computer, (pdfs), and it will allow you to load a pdf into the webpage from your computer, and then just send it via snail mail.
My take on this one is that it looks good, but by focusing on PDFs, not so good. You have to convert whatever you want to send to a PDF, and then it is easy. I would see this as being really good if you use Openoffice, and they have an icon on the menu bar that allows you to immediately save a pdf version of your document.
These guys are more for the high end many piece mailers, and they do have a good selection of postcards that they will send out.
Some other services
I am adding a few others. These seem to be for sending out mass mailings, like a health care insurance company sending stuff to their people. They are more along the mass mailing lines, a data file etc.