Doing Mail Merges using Save As from Reports



    Doing Mail Merges using Save As from Reports

Prior to version 2.28 of the program, the following was the only method by which mail merge letters could be created from DONATION. Because it requires more steps and more knowledge of the mail merge features of your word processor, and is more limited in its capabilities, this method is no longer recommended. Instead, please use the methods shown in Creating Letters for One Donor and Creating Mass Mailings, using the Letters menu options.


One major limitation of doing mail merges directly in your word processor, instead of using the built-in Letters menu options for mail merging, is that you cannot include the «DetailsTable» and «SummaryTable» merge fields that are available in the internal editor.


However, these instructions are still included for those that have used them in the past. They might also be helpful if some information from an existing report was desired in a mail merge letter, that is not available using the options on the Letters menu.


One thing you can do with files saved with Save As from built-in or custom reports or SQL selects is Mail Merge letters, if you have an appropriate word processor such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. A Mail Merge is when you send the same letter to a group of donors, with their names and addresses filled in to the letter to personalize it. Some good reports to do this with are:

-Reports ⇒ Donor ⇒ Donation Info ⇒ Sort by Amount, to do letters to current donors, possibly including reference to the total amounts they have given this year and last year
-Reports ⇒ Receipt ⇒ All Receipts, to do a mail merge on people who received receipts this year
-Reports ⇒ Donor ⇒ Old Donors, to do letters to prior donors who haven't given in the last two years, possibly including reference to the last date they donated and their total amount of past donations


The first two of those reports have had invisible address columns added to them that you can't see when you run the report, but get saved when you do Save As, to make them more suitable for use in mail merges. The third one has address columns visible on the report.


When you use the Save As button, for use in mail merges, be sure to select one of the Data Formats that allows for the "Raw Unformatted Data for Exporting" option to be selected - Text, CSV or Excel. If you are using Microsoft Word for the mail merge, Excel is probably the best option.


Rather than using Save As from reports to get the desired data, from the Letters ⇒ Mass Mailing menu option, there is an option to only export the data needed for a given type of mail merge, rather than doing the mail merge within DONATION. That gives you another excellent way to export data, for use in mail merges with your word processor.


It is beyond the scope of this manual to explain to you how to do mail merges in your Word processor, but we can give some hints and we have included a couple of example letters that could be used with Word 97 and Excel. It is possible to do mail merges with Word Perfect and other programs as well, but we are not sure whether you can get results that format the data as nicely. (For instance, in Word 97, we know how to make dollar values show up in a nice format with commas at the thousands, like "1,000.00" but in WordPerfect we were not able to figure that out, so they show up as "1000.00".) To fully understand how to do mail merges with your word processor, use its Help or a manual.


The example letters we have included are DonorByAmount.doc and ReceiptList.doc. They use the Excel files DonorByAmount.xls and ReceiptList.xls respectively as their input data files, which contain the donor information. (All of those files are installed into the Letters subdirectory of your data directory.) Those .xls files were created by doing a Save As from the Reports ⇒ Donor ⇒ Donation Info ⇒ Sort by Amount and Reports ⇒ Receipt ⇒ All Receipts reports respectively. We just included sample text in those letters, and you would obviously want to modify them to your liking.


To use one of those letters, first generate the appropriate report in DONATION. You may want to further Filter it (see the section on Filtering Reports for details). Next, do the Save As, and if you are using Microsoft Word select the Data Format "Excel", the radio button for "Raw Unformatted Data for Exporting", and the checkbox for "Include Column Headers Row". (If you do not own Excel, use the type "CSV" instead.)


For the Save As filename, select the same .xls filename listed above, for example DonorByAmount.xls for the first example report. (Use the appropriate ending, .csv, if you used a different type than Excel.) Then in Word 97 open the corresponding document DonorByAmount.doc. You should see a mail merge toolbar come up, with which you can scroll through the letters to the various donors. Make your desired changes to the text of the letter, then click the Print icon on the mail merge toolbar to print all of the letters. (Don't use File ⇒ Print: that just prints the currently displayed donor's letter.) You probably should also do a File ⇒ Save As in Word to save the document with a new name.


When you are in a mail merge letter in Word 97, you can press Alt+F9 to switch back and forth between seeing the actual data from your donor, and seeing the codes that tell it where to put which data items, such as the firstname and lastname. If you take a good look at the codes, you will see some tricky bits that we have put into them, such as code that only puts a space between the firstname and the lastname if there is a firstname, or a code that only includes a certain sentence if there is a relevant amount available to talk about in that sentence. Also, you can see how formatting of numbers to have commas at the thousands is done.


One word of warning about a tricky little bug in Word 97. (At least, we think it is a bug.) If you make changes to the layout of the inserted data fields while looking at the layout after pressing Alt+F9, and then change back to see the donor data with Alt+F9 again, you may not immediately see your changes. You often have to use the arrow buttons on the mail merge toolbar (which switch you from one donor to the next) and move to the next or previous donor before your changes are visible. Also, sometimes you will see the data fields in the letter looking like this: "<<firstname>>". If you see that, click the button labelled "<<>>" on the mail merge toolbar to change it back show either the data or the fields (in a format like "{MERGEFIELD lastname}" on the screen.


It is also possible to do mail merges by retrieving data directly from the SQL database. That is considerably more complicated, and will be touched on later in this document in the section on Technical Information.


You can use the Reports ⇒ Donor ⇒ Mailing Labels option to print mailing labels to go with your mail merge letters. See the section on Mailing Labels for details about Filtering them.