Creating Letters for One Donor
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(This option is not available with the free Lite version of DONATION.)
Using Letters à One Letter, you can create one letter for the current Donor. It can include just Donor information, or also include information on the current donation for that donor (the one with the pointing hand symbol beside it), on the total donations (and optionally list of donations) for a range of dates for that donor, on the pledge and donations made to fulfill that pledge for the donor, or on the currently selected receipt for that donor, or in some cases for Canadian users for the selected Gift in Kind receipt for that donor. (A receipt is considered to be selected if the current donation for the donor is part of that receipt, i.e. shows that Receipt #.)
More details on the types of letter available are listed in the Help topic on Creating Mass Mailings. The only difference between the lists of types of letter in these two options are that for Letters à One Letter, the 2nd option is for the current donation that you have clicking into on the main window, whereas for Letters à Mass Mailing, the 2nd option is for sending individual letters for each donation made within a prompted-for range of dates.
There are several training videos on Mail Merge letters and receipts on the Demos and Samples web page, if you would prefer to see these features demonstrated live, rather than reading about them.
Before you can use this feature the first time, you will want to create or modify a letter file that will form the basis of the letter. A number of sample letters and receipt formats are provided that you can modify for your use. They are stored in the Letters subdirectory under the program's Data Directory. The following are the file names of the standard sample letters provided with DONATION, which are by default used for both Letters à One Letter and Letters à Mass Mailing:
You will note that all of these files end in ".htm", which means they are HTML files, the type that are used for web pages. This is actually a very good "common denominator" file format, that works well for doing mail merge letters, and can also be handled by most word processing programs.
You select the Type of Information using the radio buttons at the top left of the Merge One Letter window that comes up when you select Letters à One Letter (as shown below). After making that selection, the merge fields available for that type of letter are shown in a list box at the top right of the window. You can't do anything with that list - it's just for your information.
Here is a screenshot of the Merge One Letter window:
Notes: The radio button in section 1 of this window, "Pledge information", does not appear if you have selected to not show the Annual Pledge field in the Donor Detailss tab of the Maintenance à Main Window Options window. And the radio button "Gift in Kind Receipt information" only appears if you are in Canada and you have selected "Use different receipts for Gifts in Kind / Non-Cash Gifts" in the Maintenance à Receipt Options window.
Editing the Initial Letter Files
To edit a sample letter, once you are in the Merge One Letter window (after selecting Letters à One Letter), select the radio button at the top left for the Type of Information you want included in the letter (options as listed in the table above). Make sure that the checkbox for using standard filenames for the Letter File is selected, which causes the standard filename above to be shown for the Letter File. (N.B. You can't edit that filename, unless you uncheck the checkbox.)
Then if you click the Edit button just to the right of and below the Letter File name, you will be put into the internal editor window, viewing that letter. You will see that there are special placeholders (called "merge fields") where the merged in information will go. For instance, «Name» will be replaced by the business name of the donor if there is one, or otherwise the full name (First Name plus Last Name). Each field that can be replaced has a specific name, and each name is preceded by « and followed by ». There is a drop-down list of the insertable fields on the editor window, and an Insert button beside the list that inserts the currently selected field on the list into the document, at the current cursor position.
All of the sample letters and receipts include any logo bitmap you have specified in the Logo and Signatures window, in the top-right corner of the letter. The sample receipts also include any signature bitmap you specified in that window, above the signature line.
Both the Total Donations information and Selected Receipt information types of merge letter have two special merge fields available to them, «DetailsTable» and «SummaryTable». The Details Table generates a table of individual donation details, either for all donations within a selected date range for the Total Donations information option, or for all donations included in the receipt for the Selected Receipt information option. The Summary Table generates a summary by category of donation, for the same sets of donations.
The Pledge information letters also have the «DetailsTable» merge field available, although its details are slightly different than in the other types of letter that include it. Pledge letters do not support the «SummaryTable» field, because usually pledges are for only one donation category, so a summary by category section would not be needed. If you are using the pledge type Multi-Year, two further special merge fields are available, «DetailsTableAllYears» and «PledgeYearsTable». Please also see Pledges in DONATION for further details on using mail-merge letters for pledge information.
Full details on all of these special fields (and all other mail merge fields) are in the Help topic on mail merge fields.
Note to French Speakers: If you use « and » as quotation marks in your documents, there is a potential problem with quoted text being seen as merge fields, and causing errors in merges. However, as long as your quotation includes at least one space, it will be ignored, so hopefully this will not be a problem.
When you are satisfied with any changes that you wish to make to the sample letter, use File à Save in the editor to save your changes, then exit that editor window to come back to the Merge One Letter window.
Normally you only have to edit these files the first time you use them, unless or until you decide you want to change their wording again.
There is a separate section on Generating Receipts using Mail Merge which says a lot more about the sample Receipt information letters.
Unless you need multiple letters with varying wording for each type of information (e.g. for Donor Information letters), I recommend that you just use the standard named sample letter files, with their contents edited as desired. That way, you don't have to remember the filenames, because the program brings them up automatically.
If you do want to select a different filename for the Letter File, however, uncheck the checkbox for using standard filenames, and either type the filename in directly, or use the Browse button to bring up a Document File to Merge window in which you can select the desired file. You have to specify a file that already exists here.
The filename for the output merged letter (the one with real data merged into it, rather than merge fields) is always based on the name of the Letter File, by adding "_save" to the filename. For instance, the default Letter File for Donor Information is "donors_merge.htm", so the corresponding output merged file will be "donors_merge_save.htm".
If you have an existing Letter File, but want another letter file for the same type of information (e.g. Donor Information), perhaps for a different purpose or situation, you can use the Edit Copy button below the Letter File name. Just specify the letter file you want to copy from in the Letter File field (most likely by using the standard filename), then click Edit Copy. It will prompt you with a Save Copy As dialog box. Specify the new filename you want to copy to. (The default it will show you will be the name of the file you are copying from, with "Copy" added before the ".htm" extension, but you will probably usually want to change that, to a name that indicates what this letter is actually for.) When you click Save in that dialog, the editor will open, editing a copy of the originally specified Letter File, but with the new name. And when you return to the Merge One Letter window from the editor, the new name will be displayed, ready for you to do the merge with it.
Doing the Merge
Once you have selected the desired Type of Information, and you are satisfied with the contents of the Letter File, just click the Merge button to do the merge. That will open up the editor again, briefly display the Letter File, and shortly fill in all of the merge fields with the appropriate data from your donor, donation(s) and/or receipt, depending on which Type of Information you selected. It automatically saves the merged letters in the standard save filename, as described above.
If you are using the Total Donations information option, however, when you click Merge you will first see a "Select Dates for Mail Merge" window. That allows you to specify a range of dates within the current year, so that only donations within that range of dates are included in the merged data. This allows you to do things like quarterly report letters to your donors. The default for this window is from January 1st up to the current date, which may often be what you will want.
You can make editing changes in this merged file if you want, for instance to further personalize a letter. If you wish, save those changes with File à Save.
Then, just print the letter with File à Print, the Print toolbar icon in the editor, or Ctrl+P. For Selected Receipt information merges, you will be prompted to print a 2nd copy for your records. You can also optionally email the receipt or letter to any donor who has an email address, with the File à Email/Print menu option or the Email toolbar icon.
Finally, exit the editor window to come back to the Merge One Letter window.
If you are done, click Close to close that window and go back to the program's main window. Or, you can do more merge documents for the same donor.
Converting old Microsoft Word Mail Merge Letters
The internal editor was only introduced in version 3.10 of DONATION, in May 2008. If you were using the mail merge features of DONATION before that, you were using letters documents in Microsoft Word (filenames ending in .doc) or WordPerfect (filenames ending in .wpd).
If you want to convert existing customized letter files from Microsoft Word, you can do so. Just make sure the checkbox for using standard filenames for the Letter File is unchecked, then use the Browse button for the Letter File. In the Document File to Merge dialog that comes up, change the "Files of type" drop-down at the bottom to "Word Document Files (*.doc)", then select your existing mail-merge letter file to be converted. When you click Open, it will put that filename into the Letter File field. Then, when you click Edit, it will walk you through a few messages explaining that it is converting it from the .doc filename to a .htm filename (e.g. from donors_merge.doc to donors_merge.htm), and then put you into the internal editor editing that .htm file. You may have to do some further "touch ups" to make it look good in the internal editor, but your merge fields and your text and formatting should be pretty much present. Once you have edited, saved and closed the letter file, you can use Merge as normal to do the merging of data into that converted letter.
I'm sorry, but there is no such feature for automatically converting existing WordPerfect mail merge files. (Far fewer people use WordPerfect.) However, you should be able to open your existing WordPerfect documents in WordPerfect directly, and save them as HTML files, by using File à Publish To à HTML. (At least, that's how it is done in WordPerfect 11, which is the version I have.) Then you can open those files in the internal editor in DONATION by using Browse to select them, and insert the desired merge fields. (Merge fields from existing letters either get dropped, or don't get translated to the right sort of merge fields in the HTML files, depending on whether you are using letters that you previously used with Letters à One Letter, or with Letters à Mass Mailing.)