Creating a Parish eLetter
February, 2017Creating An eLetter Many Catholic parishes no longer rely solely on the weekly bulletin but use a variety of communication vehicles to get the word out. One option is sending an electronic update via email. Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, DC is one example. As Karelia Pallan, the Direction of Communications, mentioned, “People love to ‘click’ and find out more about what is happening.” Included here are suggestions about how to start up something similar in your own parish. Each issue has these regular sections, “A Friendly Reminder” about important events in the parish, “This Week At Holy Trinity,” “Looking Ahead,” “Support Holy Trinity,” that includes a Donation button, and “Parishioners in Action” which posts pictures of events that people had participated in over the past week. Links to the bulletin, monthly calendar and daily Scripture readings are at the end. What keeps people’s interest are the short videos that are included in the body of the eLetter. The Jan. 4, 2017 issue had two videos, one on “Practice Gratitude,” and the other on “Screenagers.” (See the attachment to our PEP Newsletter.)
Getting Started Starting up a monthly, bi-weekly or even weekly email Newsletter is not as difficult as it may seem, and the image it creates of a vital and active parish is invaluable. Begin by locating two co-editors to put it together, either present staff members or a few volunteers who are technologically savvy. Next, find a software program that is inexpensive and easy to use. Three options are MailChimp.com, ConstantContact.com and AWeber.com. The one Holy Trinity uses is MailChimp; it has many templates to get you started and it is free for organizations with less than 2,000 email users. Gather information about the parish, including things to keep in mind, events that are coming up in the next week or two, projects or functions taking place in a month or more. The more pictures the better. Arrange for the parish Bulletin to be linked to the eLetter, along with a monthly calendar and perhaps Scripture readings for the upcoming weekend Masses or even readings during the week. Ask for help in searching on YouTube for inspirational videos and learn how to link them into your eLetter. People love to click on these videos. Become acquainted with the software program and what it can offer, then create a sample parish eLetter and send it out to a small group for comments and suggestions, then do a second one and get feedback. Once the format is set, work out a schedule for how often it will be sent out, the deadline for when it will be published, and timeframe for preparing each edition so that it becomes a regular tradition similar to how the weekly bulletin is prepared for distribution. Be consistent in sending it out. Try never to miss a deadline.
Signing Up Publicize the new eLetter and encourage parishioners to sign up for receiving it. If there already exists a parish list of emails, send out a one-time email to everyone, inviting them to participate in this new way of keeping in touch with all that is going on. If no email list exists, invite people to send theirs in and then transfer the list into MailChimp. Whatever time, energy and finances are committed to this effort will reap a multitude of benefits from the large number of informed and interested parishioners.
Jessamyn Amezquita Thomas Sweetser, SJ