5 Tips for Letters and Documents in Blackbaud eTapestry

Category: Best Practices

Generating letters and documents in eTapestry® by Blackbaud® can save time and streamline internal processes. From printing an appeal letter and envelopes for a mailing list to generating weekly acknowledgements, eTapestry can simplify the production of your organization’s communications. Your eTapestry database isn’t the only way to generate communications, but if you choose to use eTapestry for letters, envelopes, and labels, here are five tips that can help.

eTapestry versus Microsoft Word

The decision to use eTapestry or Microsoft Word for letter generation usually isn’t an “either or” decision. There are advantages and disadvantages with both tools. Some organizations choose to use eTapestry while others use Microsoft Word. Some even use a combination of the two. Both are viable options and the one you choose will depend on your specific communications project.

Letters and documents in Microsoft Word

Creating letters, envelopes, or labels in Microsoft Word requires an export from your eTapestry database. Export an Excel spreadsheet of the accounts on your mailing list and merge the Excel data into your Word template.

This process generally takes more steps and is more labor intensive than generating letters in eTapestry, but Word offers more customization and design options than eTapestry.

Letters and documents in eTapestry

The design and generation of letters and documents in eTapestry happens through the Communications tab. Create a template and then run a query through that template to generate a batch of letters, envelopes, or labels.

The eTapestry Communications tool creates documents quickly and easily.  It also creates a new Journal Contact record for each new letter you generate (something Word merge cannot do automatically).  Some users find the eTapestry Communications tool easier to use than Word merges because the eTapestry design and document generation system is less robust than Word.

Generating documents in eTapestry

Use these five eTapestry tips for generating letters, envelopes, labels, and documents in your eTapestry database.

  • 1. Segment acknowledgements using queries

    Donor acknowledgements are the most common documents generated from eTapestry.

    It is a best practice to target your acknowledgements to each constituent’s donation and provide a personalized (or near personalized) acknowledgment in response to their donation.

    Acknowledgement segments can include:

    • Standard donations
    • In-kind donations
    • Major gift donations
    • Tribute donations
    • Soft credits

    Segmenting acknowledgements into groups can be done using queries.

    Each acknowledgment segment will have a different query and will pull a separate set of transaction records. For example, standard donation acknowledgements may include all transactions in a date range but exclude donations in kind, major gifts, and tribute donations.

    Make your queries dynamic so they automatically update each time you run a batch of acknowledgement letters.

  • 2. Test your query by running a report

    Run a report with the same query as your document and add fields to your eTapestry report that match the merge fields in your document. Then skim through the report and make sure all of the data in your report is accurate. If the data is accurate, then you know the data going into your document will be accurate. Modify any inaccurate or inconsistent data and continue running the report until you are satisfied with the data.

    Note: If you still aren’t comfortable with the exported documents or the data in the pre-document report, run your documents in eTapestry using the Word file format (not the PDF format). That way you can manually edit the documents after they are generated.

  • 3. Copy and paste from a text editor

    You may have document templates in Word that you want to transfer into eTapestry. Using copy and paste is the quickest way to migrate the copy from a Word template to an eTapestry template, but copying and pasting formatted text from Word to eTapestry can cause major formatting issues in the eTapestry editor.

    Microsoft Word creates, reads, and stores text with additional code and formatting. When you copy and paste this text into eTapestry, that additional code and formatting comes too. If you are editing a document in eTapestry and the editor isn’t working the way you think it should, your document may have hidden Word formatting or code in it.

    When you are moving documents from Word to eTapestry, copy and paste the text from Word into a standard text editor.

    Use Notepad for Windows. Use TexEdit for Mac (just make sure it is in plain text mode). After the text is copied into the text editor, copy and paste the text from the text editor into eTapestry. This process strips the text of all Word formatting. Now the document text can be formatted and modified to your specifications using the editing tools in eTapestry.

  • 4. Print on stock letterhead

    We recommend against recreating letterhead in eTapestry. Create letterhead elsewhere and pre-print the letterhead on stock paper products. Feed this letterhead stock into your printer and print your eTapestry generated document on this stock.

    Use the eTapestry document editor to create a “copy block” for the letterhead.

    Use the document margins in eTapestry to place the “copy block” within your letterhead template. Measure the top, bottom, left, and right margins for your stock letterhead so that your “copy block” will print on the letterhead stock properly.

    Print the “copy block” on your pre-printed letterhead to create a professional look.

  • 5. Double check the stats

    Don’t rush to generate your documents. Check the statistics and make sure they align with the report you generated earlier.

    The statistics shown in eTapestry should align with your expectations for the document run. If they don’t, check your query and your query criteria.  This will keep you from generating unwanted Journal Contacts for inaccurate document and letter batches.


Creating letters and documents in eTapestry software

The eTapestry letter editor is easy to use and has a basic feature set. While the letter editor’s lack of features can be a drawback in some cases, in most cases it is the perfect tool to streamline internal processes and simplify your organization’s letter and document generation procedures.

While Microsoft Word is a viable alternative to eTapestry’s letter and document features, we recommend every organization consider using eTapestry for donor acknowledgements at a minimum.

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