How to Generate Documents in Blackbaud eTapestry

Category: Database Admin

I support a number of nonprofit organizations and their eTapestry® by Blackbaud® systems. Even though the focus, mission, and operations of these organizations varies and is quite diverse, I begin to see patterns in the use of eTapestry. One of those patterns relates to document generation. eTapestry has a variety of tools to help you create acknowledgements, pledge reminders, gift receipts, letters, solicitations, appeals, and a variety of other print materials (including envelopes and mailing labels), but very few organizations use these features to their full capacity. The goal of this post is to expose you to the different document generation options available in eTapestry so you can choose the best method for your document generation needs.

Before I review the different options, it may be helpful to review some definitions. The document creation process uses vocabulary that may be new to some.

  • 1. Communications Template

    A communications template is a blank letter, receipt, acknowledgement, or other document that contains standard copy, images, and formatting, but also contains spaces where merge fields will be populated.

  • 2. Merge Field

    A merge field is a blank “placeholder” in a communications template that tells the template where to fill in data from a specific data set. For example, if you want to say “Dear [Short Salutation],” you can place a merge field for Short Salutation and the template will fill in that field from your imported data set. The merge field relates to a field in eTapestry.

  • 3. eTapestry Query

    An eTapestry query is a filter, search, and segment of data in your database. Instead of running reports on your entire database (all records) you can tell eTapestry to run a report with a specific data set (i.e. a query). For example, if you want to run a report for residents in the state of WA then you run a query for constituents that live in WA state.

  • 4. eTapestry Report

    An eTapestry report is the display of the data from a query. A report formats the query data into an exportable data set. The report actually shows the data from your query. If you want to see the name, address, and phone number for a set of accounts in your query, then you will build a report showing those fields.

  • 5. Journal Contact

    A journal contact is used to log interactions, activities, and “touches” you have with a constituent. Journal contacts are commonly used to log any communications you have with a constituent. As a result, you may choose to log journal contacts for each document generated for a particular constituent. Journal contacts help you develop a constituent relationship profile in eTapestry.

Document Creation Options

Many organizations use Microsoft Word to create merged documents, letters, acknowledgements, and gift receipts. Microsoft Word and eTapestry function the exact same way when merging documents. However, there are pros and cons to using both systems.

Communications in Microsoft Word

  • Requires multiple steps and potentially more time to generate documents.
  • Unlimited customization through Word interface and more control over document design.
  • Requires eTapestry export via an Excel or CSV report and merge in Word (two systems).
  • Merge occurs external to eTapestry.
  • Journal contacts for documents must be created via a mass create based on the original query.
  • Word documents can be limited when creating gift tables or groupings of data by account.

Communications in eTapestry

  • Requires less steps and less time to generate documents.
  • Can use any merge fields available in the database.
  • Based on an eTapestry query and communications template (single system).
  • Limited customization, may require printing on letterhead stock.
  • Can create journal contacts for documents during the document creation process.
  • Can create gift tables and groupings of data by account without custom programming knowledge.

Creating Documents in Microsoft Word

Creating documents in Microsoft Word using a mail merge template is the more recognizable and common document generation process. A Microsoft Word document requires two elements. It requires a Word template that includes merge fields. It also requires a data file or data set. The data file or data set is usually exported from eTapestry into Excel or CSV. The data file or data set is then imported into the Word template to create the finished document set.

Word merges can be used when you need a heavily formatted or customized communications template that matches your brand look and feel or design specifications. There are limitations in the eTapestry communications template editor, so Word is a valuable tool for mail merges where heavy customization is required.

Follow these steps to merge documents in Microsoft Word using an Excel or CSV file from eTapestry. The merge process may vary depending on the version of Word you are using.

  • Build a document template in Word and insert merge fields in the template.
  • Create a query in eTapestry for the data set you want to merge into your template.
  • Create a report in eTapestry that contains the merge field data you need for your template.
  • Run your report with the query you created and export the report to Excel or CSV.
  • Save the Excel or CSV file to your computer.
  • Go to your Word document template and select your Excel or CSV data file using the merge function.
  • Preview your data in Word to confirm the data set properly merged into the document.
  • Save or print your merged documents.
  • Go back into eTapestry and mass create journal contacts for your document based on your original query.

You can use Word documents for mailing labels, acknowledgements, receipts, newsletters, letters, envelopes, postcards, and a variety of other templates. In addition, companies like Avery have free Word templates that come with their paper-stock products, so Word is almost infinitely flexible and expandable. This is why it is a viable way to generate documents.

Note: Keep in mind that even though eTapestry can produce most documents, it may be necessary to use both Word and eTapestry for document generation (depending on the specific case). As a result, both solutions may be a part of your document creation processes.

3 Ways to Generate Documents in eTapestry

Microsoft Word isn’t the only method you can use to generate documents. eTapestry has a built-in document generator that in many cases is faster and easier to use than Microsoft Word merges. While the eTapestry document generator has some limitations, you can generate documents by slashing many of the steps required to generate documents in Word.

In order to generate a document in eTapestry, you must first create a communications template. This template can be a receipt, pledge reminder, acknowledgement, standard letter, mailing label, or envelope. The template identifies the layout, specifications, and merge fields of the document. The template will be used as the foundation of the document. Once the template is created you will “push” data from a query or a standard data object in eTapestry into the template. This “push” process will populate any merge fields you identify in the template. As a result, in order to generate documents in eTapestry you must have a pre-formatted template and a query or data source (i.e. a data object).

The communications tab is where you create and generate your eTapestry communications templates. All templates are arranged into categories. Categories are like file folders. These folders arrange and organize your communications templates.

Templates are created by selecting “New Template” beneath the category where you want that template to reside. Walk through the communication template creation wizard to create your template. You can modify the text, merge fields, images, and formatting of the template to match your requirements. Be sure to select a pre-formatted template to build from. Do not select the “Blank Template” option unless you are prepared to custom code your communications template using HTML. The “Blank Template” is only used for custom programming a template and isn’t a good option for standard eTapestry users.

Once your document template is created, there are three places you can generate documents in eTapestry.

  • 1. Communications Tab

    Beneath each template in the communications tab is a small link titled “Create Documents.” Select this link to generate your documents based on that template. The “Create Documents” option in the communications tab operates with a query. As a result, this option should be used to generate batch documents from a query in your database.

  • 2. Standard Data Object - Single Account

    You can also generate a single document based on a single account. There is an option on the personas page of every account in your database that allows you to run a single document based on that particular account. In the “Tasks” pane of the personas page is a button titled “Create Document.” Selecting this button allows you to create an “Account” focused document using a pre-defined template in the database. This could be used in cases where you need to generate a single envelope for that account’s address or a single letter for that account.

  • 3. Standard Data Object - Single Transaction

    You can also generate a single document based on a single transaction. When you are finished entering the details of a new gift or pledge you can save the record and immediately create a document based on that transaction. Select the drop-down next to the “Save And” button. Select “Create Document” and select Save And. You will be redirected to the document generation screen to create your single document based on the newly entered transaction.

    You can do the same thing with previously saved journal transactions. Select the transaction and then select “Create Document” at the bottom of the screen. This process can be used to create immediate acknowledgments or receipts for gifts. If you receive a large number of gifts, you may choose to run this process for certain gifts. For example, you may run these single-documents for major gifts or gifts from new donors. You can also use this feature to generate a receipt or acknowledgement for a gift if the donor misplaced their original letter.

    The method you use to generate documents in eTapestry will vary. The method you use will depend on your internal processes and operational workflows. However, it is important to evaluate the different ways you can generate documents in eTapestry or external to eTapestry in Microsoft Word so that you can choose the most efficient process.

    eTapestry should make your job easier and save you time. As a result, evaluate the benefits and costs of each method. In my experience, most organizations will use a combination of methods to generate communications and documents. That is why it is important to blueprint your processes and determine how each document generation process should be implemented in your system.

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