December is the month when people expect to receive Christmas letters. And we’ve all gotten some of those long, boring ones that perpetuate the negative Christmas letter stereotype. Don’t let that stop you from writing a Christmas letter this year. A well-written one is a powerful way to show and tell your donors why their support is so important. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Think about a Christmas letter you really liked
Why did you like it? For starters, it probably wasn’t just a chronological recitation of the year’s events or milestones. Chances are it drew you in to the life of the writer. You didn’t just read about a family member or an experience. You saw what the writer saw. Felt what she was feeling. Ached or laughed or wondered as the story unfolded. These are the things you want people to experience when they read your Christmas letter.
Don’t just recap your 2017 calendar
Instead, write a story about one to three people or ministry opportunities that vividly illustrate why you do what you do. For example, rather than just reporting the number of systems you helped install to provide clean water to villagers, tell the story of one child or family and show readers how the clean water is changing their lives. If evangelism is your primary focus, don’t just give a tally of conversions. Tell the story of one transformed life. And don’t miss the opportunity to remind your readers that they had a hand in that transformation. That’s why their financial support is so vital.
Don’t ignore metrics
Focusing on personal stories doesn’t mean ignoring the bigger picture. As you tell about this little boy or that family, look for opportunities to work in brief mentions of the context of that story. Something like, “Victor is one of 130 other boys in his village who are now able to attend school regularly,” or “Some 75 families are healthier in the village today.” It’s even okay to include a list or two in your story. But make them attention getting lists by producing a simple, eye-catching infographic that draws people into the story. If you’re not sure what an infographic is, google it. We’ve all seen plenty of them!
Include a picture or three
What’s the first thing you look at when you read an article or newsletter? It’s the pictures, right? Pictures pull us in. And as we’re reading a story, pictures help make it real. There’s something powerful about looking into the eyes of the person a story is talking about. Notice, though, that we’re not suggesting you include a dozen photos. Lots of pictures often do little more than clutter the page and diminish the story’s impact. Bigger photos, close-ups of faces or hands-on ministry are the way to go.
One final reminder. In addition to these ideas, remember to make your Christmas letter your letter. Be sure your readers walk with you through the story. If you went or are going through a tough season, say so. Being vulnerable is okay because it helps people relate to your story. And be sure they hear loud and clear that they’re a crucial character in the story too.