Tips for Writing to Multiple Children

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Like many people, I sponsor multiple children and also am a correspondent sponsor for several others. I love writing the actual letters, but was bogged down with some of the mechanics of the process (like writing addresses on envelopes!). I also wanted to be organized so I could tailor the letters of each child and keep track of everything. Here are some of the things I do to simplify and organize the process, and I'd love to read any tips you have too!

1. Since I usually use my own stationery and like to send coloring pages or stickers (requiring larger envelopes), I ordered a custom stamp with Compassion's Child Correspondence Dept. address on it. No more writing the address on everything!

2. Rather than writing the child's and my ID numbers on everything, I use .5" x 1.25" labels. I created a Word label document for each child, with three lines: the child's first name on the first line, their ID number on the 2nd, and my ID number on the 3rd. I print out a bunch of sheets and keep them in a folder, alphabetically by the children's names. The labels are small enough to be unobtrusive on coloring sheets or anything else I send.

3. When I receive a letter from a child, I write the date at the top, and keep it in a napkin holder on my table. After I've replied to it, I punch holes in it and put it in a binder. I have a tab for each child. This way I can also review previous letters as I'm writing to them.

4. I sometimes send Bible verses, and usually write them on animal shaped cards for the younger ones, or decorated cardstock for the older ones. I usually spend an evening writing them all at once, so they are ready to go when I write the letters that month.

5. I keep a file for each child in my file cabinet, with things to send them in the future. I've found some Spanish coloring books, and Bible coloring books, stickers, etc. By having them already sorted out in the folders, when I write to a child I can just reach in and find things to send them, knowing that I haven't already sent them the same thing!

6. I made a spreadsheet in Google docs with a tab for each child. Each child's page has their little picture from Compassion's website, their ID, country, and language they speak. Then I keep track of every letter I receive (and the date), and the things I send them.
A typical entry is: 3/4/2015   dinosaur letter, Bible pages, stickers   Psalm 50:15
That way I can see if I'm always sending the same stationery (animal notepads really) or need to mix it up a bit. The last column is the Bible verse I included, if I sent one that month.

7. A few times a year (as a break) I'll send an online letter to all the children, including photos. I write one for the older kids, then change the wording a bit for the younger ones.

I'm looking forward to hearing other ideas!
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Karen Straube

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Posted 4 years ago

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Adam

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Karen, these are really good ideas! I only sponsor one child but I am still going to start doing a lot of these things. I never thought about making preprinted labels for the coloring sheets and stickers and stuff. And the Bible verse cards are a great idea! Just recently I got a Spanish Bible in the Nueva Version Internacional (I'm not sure what version they give out at the centers) and I think I will start sending the small cards like that too with the Spanish verses on them. Also I'm starting a spreadsheet this week! Thank you for sharing this.
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Sara Hill Loggins

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I have heard that the NVI is easier to read than the Reina Valera.
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Karen Straube

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Great idea for using a Spanish Bible, Adam! Bible Gateway is good too - they have a drop-down for choosing different languages and versions. I'll look for the NVI, Sara - not being fluent in Spanish I've been wondering which version is easier to read!
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LJ

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This is wonderful!  I speak enough Spanish to get by and have been to Mexico for a summer.  I would definitely agree that the NVI is easier to read.  Think of it as the equivalent of the NIV.  The Reina Valera is about like the KJV.  You can also get it online at Bible Gateway or the Blue Letter Bible.
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Beth

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Sometimes I use biblegateway.com to copy & paste Bible verses onto my letter or onto cardstock that I can cut apart into cards. That way I don't have to write the verse by hand several times for multiple children.
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Sara Hill Loggins

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You just described my library! Except for the stamp, I just print labels, but I do like the stamp idea.
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Chak

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Thanks Karen, great ideas! I have not sent any stuff yet and am thinking to take a pic of each batch I send to avoid sending the same stuff or buying them again.
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Chak

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When using our own stationery, do we need to provide space for translation?
We need to remove the plastic packaging of say, stickers?
Thanks.
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Athena

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I make my own stationary too. I just use MS Word and set it to 2 columns. I fill the two columns with underscores. I write on the left and leave the right blank for translation. I also add a picture watermark. Sometimes the watermark is pictures of my kids. Right now I have a lilac photo on one side and a daffodil photo on the other side. I also have the header set with my name and ID and leave the other side blank for the child name and ID.
For mailing, I have found it is cheaper to mail batches than individual letters. Most of the time I use manila folders, but if I have a heavier-weight attachment, I will move up to a flat-rate envelope to mail.
I scan all my handwritten letters and print them out so I have a copy. When I go to write the next letter I check to see what I have previously written about. I keep the letters in sheet protectors in a binder.
I also keep a list of what I have sent out to each child. I use OneNote and each child has a tab.
I have grouped my kids together into 4 groups. There's a rotation of which group gets an online versus handwritten letter that week. So each week I write to two groups: one online and one by hand. The next week I write to the other two groups. Week 3 is back to the first two groups, but I swap which group gets the online letter and the handwritten one. So in a 4-week period everyone gets a handwritten and online letter.
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Karen Straube

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I like your columns idea - I'll try that when I make my own stationery. Your kids are blessed to get two letters a month!
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Chak, it is always nice when you include space for translation but you do not have to. If there is no room for the translation on the item you are sending, we will attach another piece of paper with the translation. You do not have to remove the plastic packaging for stickers.
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Chak

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Thanks Susan!
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Beth

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Great ideas! 
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Adam

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Karen, I just wanted to say thank you again for taking the time to post all of these great ideas! This has been the most helpful post for me and I'm sure that it has helped a lot of other people too. I found some small labels, like you were describing, at Office Max and I also got some larger labels that I use for the bigger stuff. They are a lot cheaper than I thought they were. I got 2,000 of the small ones and 1,400 of the larger ones and they were on sale but I think I paid less than $30. It is so much easier to peel and stick a label on everything rather than writing names and numbers but what I really like about it is that it looks so much cleaner and nicer with the labels. I try as hard as I can to make things to look as new and nice as possible even if I have to cut or tear some packaging so I never did like writing on things that wouldn't be thrown away and the labels look so much better.

My wife found some small plain index cards at Hobby Lobby in different colors that Ive been writing Bible verses on. My wife is better at this than me but I used to try to write my letters around a Bible verse or try to fit one into my letters somehow but a lot of weeks I didn't really get it to to work so I wouldn't put a verse. Now I'm sending one every week and this has also helped me with my 6 year old son to remember to give him a new verse to learn each week. I am sending Ana the same verse that my son is learning and I started them out with the Romans Road. I don't know why I didn't think about just sending the verses on a separate card but I did not and I don't think I would have if I hadn't read that idea in your post. It also helps me keep my letters shorter which is sometimes a problem for me as you can probably tell :)

I got a spreadsheet going too and I'm glad I did because I was going back and trying to remember what I had already sent and I couldn't remember what I had sent with several of the letters. I'm an accountant so you would think I would be on top of that sort of thing but I guess at first I thought I could just keep up with it in my head. It kind of blurs together after a while though and I can only imagine trying to keep up with everything with multiple kids.

I also got a filing system started that I think will work pretty well. I have trays for different kinds of stationery and colored paper. I was sending the same one every week but I felt kind of guilty after I read that comment about needing to mix it up so I got some more. :) I have files for stickers, coloring pages, Easter, Birthday, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. Valentine's is in September in Colombia so those are all spaced out pretty evenly for Ana and I'm trying to make a bigger deal for those occasions. This year I guess the holiday cards might be late but I'm trying to remember to get extra so I will be able to send them in time next year. That's why I wanted to have the folders so I could pick things up during the year. And I always sneak extra coloring and activity pages when we watch the kids in the nursery at church for Ana and I send them when we have extra room :) There's a lot of good ones on the Second Friday Pinterest page too.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you posting this. It has been so helpful for me just sponsoring one child and I imagine that it has been great advice to many of the sponsors on here who are writing to multiple kids.
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Beth

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I have found computer paper stationery at the Dollar Tree. 40 sheets for a dollar is a bargain!

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Adam

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Good morning, Beth! I don't always read this forum at four in the morning but my dear old lab seems to want some company so she's got me up early. :) Dollar Tree has a lot of great stuff to send but I've never checked for stationery there. I've actually been debating for a while about switching over to plain paper and making a template with two columns and really narrow margins so that the translation can be on the same page as my letter. I really like using stationery because I think the kids probably like the colorful paper better but the margins are wide on the paper I have so my letter usually takes up most of the page and so I'll send an extra page for the translation. I'm only writing once a month now so I get a little long winded. :) I just don't want them to think it looks boring because it's just plain paper with words on it. My kids are both really young. Anyway, thanks for the tip, though, I will have to check that out and see what they have at ours.
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Beth

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Hi- I have written lots of letters using MS Word with the 2 columns, and leave the 2nd column blank for translation. I often add my own photos related to what I write about, which adds color and interest.

But you can also use the computer stationery and print a 2-column letter - you just might need to adjust the margins so you don't print on the borders of the stationery. Or sometimes it's easier to just print your letter on the top half of the page, and leave the bottom half for the translation.

You sound like a great, committed sponsor. Your kids are blessed by you!

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Beth

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One more tip: If you don't mind using the extra ink, you can use clip art borders (I often use PowerPoint to type my letters with clip art) to add color to your own letters on plain paper. I have also found stationery templates off the internet - just do a search for the theme you are looking for.
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Adam

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Those are great ideas Beth! It sounds like you have some awesome MS Word skills. I didn't know about the clip art borders and inserting actual photos into a Word document. I really like the idea of adding photos into the letters. I was going to write my next letters about my days at work and send some pictures of my office and I think I will try that and maybe try to find some clip art that goes along with that. Thank you very much for your kind words. My sponsorships are really important to me. It sounds like you're an awesome sponsor yourself! Welcome to this community by the way! :)
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Rowena C

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Great idea especially with tracking using a spreadsheet! Sometimes I lose track regarding dates and what I previously sent. I'm going to have to do that soon... ;)
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Beth

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Great ideas! I already do some of them, but I need to implement the rest. I wish I would have started some of them sooner, because as the years go by, it gets harder to remember what you sent each child, and what each child wrote or how they answered your questions. Thanks for sharing all the tips.
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Ceri Bowen

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For my new sponsored / correspondent children I now use Google docs to keep track of all the information about my children.  I have a Google doc for each child.  There are two coloumns.  In the left coloumn I have name, dob, project/number, family, language, education, chores, hobbies, church activities, favourite Bible story/verse, prayer requests, other (e.g. favourites) and news. In the right column is the information provided on the child's profile.  Each time I receive a letter, I update the Google doc. e.g. adding any new family members names/ages of siblings, movement up to next grade in school, church activities, prayer requests, news etc.  It's working really well, as each time I respond to or write a letter I can open the Google doc for that child, and can e.g. ask about their siblings, or refer to something the child mentioned a few letters ago. 
(Edited)
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Karen Straube

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I love that idea of updating the Google docs for each child! I think I will incorporate that idea into my current docs. Thanks!
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Sarah, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Ceri, that is a beautiful idea! I may have to incorporate that for my kiddos as well :). Thank you so, so much for sharing your ideas!