CiviCRM Tips for Your Year End Receipts and Letters for Donors

Ah, year end… that magical time of snow, holidays, way too much to eat, and, oh yes, year end receipts and letters for donors.  This can be one of the most onerous and time-consuming tasks of the year, but thankfully CiviCRM offers some ways to make it a bit easier.  Here are some of our recommendations.
Use the Contribution Aggregate Search
If you go to Search > Custom Searches, you’ll see a search form for aggregate contributions.  Unlike the Find Contributions search, which searches on individual gifts, this search form looks at donors’ total giving.  You can use this to create smart groups of various donor levels over the year.
Fiscal Year = Calendar Year?  Use the Summary Fields Extension
We’ve featured this extension previously; it creates a tab of custom fields and automatically calculates year-end giving, lifetime giving, and so forth.  Here are some ways you can utilize it for year-end work:
  1. Search on the fields to create smart groups of giving ranges, which you can use to generate lists for specific letters (high end donors, for example).
  2. Include the field for fiscal year giving in your export, so you can use it in your mail merge and easily include the donor’s total giving in the letter for tax purposes.
  3. Use the fields for last year and this year giving to identify donors who have increased their giving
Generating Letters
If you have a relatively small number of year-end letters to send (say, around 100 or so), or if you’ve segmented your donors into smaller groups so you can use different verbiage for them (e.g., high donors get one letters, new donors get another), CiviCRM does include a thank-you letter generator.  (Caution: if you have a large number of letters to send, you’ll either have to batch your letters into small chunks, or skip the letter generator entirely, as it tends to choke on large files.)  
You can use it by first creating your message templates at Administer > Communications > Message Templates (you can use the WYSIWYG to type your message in, or you can upload a file to use as the template).  Once your templates are ready, you can then go to Contributions > Find Contributions to search for your donors (if you’ve already put them into groups, you can just search the entire calendar year of gifts and narrow the list by group).  Choose all your results and select “Thank-you letters - print or email” from the Actions menu.
As you see here, you can choose to send emails, but many of our clients use this primarily for printing letters.  The “Group Contributions by” option allows you to send one letter per donor.  Select the appropriate message template for this group, and click to generate your letters.  (Note: if you are using Summary Fields, you can use the token for the FY giving to include the donor’s total giving in the letter.  Otherwise, you can add the token for contribution total amount and, based on your choice in the separator field, Civi will add the list of the donor’s gifts.)
There are options to export to PDF and Word; however, we’ve noticed that the Word export doesn’t retain the formatting.  If you don’t need to customize each letter individually, the PDF export should be sufficient.  You can also tweak the template and regenerate the letters until you’re satisfied with the results.
Mail Merge
For larger donor lists, or if you want to handle all the formatting in Word, you can of course export your donor information and use the spreadsheets as the basis for mail merges.  If you’re not using Summary Fields (or if your fiscal year is not the calendar year), including the total year’s giving might be tricky, but if you are familiar with the VLOOKUP function in Excel, this too can be managed by exporting the results from the Contribution Aggregate search and merging them with your main donor export file.  
Jasper Reports
Finally, for those of you who use Jasper Reports, we’ve created printable year-end letter reports for a number of clients that make this process super simple.  If you’re interested, let us know - there’s still plenty of time to get this done for you before the end of the year.  (And if you’ve been considering Jasper Reports but haven’t yet committed, this is a great opportunity to dive in.)
Need some assistance with these tasks?  Want a walk-through of some or all of these items?  Contact your support email and we’ll be happy to help.

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