How to Use Mail Merge to Create Custom Membership Cards

Website & Technology July 10, 2020

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

Spend just a half-hour in a nonprofit office, and you're likely to be all too familiar with MS Word's mail merge feature — or at least, with the sheets of peel-and-stick mailing labels that can quickly be generated with it! 

And where would a nonprofit be, without mail merge to help quickly create those direct mail pieces and personalized newsletters? 

But those routine tasks are just the start of many ways that mail-merge can save time and effort in the office. 

Take membership cards, for example.

With just the Excel file that holds your membership data, the mail-merge feature of MS Word, and a few sheets of business card stock,  creating a custom membership card becomes easy and efficient.

Printable business card sheets offer a convenient and economical option for creating your membership cards, and that's the method we'll use in the following tutorial.

  • Set up a membership card in MS Word, using a Labels format.
  • Select the data source file (your Excel file).
  • Place the required mail-merge fields in the card template.
  • Merge, preview, check, and print.

We'll show you the steps for creating membership cards with mail merge using MS Word 2019 as the example in this tutorial. Previous versions of Word and other full-featured word processing programs have similar functions that can do the same operations. The interface may look a bit different from that of Word 2019, but the basic steps for mail merging a list and a document are very much the same.


1.  Set Up a Membership Card Document

Start up MS Word and open a new blank document.

Under the 'Mailings' tab, click on 'Start Mail Merge' and select 'Labels'.


There are many built-in choices for label printing, and you can also make up your own custom layouts.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll be using the Avery 8871 stock. It's an 8½ x 11 inch page of business cards that snap apart after printing, with a clean smooth edge. Clean edge and perforated sheets of business cards, plain or with a preprinted background, are widely available at office supply stores.

To set your labels to Avery 8871, select 'Avery US Letter' under 'Label Products' and then choose '8871 Clean Edge Business Cards' under 'Product Number'. Click on 'OK.'

Avery 8871

The blank document now holds a table, set up to match the printing requirements for the Clean Edge Business Cards that we've specified. 

It's helpful at this point to turn on gridlines for the table, so you can see where to place the text within the card. To view gridlines, go to the new 'Layout' tab that appears when you create a table, then click on 'View Gridlines'

View Gridlines 

In this example,  the only variables will be the first name and last name of the members —but of course you can expand this idea to customize your membership cards for different levels of membership, locations, expiry dates, or any other variables that are included as fields in your membership database. 

In laying out the card, I find it useful to type in a real name as placeholder text,  just to get a better sense of the finished layout. When the layout is done, just delete any placeholder text and replace it with the proper merge fields.

Tip: This would be a good time to save the document as a Word template, in the same folder as your other Word templates. The next time you need to print membership cards, you'll be able to open a new document based on this template and pick up from this point on.  If you wait until the database has been selected and connected to the file, changing to another list in the future can be needlessly complicated. Save a template, and use that every time you want to print cards with an updated database file.


2.  Attach the Data File

Go back to the 'Mailings' tab and click on 'Select Recipients' menu, then choose the 'Use an Existing List' option.

Select data file

Browse your computer to find and select the Excel file that holds your membership database. 

Now you'll want to insert the necessary merge fields into your membership card document.

Highlight the placeholder text that contains the first name, click on 'Insert Merge Field' and select the field that contains the first name data. Do the same with the placeholder text that contains the last name. Make sure you've left a space between the two fields or they'll run together into one word when the cards are generated. 

Insert merge fields 

Click 'Update Labels' to copy these merge fields to the rest of your cards. 

Update labels

This will replicate the one card you've made, filling out the page of cards — and as many other pages as you'll need to print cards for all the members. Click 'Preview Results' and suddenly all those merge fields are filled out with your members' names. 

Preview Results  

Take a moment to look at the cards you've designed, and decide if you need to make any last-minute changes to the layout.

If so, make your changes to that first original card and hit 'Update Labels' once again to automatically update the rest of them.  


3.  Complete the Mail Merge

At this point, all of your cards will have the same formatting, but you may choose to customize the font size or spacing of some individual cards, based on how the names fit onto the card.

To do this, click on 'Finish & Merge' and select 'Edit Individual Documents'. This will open up a new Word document where you'll be able to review each card and make any necessary changes. 

Edit individual letters

Once you're done editing, save the membership card pages to your hard drive as a Word document — and that's it. You're ready to print!


A Digital Alternative to Mail Merging

If you're trying to be more environmentally friendly — or maybe you're just tired of dealing with printer jams and wasting an entire sheet of label paper every time a new member joins — you may be interested in an all-digital alternative to printed membership cards. 

Everything is done digitally these days anyway and most members prefer the ease of having everything they need right on their smartphones. 

That's why WildApricot has the option to create digital membership cards in a matter of a few clicks.

All you have to do is select a template, choose what fields you want displayed and each of your members will be equipped with a shiny new membership card that they can access and display directly from their smartphone. 

Best part? You don't even have to import any Excel files because the membership cards will be automatically connected to your WildApricot membership database. That means you and your members can both edit their membership or contact information and it will automatically be updated on their digital membership cards. 

And yes, if they really want to, your members can still print their membership cards through your WildApricot website's member portal. 

If this sounds intriguing, start a free 30-day trial of WildApricot right now and head over to this blog post to learn how to set up your digital membership cards in more detail. 

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Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


  • Gordon:

    This is a good technique that I have been using for my membership cards.  But it's the easy part.

      The part I had difficulty with was determining which members had recently renewed or joined so I knew who to send the cards to and what their new expiration date was.

    I ended up creating an admin_renewal_date column in the database.  Once a month or so I export all members to Excel.  Then I search for members whose renewal date does not equal their admin_renewal_date and I know that they have recently joined/renewed.  I then set the admin_renewal_date the equal their renewal date and import them so I'm ready for next month.

    Now I can produce the labels.

    This is a clumsy technique and I'd love to find another way to do it.  Any suggestions would be VERY welcome.


  • Lori Halley

    Lori Halley:

    Hi Gordon, thanks for your question: and now I'll give you a couple of questions back! Does your group have a month-to-month or 'sliding' membership term, or do your memberships all follow the calendar year, regardless of when during the year a member actually joined? And it's not 100% clear how you're defining the admin_renewal_date vs. the actual renewal date -- could you just clarify that a bit for us, to help along the brainstorming for suggestions?

  • Dmitry Buterin

    Dmitry Buterin:

    Rebecca - this was pretty in-depth WildApricot related question, not really related to your article.

    We are in communication with Gordon and will be looking for ways to help him.

    Dmitry Buterin

  • Lori Halley

    Lori Halley:

    Thanks for this, Dmitry: the Apricot team is certainly quick to support!

  • David:

    Any update on this?

    Also, my organization is looking into buying 5x7 Index Card.  Or order pre-printed Card, then feed the card into the printer -- just need to have name, date, etc.

    Is this possible?

  • Dmitry Buterin

    Dmitry Buterin:

    David, if you are talking about WildApricot functionality specifically, the best place to discuss it is this thread:

  • giuliana:

    I understand completely until this article gets to the "update labels" step.  I can't find this option even by searching Microsoft Office Help (I am using Word2000).  I tried copying and pasting my text into every business card cell, but then the merge field in each business card puts only one excel database cell on each page (copies the same name for a whole page of business cards, only moving on to the next database entry with every new page of business cards).  Does this make sense?  If someone knows how to help I would appreciate it!


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