How to Use Mail Merge to Create Custom Membership Cards

Lori Halley 06 February 2008 7 comments

 

 

Update May 2013: For up-to-date instructions on printing membership cards
using mail merge, please visit our Wild Apricot help document.

 

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 the steps for creating membership cards with mail merge using  MS Word 2007 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 2007, but the basic steps for mail merging a list and a document are very much the same:

Note, if you would like to create digital membership cards, take a look at our digital membership card template.
 

1.  Set Up a Membership Card Document

Start up MS Word and open a new blank document.

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.

Avery 8871, selected here, is 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.

Select the label product, and click on 'OK.'

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 is helpful at this point to turn on the gridlines or guidelines for the table, so you can see where to place the text within the card, but do not set a border.  If your default table properties put a border line around each card, look for the 'None' option under Borders and Shading to remove those unnecessary borders.

 
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 placemarker text,  just to get a better sense of the finished layout. When the layout is done, just delete any placemarker 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 furutre can be needlessly complicated. Save a template, and use that every time you want to print cards with a updated database file.

2.  Attach the DataBase Source File

From the 'Select Recipients' menu, choose the 'Existing List' option.

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

At this point, you may choose to edit your database list, sort it by any field, remove duplicates, and decide which entries to use or exclude. 

 Insert the merge fields into your membership card document.

In this case, we're choosing 'First Name' and 'Last Name' fields from the available options, remembering to add a space between the two fields as we'll want a space between the two parts of each name, or they'll run together into one word when the cards are generated. 

'Update Labels' to create your membership cards.

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.  

Take a moment at this point to look at the cards you've designed, and decide if you need to make any last-minute changes to the layout.  If so, hit the 'Undo' button to go back to the previous step, make your changes to that single original card, and then continue once more.

Preview the results of the mail merge, and suddenly all those merge fields are filled out with your members' names. 

3.  Complete the Mail Merge

Now all you have to do is check the completed cards for errors, make any changes that may be required, and click to finish the mail merge operation.  Save the membership card pages to your hard drive as a Word document -- and that's it. You're ready to print!

 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 06 February 2008 at 9:36 AM

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Comments

  • Gordon said:

    Wednesday, 06 February 2008 at 11:41 AM

    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.

    Gordon

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 06 February 2008 at 3:20 PM

    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?

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 06 February 2008 at 3:27 PM

    Rebecca - this was pretty in-depth Wild Apricot 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 [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 06 February 2008 at 3:33 PM

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

  • David said:

    Monday, 26 May 2008 at 1:02 PM

    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?

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Monday, 26 May 2008 at 1:09 PM

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

    http://community.wildapricot.com/thread/6799.aspx

  • giuliana said:

    Thursday, 23 October 2008 at 6:54 PM

    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!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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