Are you using our Conversations Module?
It’s a great tool that allows moderated two-way communications and messaging between a sponsor and child sponsorship.
One of our partners, 2nd Mile Missions, has been successful in using it as a tool to help build long-term relationships through increased communication between sponsors and their sponsored children over the past few years. As they put it, “communicating with your sponsored child opens their eyes to the world, expands their cross-cultural understanding and lets them know they are loved.”
We reached out to Sue Vercauteren, 2nd Mile Missions’ Director of Operations, for her tips and advice on how to introduce and encourage communication between sponsors and their sponsorships. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Tell Your Sponsors Why Communication is Important
Share with your sponsors why it’s important to communicate with their sponsored child. We do this in our newsletters, emails, Facebook and Instagram posts.
Each time we do, we make sure to include links to our REACH sponsorship portal so the sponsor can choose to communicate right then and there by simply sending a message through their sponsorship listed on their profile. If it’s through our printed materials, we include a hard copy of our instructions with our correspondence.
Communication with your sponsored child matters greatly to them, I’ve been able to witness that firsthand.
2. Create a Reference Guide
There are many ways to communicate. We created this reference guide for our sponsors that details our preferred three ways – letters, emailing us or logging in to their REACH account to send a message and attach photos. We outlined how to do each one and made it a downloadable PDF from our website so it’s easy to find and go back and review when needed.
3. Give Them Ideas on What to Write About
We’ve found sometimes sponsors just don’t know what to share with their sponsored child. They want to communicate with them but not knowing exactly what to write has been a hindrance in their doing so. On our reference guide, we share some helpful tips on what they could write about – seasons, holiday traditions, family and pets, jobs and hobbies.
4. Tell Them What Not to Write About, Too
There are certain things that we prefer our sponsors don’t write about when communicating with their sponsored children. For example, we discourage writing about material items as children in our sponsorship program are not as materially blessed as we are. We also suggest they avoid using slang words and don’t share their phone number, address or email address in any correspondence.
Should this happen, we appreciate that REACH allows for moderated conversations – allowing one of our administrators to read the message and make changes if necessary.
5. Encourage Photo Sharing
We encourage our sponsors to share photos of their family, pets and seasons when communicating. Because we run trips throughout the year, we are able to hand deliver any written letters and photos. If it’s through REACH, our in-country sponsorship coordinator will print off the letter with any photos and hand deliver them to students.
6. Offer Translation, if Possible
Our students love to see that their sponsors are attempting to learn their native language as our students are attempting to learn English. It’s a common ground that is really meaningful to them. If you can translate messages for them, we encourage this. We love how REACH can do this for us in their conversations tool.
7. Be Responsive
Whenever a student receives any communication from their sponsor, we have the student respond immediately.
For our younger students, volunteers read the letters to them. We also have a form letter that gives them things to color and questions to answer to send back to their sponsor. A volunteer will help them write their answers while they color the pictures.
For our older students, we encourage them to answer any questions their sponsor may have asked and to share what’s happening in their school and family life. These letters are translated in English once they are back in the states and then mailed to the sponsor.
Sometimes getting the students responses back to the sponsor can be a slow process as there is not a mail system in the country we serve. We have to rely on when trips are happening to bring these letters back and forth. We keep the lines of commuication open by replying to our sponsors through REACH and letting them know when their student received their letter and that they are working on a reply that we will get to them as soon as possible.
“One time while I was there leading a trip, one of my sponsored students handed me her school notebook to look at. When I opened it, I was suprised to find several pages of the photos, cards and letters that I had sent her over the years taped to the pages. She showed me just how much writing your sponsored child matters.”
8. Consider Sponsor Trips
I help lead what we call Awareness Trips twice a year which mostly consists of sponsors who want to meet their sponsored students. We’ve found it to be a great opportunity to connect and a huge encouragement for our sponsors to write their students more.
During our November trip, we’ll work together as a team to have all of our sponsored students make Christmas cards for their sponsors. We then bring these back with us to be delivered just before Christmas.
During our Spring trip, we have the students make thank you cards. We send these to the sponsors at the end of the year. It’s nice to receive a personal thank you card from your sponsored student. So even if our sponsors don’t get around to writing their students, they still receive cards from them twice a year.
We hope these tips were helpful! Our Conversations Module is available for our Essentials, Pro and Pro Plus accounts.