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David Marchak
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Re-assigning Envelope Numbers

There is a debate that seems to come up near the end of every year (and frequently more often than that). Should every envelope user get the same number they had last year or should the numbers be assigned in alphabetical order.

First, a little background in case you do not know what I am referring to. Parishes purchase boxes with a year's supply of envelopes in them. Each envelope in the box will have a unique number on it (except in those rare cases when the printer doesn't get it quite right). Each week, people put their contribution in the envelope and put it in the collection basket. By recording who has each number, we can then record everyone's contribution and give them a charitable donations receipt at the end of the year.

Distributing the boxes of envelopes has become an annual chore. Labels are printed and stuck on the boxes, and the boxes are set out where parishioners can pick up their box. Most people pick up the correct box, but those that don't cause plenty of headaches for parish secretaries.

Keeping the same numbers from year to year

In some parishes, people are assigned an envelope number and get that same number every year. These people get attached to their number. In some cases it is viewed as a status symbol (I have had number 23 for 30 years even though there are hundreds of families in the parish). Changing this number can be very upsetting (not to mention the fact that this person may pick up their old number out of habit).

In addition, by keeping the same numbers from year to year, there is less concern over people using envelopes from the wrong year. If they had number 43 last year and 43 this year, they can "use up" last year's envelopes instead of "wasting" this year's envelopes. The folks that do the data entry do not have to spend as much time checking that the envelopes are all from the current year.

Assigning new numbers each year

The two biggest advantages to giving everyone a new number each year are saving time sorting the boxes of envelopes and reducing the number of wasted boxes of envelopes.

This process involves taking your existing list of families who will receive a new envelope number and giving them a number based on the alphabetical order of their names. For example, Abbott would get number 1, Adams 2, Adler 3 and so on. You print your box labels in numerical order and affix them to the boxes which are in numerical order also. When you have finished putting the labels on the boxes, the boxes are in alphabetical order. You may have to put the Mc's before the Ma's, though.

If you have 452 families that will be receiving a box of envelopes next year, you only print 452 labels and put them on boxes numbered 1 through 452. You will undoubtedly have extra boxes left over which will be distributed to families that move into the parish during the year (or were missed in the initial printing). You no longer have to worry about large gaps in the numbers that are assigned.

If you change

The first year a parish changes from giving everyone the same number to giving everyone a new number, there may be howls of protest. But once people have been assured that they are "a person not a number", complaints are rare after the first year.

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Content copyright 2001-2009 David Marchak
This page last updated June 15, 2009