Blast that Task List

One word: OUCH.

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“How many of those 2,000 tasks do you intend to complete?” I asked the staff member I had just stopped by to help with a TNT question. This was a few years back, TntConnect had just had a major upgrade, and this person was trying to figure out a new feature.

Although I was not there about tasks, their overwhelming task list caught my attention as something they might want to look at.

“Well, I only do the thank yous and I just ignore everything else.”

The overwhelming task list complicates life too because the most urgent tasks (like thank yous she was following up on) appear at the bottom of the list, while the oldest, still unfinished tasks, were the only ones that appeared on her screen.

In our perfect world, we always do all of the tasks we need to do, at just the right time, and our task list is always in the zen-spot of “Task List Zero”. That’s not my real life, of course. Some of my tasks I just put off because I don’t want to do them, such as the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” is a tough one for me.

But as this person indicated, their task list was long because they were not relying on TNT to manage their tasks. So the list was growing, but it wasn’t really a “task list” for them.

So two things:

  1. If you find TNT is creating tasks you simply will not check off or use, then turn off those notifications in Tools > Options > Automatic Actions. For example, you may want to keep the “Send thank you for extra gift” or “…special gift”, but turn off some of the other, more passive items.
  2. Do something about the task list. Blast it, I say.

You can easily delete ALL of the items in your task list by following these steps:

  1. Click once to “select” any task in the list (but not the checkbox).
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  2. Press Ctrl+A to Select All
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  3. Press the Delete key.
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You could also delete only one kind of task instead of the whole list. For example, let’s say you wanted to delete only the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” but leave the rest.

To do this:

  1. Click on the Description header to sort by description.
  2. Click once on the first one you want to delete.
  3. Scroll down to the last one.
  4. Press the Shift key, then click on the last one. Now you have one block of tasks selected, but not all of them.
  5. Press the Delete key.
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Flexing the Contribution Report

A few moments ago a good friend wrote to ask for advice on the Contribution Report(That links to the 2017 post about this report.)

“We wanted to see last year’s totals, but when we run the report, it shows us February 2018 through February 2019. We then changed the report to go back one more month, but it still shows us two months this year. How can we see only 2018?”

She added that they tried to look at the twelve month total (export) for each partner but that also spanned the year-end.

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I offered her one answer and a few workarounds:

Answer: “You are right. You can go back X number of months, but what you cannot do is enter a date range to display months from X to Y.” The report was never designed to do this, which is about its only limitation.


Instead, I offered four options to potentially get the info they sought:

  1. Normally I just send the history of months to Excel the do my calculations and summary in Excel.
  2. If all she wanted was a total for all of last year (or X years in the past) change the report to years and press Update. Then she will get the total per year for each partner.
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  3. Export the current group (Group Actions > Export Current Group), but instead of picking “Twelve Month Total”, select “Prev Year Total” to export the stored value for 2018 for each contact.
  4. Use the awesome “Gift Query” which will return all gifts for the selected time frame. Copy and paste the Query text below into File > Utilities > Run Query, and then change the dates to what you want.
select OrgGiftCode, GiftDate, Amount, OrgPaymentMethod, FileAs, MailingAddressBlock, UserName as FundRep FROM (GiftView INNER JOIN Contact on GiftView.ContactID = Contact.ContactID) LEFT JOIN [User] on Contact.FundRepID = [User].UserID
where giftdate between #01/01/2018# and #12/31/2018#

The Year of the Partner

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Hello and welcome to 2019! When I took a Pause in September, 2018, I had no idea what God had in store for me in the Fall. I mentioned in that post that my life was a bit crazy due to a new donation system we’re rolling out in our ministries around the world (um, next week). I did not know at the time that between then and Christmas I would be in Budapest, London, Paris, and Auckland doing design work on the system.

I confess that simply naming those cities brings a different response than if I say I am going to, perhaps, Bismarck (North Dakota), Peoria (Illinois), Schenectady (New York) or Brandon (Manitoba). While it is my objective to make the most of any place I go to, going to those places without my travel-loving wife is only half as good.

But there is a downside to a busy season like I am going through: My relationships with my ministry partners really suffers.

Since 2002 I have tried to use TNT’s History Log to record all of my interactions with partners. I recently ran a query of my lifetime history in TNT and made a somewhat discouraging discovery: In those 16 years, 2018 was the dead last for my initiations with partners… # of appointments, letters, newsletters, and phone calls (actually phone calls was 15th out of 16, by two calls!).

I’ve also used TNT to log a pledge change for every partner since 1990, and of those 29 years, 2017 & 2018 came in 28th and 29th in terms of new support raised for our ministry work.

Clearly I cannot have another year with statistics like that!

In light of that, and in spite of my busy schedule, I have declared 2019 to be my “Year of the Partner”. I made three very simple New Year’s Resolutions just for partnership development:

  • Write a thank you everyday
  • Call every Financial Partner at least twice, just to say Hi
  • Write a newsletter every month (I went 5 months without a newsletter in 2018)

How am I doing? January just ended and I’ve written 32 thank yous. I had intentionally completed all of my 2018 year-end special gift thank yous before 12/31 to start 2019 with a blank list. I’ve had a handful of “have not thanked in some time” tasks pop up and a few special or annual gifts in January.

Without any pending thank yous in TNT, sometimes I’ve had to be creative: Last week I sent a thank you to the friendly person at Sam’s Club who helped me. This week I sent a co-worker a thank you… in the mail.

(Yes, they are not ministry partners. But I found that when I’m thanking every day, each new TNT thank you task gets completed promptly.)

One time a few years ago I discovered my thanking had plummeted way below normal, and I made a humorous discovery as to why: I had run out of thank you cards! So I have already purchased 200 cards made by a friend who is a professional photographer from some time she spent on the countryside in England. These are timeless, occasion-less photos of thatched roof cottages, doors in brick walls, rowboats in a canal, etc., so they are perfect for any purpose and also gender neutral which is good for a man who writes cards to women and men.

Do I think you should write a thank you every day and a newsletter every month? Not at all. My encouragement to you is to find one or two easily-accomplishable habits to help you just connect and love on your partners this year.

It’s good to chat again.

Bob

p.s.: As I go into 2019, I would love input from you on what questions I can address in this blog. Send your questions to http://www.tnt.tips@gmail.com and I will try to work them in to future posts.