How to be Strategic

Partnership development would be a lot easier if it was not for all of the work I have to do.

Someday I intend to write a book on “Partnership Development Best Practices”, and one of them would be “Work on PD a few minutes every day”. If I spent the first 15 minutes of my work day with TNT open, wrote a thank you or made a call, my financial support would probably be phenomenal. [The same procrastanative delays I face in PD are the ones keeping from writing this powerful book that would make me famous.]

In the meantime, I tend to work in fits and spurts. One thing I do from time-to-time—oh, once every few years—is challenge my regular partners to increase. Again, a whole book could be devoted to this topic, so you’ll get my best idea in one short blog post, summarized in 3 words: Use Saved Groups.

For new contacts/referrals, I can just use the TNT Phase to move them through the cultivation cycle. But for existing financial partners, I cannot change their TNT Phase. Using TNT’s Exclusive Saved Groups is a great way to manage this.

For me, an increase strategy encompasses four major components:

  1. Select (the contacts to challenge)
  2. Initiate (the interaction, via appt. or letter)
  3. Engage (write letter, make the calls, do appts.)
  4. Decide (bring to conclusion)

Here is how I do this, in broad strokes:

  • Create a (non-exclusive) Saved Group named “Increase Strategy” and add all of the names I intend to challenge. This is my “Control Group” that I use for reference, so I can recall the whole list of contacts throughout the strategy. (Not necessary, but I find it helpful.) The list is not exclusive because each contact will be duplicated in the exclusive groups below.
  • Create a series of Exclusive Saved Groups for each aspect of the strategy. I name them starting with a number for each phase of the strategy.
  • Using the Control Group as the source, I add each contact to the method I am going to contact them (e.g., Appointment or Letter)
  • I then move each contact through the exclusive saved groups until every contact has either reached a decision or I have abandoned [“deferred”] the effort for this contact for some reason.

By using exclusive groups, each contact in the strategy can only be in one place at one time.

Here are two examples of a series of Saved Groups. The first is a flat list just moving contacts through phases. The second is two separate tracks (appointments vs. letters) that are managed in parallel.



Tip: When I get the final decision for a contact, I log history using the same Saved Description, such as: “2018 Increase Decision: +$25” or “2018 Increase Decision: No.” By doing this, I can easily review the results of this strategy at any time in the future.



Act your Age

Last week one of my partners alerted me he had just sent his last gift as he was retiring. Their first gift was 24 years ago when I first reported to my assignment. What a legacy! [They actually alerted me a year ago this day was coming, for which I was grateful too.]

I love that TNT enables me to see all of those gifts, their lifetime total, number of gifts, etc. What TNT does not do, however, is tell me the giving of all my partners by their age (or, rather, their age relative to my own age).

Many years ago I began testing a theory that “the average age of my financial partners is about 15 years older than I am”. This makes sense to me, because when I first went into mission work at age 24, most of my contemporaries did not have sufficient incomes to support me, and those just older were just getting started with homes and families. So it was the 40-50 age group that made up the bulk of my initial team. And since many of those are still giving, even as I have aged to 50 this year, my team has aged with me.

Over time the partners “around my age” (within 5 years of my age) have increased in number and in terms of proportional giving, such that they are currently my largest group (but not a majority) . However, even today, after 27 years in ministry, the #2 and #3 groups are the 20-30 and 15-20 years older than me groups. Combined, this age group provides 40% of our support. (This is a concerning issue for my next 15 years in ministry, but that is not the focus of this blog post!)

How do I track this in TNT since there is no feature for tracking age of my partners?

Simple: I use one of the User Fields. I renamed it Age by double-clicking on “User” name.


Then I put in the partners “relative age to me” as they will always be that age relative to me:


I use the first pair of numbers just to keep the list in order. Then the text is their age relative to me. Yes, I do still have 16 partners who are 30 years or more older than I am… still giving faithfully into their 80’s! Wow! Can I be one of those, Lord, who is cheerfully supporting missionaries in my 80’s?!

Then I can go to the Analysis View and select any of the charts, filtered by Age:


This shows me all of my active partners (“Average Monthly Gifts” only tracks those who have given over the past 2-3 years).


In one respect I find a chart like this simply “interesting”. But in another respect I find it “challenging”. It is challenging to me because I see that I really need to grow two of the furthest right columns: Those who are 5-10 years older than I am (currently in peak income years) and the “more than 5 years younger than I am” group, since I have only two partners in that category.

This is a great example of TNT really helping me be more effective at partnership development, and also a great example of me using TNT in a way it was not designed exactly to do.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” ~ Robert Browning


Urgent Campaign, Part 2

In my previous post, I shared about an urgent campaign I am working on related to the purchase of a new vehicle. I used TntConnect’s Campaign Builder to help me categorize my team into four groups. That was the easy part.

The harder part was building my challenge. I have a specific amount I need to raise, and I asked myself how to spread that need across a list of ~150 people. I do not need to go into exhaustive detail because I am not “teaching” you how to do this, but just sharing an idea to spur your thinking.

One option, of course, would be to just send an open-ended ask, which I have frequently done with a year-end appeal or a summer training conference appeal; but I ruled that out because open-ended asks (in my experience) do not work well with a significant and specific need.

There are several other options, but in this case I tried something I have never done before: I individually challenged each partner to give based on the amount of their giving over the past year. I used the Campaign Builder to categorize my newsletter list into four Groups:


  • For  Prospects ($0 average giving over the past two years) in the campaign], I challenged all to give “$25 or $50”. This list represents about 1/3 of my newsletter recipients, so any gift from them will be new and unusual.
  • Entry-level partners (monthly average $1 to $100), the challenge went up in $25 increments relative to their giving, so roughly equal to their monthly average. I also hand-wrote a short note on the bottom of each of these letters.
  • Mid-level partners (monthly average $100 to $200), I challenged to give similarly but with a bigger spread: “$150 or $250”.
  • Top-level partners I held back to give a personal challenge to. For these partners, I plan to verbally present the need and let them decide.

This ask involves a little bit of Excel work, because I needed to know their “Average Monthly Giving” to determine how much to challenge each person.

From the “idea” perspective, I’ve reached my maximum words, so please stop reading unless you want more details and some preliminary results…

Some practical details…

I used Group Actions | Export Current Group to send the list(s) to Excel, with both of the letter/envelope merge fields (Greetings and Mailing Address Block). But I also exported the Average Monthly Gift field to help me determine the challenge amount.


  • Columns A & B: Greetings and Mailing Address Block for the letter and envelope
  • Column C: Average Monthly Gift field from TNT
  • Column D: My suggested gift #1
  • Column E: My suggested gift #2

My ask was easy to calculate because I am attempting to raise about 25-50% more than one month’s average giving. Since I challenged most of my partners to give an amount roughly equal to their average monthly gift—which is an amount they can easily relate to—if 100% of my partners respond I will meet that goal.

But my experience does not suggest that will happen. By challenging those who never give, and offering a challenge roughly double each person’s monthly gift, the ‘maximum challenge’ is about 50% more than I actually need.

I included the challenge amount in the letter and also a mail merged response card that has their name and amounts (so that the right card gets with the right letter). [Note: Printing those response cards also involved a little bit of Excel-wizardry.]


Preliminary Results

Just in the time I was writing this blog I had to live my real life, so between the time I started writing two weeks ago and now I have sent the letter and already received 23 responses. As always, God has surprised me! I received the first gift notification (an email from my organization) on the first business day after I mailed the letter and the first paper gift (in the return envelope) the day after that.

Of those 23 gifts, 17 of them (about 75%) have given the higher amount I suggested! And 7 of the responses (30%) are from those who have not given at all in the past year. And for 1 of them, it is the first gift they have ever given to our ministry. Finally, we are just under 1/3 of our total need so far and I have yet to pick up the phone to reach out to our top-level partners. Thanks, Lord. 🙂


p.s. Shout out: We purchased our new vehicle from mats.orgIt arrived two days ago, and we are delighted.