My Splintered World

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” ~ Romans 12:3

If the technology world would just sit still for a little while, maybe we all could catch up. I guess we can only dream. But “sober judgment” as it relates to software means knowing what we can and cannot do AND being content with where we’re at instead of constantly wishing for more.

This blog post falls into the “theory” camp without specific “tips”. Our frustrations with software (as well as relationships, consumer products, and our walks with the Lord) are often based on the conflict between expectations and reality.

The evolution of tools

In the world of consumer software, I see three broad phases from the 1990s to today.

In 1990 few homes had a home computer; by 2000 nearly every home had one. Now, every person has multiple computers (phone + computer + tablet).

In the early 1990’s, DOS was king, Windows was just going mainstream, and a Mac was a tiny box used by a tiny fringe of designers. There was a lot of growth of small software tools built by tinkerers, with limited focus, and almost exclusively for PC computers:

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In every genre (personal finance, Bible software, spreadsheets, word processors, and support raising software etc.), over the decade a main player came to dominate. The natural growth trajectory was to consolidate all of the individual features of the many stand-alone products and add a lot more, and the one who did that best came to saturate the market:

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Power users loved this explosion of functionality, but many tools alienated the everyday user because they were literally overwhelming.


Note: Don’t get me wrong… just because a software is extremely powerful does not mean it is only useful to power users. The best “awesome software tools” (like TNT or Excel) provide power to those who need it and simplicity to those who value it.


As we saw great tools available yet average people not taking advantage of them, the natural problem (it seemed) must be the individual software’s complexity. So over the past ten years we have seen the rise of “Apps”, first for mobile devices but more recently for tablets and regular computers as well. These tools focused on just one piece of a puzzle, but promised astounding ease to solve our problems, with the assumption that if we could [fix/master/focus on/track] “this one thing”, it is the missing link between us and success. (Sounds like “the watermelon diet”… or a Fitbit!)

So, broad strokes, what we see is individual apps performing few functions, but linked seamlessly together:

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Think about the health & fitness genre where countless food/calorie apps link with countless fitness apps which link with a handful of wearable devices, and combined they are supposed to magically make us lose weight since we obviously couldn’t do it before (hmmm).

The barrier for entry is low—anyone can write a web software or app—compared to trying to get packaged software in every store. But the “promised” integrations are not always seamless or working (or free).

Yet I find that the more separate tools I use, even if individually they are easy, collectively my effectiveness goes down because I am constantly bouncing between multiple tools.


Beware of any software product that claims to make a typically difficult process “easy”.


Any software that promises you will raise more support because of the software itself or any support raising software that promises to make partnership development “easy” is probably promising what it cannot deliver.


Spoiler alert: Support raising IS hard work. Don’t confuse the difficulty of support raising with the difficulty of the software.


Personal finance tools are the most closely related to support raising tools because both habits require continual ‘touch’ to be successful; the longer you neglect the tool, the less helpful they will be. Look at some of these claims for popular personal financial web-based tools:

  • “We help you effortlessly manage your finances in one place.” (Mint.com)
  • “Don’t just track your spending. Fix it.” (Mvelopes)
  • “Gain Total Control of Your Money. Stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money.” (You Need A Budget)
  • “Simplify complexity around your constantly evolving life” (Personal Capital)
  • “Budgeting Just Got Easy” (Every Dollar, from DaveRamsey.com)

And are these tools easier than Quicken? I’m not sure… because now there are entire web sites devoted just to helping people decide which of the hundreds of personal finance apps are best! And frankly, they all promise the same thing!

Furthermore, when Quicken was king (circa 2000), I could teach Quicken classes. Now every person I know who needs help with personal finances is using a different tool… or none at all… so I cannot help them. And when I recommend a software product, they try it for a few days and then abandon it “because it isn’t working for me”. The curse of overwhelming choices is that there is a lack of commitment to one. My failure is because I have the wrong tool, so I’ll keep searching for a better tool… because they all promise to solve my problem. Elusive.

This year I am actually retrenching and doing less with less. I am focusing more on those things I do best—communicating regularly with my partners using paper mail, and calling them just to say Hi and tell them I appreciate them.

This is also why I use these blog posts, occasionally, to give you an idea on how to do something clever or unique with TNT; I want you to avoid the “promise trap” that there is some other software just out of reach that will take you to Support Raising Utopia.

This blog post was generated from a few questions on December’s feedback survey about why there are different support raising tools and “Why doesn’t TNT do everything on every device?”

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How to be Strategic, part 2

Yesterday I shared an idea of How to run an Increase Strategy using Exclusive Shared Groups.

I had one other thing I wanted to share, but did not want to muddy the waters. This post is about something I do in Excel related to my Increase Strategies.

True confessions, and don’t tell anyone, but in addition to using TntConnect heavily, I also track increase strategies in my Excel “PD Annual Planning Workbook” that I have used since 2006. Every strategy I have done is a little different, so the results are managed and tracked differently. But big picture, I want to be able to look back and see the statistics instantly:

  • # of contacts I challenged
  • # of responses (yes / no)
  • Amount of new support and/or increases from each type of challenge
  • Special gifts given in addition to new regular support

Below is an example of my 2006 strategy with key data changed.

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I actually track the increases and new support in seven different ways; this helps me be a better planner long-term (these are the columns in the above worksheet):

  1. Increases from face-to-face visits (by far the most successful)
  2. Increases from handwritten letter + phone call
  3. Spontaneous increases from people I did not even contact in this strategy
  4. New from P:P (“Prayer Partner”)… a partner who was not a financial partner before but decided to make a financial commitment
  5. “New from New”: New support from a new contact (e.g., a referral I received during the strategy)
  6. “New from Lapsed”: Support from a former financial partner who resumed giving
  7. “New from Church”: In this particular strategy I was seeking new support from a couple of churches

Every time I do a strategy (four since 2006), I find that God provides new support in most or all of those seven ways. I don’t expect any one to be the total source of funds. I bust my tail to work hard, and wait in expectancy as God opens doors. And I often find He opens doors I wasn’t expecting, and that is reflected in some of the results columns.

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.

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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.