Squirrels … and data-nuts


I do not profess to be an expert on squirrels, though they are fun to watch. They are always scurrying about, collecting food and stocking it away. And they seem to have a lot of fun with their friends!

As I understand it (again, not an expert), squirrels put away a lot of nuts (or acorns in my yard)… nuts they do not always remember later. But since they have a lot stockpiled, they can get some when they need it. Some observations on squirrels:

  • There are harvest times where there are more nuts and acorns than there are at other times.
  • When the harvest is plentiful, squirrels are busy gathering.
  • God has designed some animals to be “storers” (like squirrels) and others to trust Him for every meal (like deer). One is not more spiritual than the other.
  • Squirrels are fun.

I have a couple of take-aways from watching these squirrels in my yard:

  • There are harvest times in my own ministry, where it is easier (internally or externally) for me to raise support than at other times. Internally (often within my control) is that I have time to focus; externally (outside of my control) when the economy is perceived to be better, or a church is hosting a missions conference, etc.
  • When the harvest time is ripe, I should be busy connecting with my ministry partners, to prepare for the leaner times.
  • God has called me to a ministry that believes in preparing and storing. Other ministries do fund-raising differently than mine, and that’s okay.
  • Missionaries should be fun! I want my ministry partners to want me around.

What does this have to do with TntConnect? Well, a loose association, but this:

  • When I engage with my partners, I am always collecting tidbits about them. What they like, what interests them, what their communication preferences are, hobbies, children, etc.
  • I also store away all of the acorns of my engagement with them—my phone calls, personal visits, cards, etc.
  • TntConnect makes it easy for me to store all of these nuts. Like the squirrel, I may never use (or even see) some of this information again. But when I do need it, there it is, neatly stored away.
  • Let’s face it; I’m a data nut. For me, not to collect and store all of this stuff… is, well, just plain nuts.

One final thought: For squirrels, sometimes the acorns they pick up actually sprout before they can eat them. God uses the squirrels’ efforts to build the forest! Similarly, God uses my interaction with ministry partners to bless them in ways that may never benefit me or maybe that I will ever even know about.


Add Referrals from the Selected Contact


There are two ways to add referrals from a contact already in your database. The first is before you enter the new contact’s name, while the second is to link the referrer to an existing contact.

Quick notes about the “Referred by” box on the TNT Tab:

  • A contact can have multiple referrers. This is the “Referred by List”.
  • When there is more than one referrer, the Referred by words are bold
  • Referred by is a hyperlink that brings up the referral list. You then click on the one you want to be primary, which will show all of the time.
  • The referral does not need to be a contact in your database, or even a person at all. You could write “2010 Church Missions Conference”, for example.

How to add referrals

  • Add Referrals quick entry screen.
    • First select the contact who is giving you names.
    • Then select Contact | Add Referrals from the menu.
    • Using the quick entry screen you can enter just the new contact’s names, addresses, email and phone numbers… the basic information.
    • The phone number automatically lands in the Home Phone box; if it’s a mobile phone, you’ll need to move it later. (In the phone number list, you can right-click on the phone number and just move it.)
    • You can add a new contact from a referrer even if the “new” contact is already in your database.
    • If TntConnect recognizes the contact as already being in your list, it will simply ask you if you want to add the current referrer to this list of referrers; neat feature!
    • By default, TntConnect enters the referrer as First and Spouse Lastname (e.g., Mickey and Minnie Mouse), not by File As (Mouse, Mickey and Minnie), which makes sorting the list more challenging it if you export it.
    • TIP: Because TNT doesn’t always write the referrer name the way I might, when I use a lookup, I always use “contains” instead of “Begins with”:


  • If you already have a contact in your database for whom you want to add a referrer, you can do that directly from the TNT tab.
    • If you erase a referrer and add a new one, TntConnect actually does not erase the old one.
    • It simply adds a new one to the contact’s list of referrers, and makes the newest one the primary (displayed) referrer.


A deceased advertising exec helps me with support raising

This is a free bonus post about support raising, not really related to TntConnect.

I just stopped in to Staples (an office supply store in the U.S.), and honestly it was to use the restroom and not to buy office supplies.

As I left the restroom, I passed some of their office furniture, and on a desk was a stray book from their very tiny book rack. It was titled It’s Not How Good You are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden—an advertising executive who passed away in 2008.

Curious, I picked it up to see if I could get the gist of it in 5 seconds before leaving the store. It was a small book with big page headings, wide margins, and a large font. Two minutes later I was sitting in one of the office chairs skimming the book. Ten minutes later I had skimmed about 75% of it. Then I purchased it and left the store with it.

Why is that?

Because I realized the book was about support raising.

My main takeaway—which I hope to gather more of when I can actually sit down and read it fully—is that my attitude is the #1 predictor of my forward motion. But I also got some other things from this rapid skimming:

  • The easiest way to get to a goal is to write it down in the first place and pursue it unswervingly
  • Failure is awesome and extremely helpful. The most successful people have failed a lot. It’s the people who play it safe who never seem to move forward much.
  • It’s a lot easier to talk to a client (e.g., potential ministry partner) in a language they understand… instead of trying to get them to understand my language.

And this isn’t the first book that struck me this way.

Outside of the support-raising “greats” (Funding Your Ministry and The God Ask), the greatest book I ever read on raising financial support was The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing by Doug Brendel. A book about fund-development for small (and large) ministries, I ‘found’ it in the lobby of a hotel at a conference on ministry operations that I was attending in February 1999.

This was not a book for any of my sessions, and another attendee must have either discarded it or forgotten it. Or so I thought when I picked it up and skimmed the chapter headings. But God had put it there for me, and it absolutely transformed how I both think and act about raising financial support for my ministry.

In November 2012 I read The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough. This deeply-researched history on the building of the Panama Canal contains, smack dab in the middle, several pages about an obscure Frenchman, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who undertook to get the forsaken project sold to a leery American Congress. Thirty thousand people died while the French tried to build the Panama Canal before abandoning it 10% finished. The U.S. government was intent on building a canal, but in Nicaragua. How did he almost single-handedly change the mind of hundreds of key decision-makers? By employing the very same principles of building relationships that are so critical to raising personal support:

  • Believing unswervingly in our calling
  • Seeking referrals at every opportunity
  • Being generous with gifts to those who support our work
  • Thanking everyone who should be thanked, immediately

My point in sharing about these three books is that in each of these cases, these books had absolutely nothing to do with raising personal financial support. Yet amazingly, it is from unlikely sources like these I have found some of the most helpful principles that I apply in my support raising.

(The connection to TntConnect: TntConnect helps me put these principles into practice.)

MPD Connections: “Turning Back”

From the April 8, 2016, MPD Connections by Todd Mathews with Cru:

Turning back is usually considered a negative thing—a sign of retreat or giving up. But in one familiar story, it’s quite the opposite.

In Luke 17:11-19 we read about Jesus healing ten lepers. In verse 12 Jesus is met by the whole group. They “lifted up their voices saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’” Clearly, they had a need and did not hesitate to ask Jesus to get involved.

In verse 14 Jesus responds. He says, “‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” What a gracious gift from Jesus!

What happens next? “ONE [emphasis added] of them saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”

We can only speculate that the other nine also felt thankful. Didn’t they notice that they, too, were healed? Of course! If nothing else, they must have felt relieved. The burden of illness was lifted. They could move forward in freedom to do all sorts of things that illness had prevented. Maybe that’s why they didn’t turn back. Turning back takes time and effort—time that could be used for other things. After all, Jesus said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Surely Jesus knew they were thankful, right?

Jesus noticed the man who turned back to offer praise and thanksgiving to him. Jesus also noticed that the other nine did not turn back.

In MPD I must turn back to say thank you. But I have a lot of other important demands on my time. The very things that our partners give generously toward are the things that fill my schedule. It would seem that they would know I appreciate their gift, right?

No. Like Jesus, our partners want the tangible expression of our gratitude. They deserve our intentional effort to turn back and say, “Thank you.” And we need hearts that are shaped by gratitude. In the story of the lepers, the one who turned back experienced a relational connection with Christ. When we give thanks, it speaks value to the giver AND it’s good for our hearts, too.

Are you behind or negligent in saying thanks to your partners? Now is the right time to turn back and honor them. It pleases God, blesses your friends and it’s good for you, too!

How TntConnect helps you “turn back and say thanks”

TntConnect uses Automatic Actions in response to new gifts, to alert you to any urgent tasks related specifically to partner gifts. Each time a partner gives a gift, TntConnect asks a series of questions related to that gift. If it gets a “Yes” answer (that is, a task has been created), it stops, even if the gift might generate more than one task. Here are some of the things TNT is looking for:

  • First Gift (and therefore, fulfillment of an initial commitment)
  • EXTRA gift (more than commitment)
  • SMALLER gift (less than commitment)
  • Missed gift (partner is more than 30 days behind in their commitment), and 
  • RECONTINUING (partner missed gift and then gave again)
  • LARGE TIME FRAME (partner is fulfilling their commitment, but it is 6-12 months between their regular gifts)

One thing TNT also does is simply check your thank you history and alert you if a partner has not had a thank you in a certain number of months (11 is the default, but you can pick any number of months). This is really helpful, because many partners give faithfully, never out of the ordinary. So none of their “normal” activity would create a thank you task. But they still deserve a thank you.

Read more about Automatic Actions for New Gifts

A short video on the Automatic Actions

MPD Connections: Perseverance

(Note: “MPD” is “Ministry Partner Development”, Cru’s internal name for the support raising process. The “MPD Connections” is a weekly [school-year only] email that Cru sends to any staff member who want a weekly encouraging tip on support raising.)

In an MPD Connections article in Spring, 2016, Dave Dickens shared:

If there is one thing that marks someone who is successful at MPD it is perseverance. Let’s face it, MPD is tough and not for the faint of heart. We deal with lots of rejection, we are ignored (even by friends!) and we are misunderstood.

The Scriptures have much to say about perseverance. In Colossians 1:11-12 Paul encourages the church with these words:  “…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

I asked a few friends to share some practical things which help them to persevere and be tenacious in MPD, especially with making phone calls. Here is how they responded:

  • If my plan is to make phone calls in the evening or the next day, I text some friends a few hours before “go time” asking them to pray. That almost always ensures that I follow through and get on the phone.
  • I keep in mind that MPD is part of the Lord’s calling on my life.
  • My wife helps me to persevere. When I go to make calls she gives me a high five and says, “Go get ‘em tiger!” I love that!
  • I keep in mind Bill Hybels’ definition of perseverance: “crashing through quitting points.” That imagery is powerful for me.
  • I pump up the volume. Seriously! Before I get on the phone I play loud worship songs to remind myself that He is worthy of my life and work and that I want more people to be around His throne.
  • I start with the hardest, most intimidating calls. I jump in the deep end! Once those are done, I’m golden.

Why do I (Bob) write about this?

Because http://www.TNT.tips integrates seamlessly with MPD Connections. Many of the weekly tips from Dave and his team are made possible (or “made easier”) by using TntConnect. When it comes to perseverance, for example, my #1 TntConnect tip is to have TntConnect open every day, and use it as the source for my daily support development activity.

Looking at Dave’s friends’ suggestions from above, here are two of those tips, with ideas on how to do them in TntConnect:

If my plan is to make phone calls in the evening or the next day, I text some friends a few hours before “go time” asking them to pray. That almost always ensures that I follow through and get on the phone.

TntConnect Tip: Use TntConnect to create a “prayer warrior list” of that small handful of people you text or email when it’s “go time”. You can either log that activity, or just use the list as the reminder to email/text each person.

I start with the hardest, most intimidating calls. I jump in the deep end! Once those are done, I’m golden.

TntConnect Tip: The most important thing here is actually just having the list “ready to go”. It’s a lot easier to persevere through a list of calls when that list is very visible—a solid start and end person. While you cannot ‘prioritize’ the list in TntConnect, you can see the list, which makes it easier than just guessing each time you dial the phone, “Who should I call now?” This helps me personally remove angst—I just dial each one in succession.

Sometimes I also sort the list of contacts to call in the order of “Last Call” field. That way, the ones at the bottom of the list are the ones I’ve called most recently; if I have to call 10 times per person to reach them, it’s best if I am not calling the top half of the list 2x as often as the bottom half.



Lookup a Specific Newsletter Type

“We’re currently going through our list of partners to make a Christmas card list, and we wanted to search for people who receive paper newsletters and who have given within the last year. However, when I search for newsletter recipient types, I get anyone who gets paper, including “paper and email”. Can I see the paper only?”

Answer: Yes! And it is easy! The exact instructions are further below, but let me start with an explanation of how TntConnect does newsletter preferences.

TNT actually has 10 different combinations of newsletter recipients, “Paper Only” and “Email Only” being the most obvious, with 5 more that reflect problems with your choices.


Paper and Email” is commonly used (I have some partners where one spouse wants paper and the other wants email).

In addition, TntConnect offers two “fail-safe” newsletter options to help ensure that your partners stay connected: “Paper w/email backup” and “Email w/paper backup”. These two options have a preferred choice, but if that preference is marked not valid for some reason (by you, or by MailChimp sync for example), then the other option will automatically become preferred. Very clever!

Here is an example of a Paper newsletter recipient, and an Email w/paper backup [whose Email address is also not valid].


To view the 10 possible combinations–and maybe learn more about how TntConnect handles newsletters than you ever wanted to know–read the “Everything About Newsletters” help topic in the TntConnect online help.


So to answer the original question: How would you lookup only Paper recipients?

This is a three-lookup process. The first two lookups return ALL contacts in the database (whether they get your newsletter or not); the third lookup then filters the paper-only contact to those who have Send Newsletter checked.

Using a Lookup | By Field, select:

  1. Replace the Current Group: Newsletter Media Preference / is / Paper Only, then
  2. Add to the Current Group: Newsletter Media Preference / is / Paper w/email backup. This will exclude any email recipients (email only and/or paper and email) and only return those contacts whose primary communication preference is Paper.
  3. Within the Current Group: Send Newsletter / is / True



For more information about newsletters, read the All About Newsletters help topic.

Organization Contact Person field

In our information world, we always have a tension between wanting maximum flexibility and wanting simplicity. Software that is too simple is not flexible enough for the variety of desired users. Software that is too complex overwhelms users with options.

When it comes to using TntConnect, I try to “think like a user”. Sounds strange, of course, because I am one; so you would think this would come naturally to me. But I am also a “power user”, so sometimes I have to stop and ask, “This is how *I* would do this, but how would the *average user* or *new user* do it?”

For that reason, when I teach classes on TntConnect (which I don’t do much of anymore), I only teach what would commonly be done, not the clever workarounds I personally might use.

Managing the “business info” for a contact is an example of this. Until TntConnect 3.0 (summer 2013), TntConnect did not offer a “contact person” for an organization contact. The only option for an organization was to put the contact person as a “c/o” in the Address box. But then that made export addresses awkward.

Now in TntConnect, when the contact is an “Organization”, a box appears under the Organization Name: “Organization Contact Person”. This may be a pastor, a business owner, or even a ‘non-person’ such as “Missions Committee” or Sunday School class.


Note that TNT does not match this person with an individual. So if the pastor is also a partner of mine, TNT will not know or match this church and the pastor with the separate pastor contact. But that is a really small thing. In fact… I do not have any contacts in my database who that would apply to anyway.