Steady Plodding Brings Success

From Proverbs 21:5:

Steady plodding brings prosperity, Hasty speculation brings poverty. (Living Bible)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (ESV)

In my last year of college I took an “Outdoor Experience” class in college in Utah, which included three days in some of the most amazing locations on earth: Zion National Park. We took a hike up to Observation Point, four miles up long sweeping switchbacks, culminating in a stunning view down Zion Canyon. I was the very last person off the bus. I situated my shoes laces and my water bottle, took a deep breath and began the hike, periodically passing groups of other students taking pictures, goofing off, chatting, or otherwise just enjoying the beauty. Although I was practically the slowest walker in the group, I passed 37 of my group and was 4th to the top. Steady plodding brings success.

The point is that in almost every area of life, “planning” and “diligence” bring the desired result. But “hastiness”—either in planning or in execution—result in nothing. In fact, hastiness (poor planning, weak follow-through, etc.), could be WORSE than doing nothing, because it squanders even what you have.

Support raising is an excellent example of this. One of my co-workers likens fund development to farming, not hunting. A hunter goes out and kills game, lives off of it for a time, then goes and hunts more. But someone who plants a farm—and even better, an orchard—sows and cultivates over a long time. A well cultivated orchard takes a long time to yield, but once it starts, as long as it is maintained it will provides for decades.

Too often in support raising I am searching for the “quick win”: something that will require little effort on my part but yield big results in terms of new support or special gifts. I wonder why I am rarely successful in that, yet continue to hope in it!

In Jeremiah 17:7-8, we read,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

A great orchard does not always mean abundance, but a poor orchard fails entirely during the lean times.

Every great business book I have ever read stresses the importance of the weekly touch of the most critical planning components. For us in ministry, that is our support team. I ‘practically’ guarantee that if you open TntConnect at the end of your week and spend just 10-15 minutes reviewing your ministry partner world and planning the next week–and then taking even one single action as a result–your support will grow strong.

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Who are my top donors?

TntConnect offers a number of different ways to answer this question, so today’s tip offers an answer to a more specific question: “Who are my top donors over the past 12 months?” I chose “12 months” over “this year”, because it is still early in the year, and some of your most generous partners may have given in December.

This involves just one lookup, with a sort option. Picture first, then steps…

2016-06-13-TwelveMonthTotal

  1. Do a Lookup | By Field.
  2. Choose Twelve Month Total is not0” [zero].
  • To have the list sorted lowest giver at the top to highest giver at the bottom, just check the box “Sort by this field” and press OK.
  • Or, if you want the highest giver at the top (as I expect most people would), then do this before pressing OK:
  1. Still select the Lookup | By Field as above, but
  2. Do NOT check the “Sort by this field” box
  3. Instead, select the Sort tab
  4. Check the box “Custom Sort
  5. Again select “Twelve Month Total
  6. Select “Descending

Then press OK.

Special Gift Appeal “ask amounts” based on average giving

If there’s one thing I’d like TntConnect to do, it would be to tell me the exact amount I should ask each contact for when doing an initial ask, an increase, or a special gift appeal. I even read a TntConnect help forum entry once where the user [humorously] asked, “Where is the ‘Automatically ask for increase’ button?!

Since those great features don’t exist in TntConnect yet, I am forced to use more rudimentary methods. I would never use mail merge to send a letter asking for an increase in regular support—that should be reserved for a face-to-face (or at least phone) appointment. But for a special gift appeal, I typically do suggest an amount, and I often vary that amount based on the partner’s average giving.

I want this suggested amount to be ‘relevant’ or ‘attainable’ for the contact. If I had a partner who gave $500/monthly (I don’t), I would not suggest a special gift of $25, nor would I ask a $25/monthly partner for a $500 gift. What I do, then, is export my “special gift appeal list” to Excel, and then set a range based on their regular giving. My range is fairly narrow… I suggest either “$50 or $100” or “$100 or $200”.

When I use Group Actions | Export Current Group to send my current group to Excel, I select their name, greeting, mailing address block, and average monthly giving fields. (The screen shot below has been modified to show only the fields I export; you will have to scroll through the list for them.)

2016-06-02-ExportCurrentGroupAsk

Two final notes:

While writing this blog entry, I did an analysis of all of the special gifts we have received in the past 20 years. (I did this by pressing the “View Giving Trends” button in the Appeal box.) I discovered that $25, $50, and $100 are the most frequent gifts—accounting for half of all the special gifts ever given. THAT is really helpful information.

2016-06-02-View-Giving-Trends-Button

Since I have been in full-time ministry for 25 years, I find that the special gifts we receive are fairly consistent. With the exception of a few unique and significant appeals over the years (for a vehicle, first baby, significant overseas mission trip), our twice-annual special gift appeals generally result in very similar results.

So my goal is typically not to raise a significant amount of funds, but to give my partners an opportunity to give. My hope and trust is in the Lord, and I do not rely on special gifts to make up shortfalls in monthly support; that is, I am not “dependent” on the results of any special gift appeal to stay in ministry for the next season.

Read more on Special Gift Appeals

Our SmartPath short video (2:56) on Special Gift Appeals