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.

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…

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  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.

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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

If only my water softener “filtered” like this!

One of my favourite features in TntConnect is the amazingly powerful contact filter. These are called “Lookups” in TNT, but I use the term “filter” because that is the word used on web pages and web software (like Staples.com, Amazon, etc.).

As you shop on most ecommerce sites, a variety of product-specific filters appear. So if I am shopping for new skis, for example, the filters that appear may be for brand name, size or length, type (cross-country, downhill, water, etc.), cost range, colour, etc.

The problem with those web filters, I have found, is that sometimes the filter I want does not appear (the space is limited, after all!). Or, worse, sometimes I want to reverse filter, meaning I want to take away and/or add a separate filter. Web filters, by design, only do successive filtering, meaning you can only continually narrow the list until no items appear.

In this image from REI, I’m looking for “skis”, and I have a limited number of filters (17), and within those filters only the options REI chose for me. Some are useless… only 1 option displayed. And I have to scroll down to see all of them. Once I select a filter, I can only continue to narrow down. I cannot exclude or add to that filter.

 2016-05-26-REI-Filters.jpg

TntConnect’s filters are not only universal—meaning I can filter contacts on ALL 182 fields for each contact—but they are also flexible. I can narrow (lookup with the current group), expand (add to the current group), reverse (keep the current group, but take away this one item), or just start over (replace the current group).

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I have never used any software that filters data as fluidly and efficiently as TntConnect does. Now if only I could get our well water’s filters to work this, um, well.

Filter all history by Text

TntConnect’s “History View” is the most powerful history manager of any software I have ever used. I have more than 42,000 items in my history, and I can filter them, instantly, in 6 different ways.

The most flexible of these ways, though, is the “find text” filter. The empty search box at the top of the History View is actually a filter. When I type any text in there, TNT will automatically begin to filter all of the displayed history based on that text, whether the text is in the description or in the notes.

AutoFilterByText.png

The text filter works in conjunction with the other five filters (date range, task type, current group or not, hide mass mailings, or combine group history). If I am searching within a known group of partners (for example, just financial partners), I might lookup that group first, then Filter by Current Group. But more often than not, I just click the “All” date range and type the text filter.

The text filter is an exact filter–it will filter just as I type it. So “party” will find dessert party but typing “party dessert” will not.

From the online/F1 help: Learn more about TNT’s powerful history engine. (Scroll down to the heading, “Powerful history tools are at your fingertips with the History filters”)

How can TNT help me on a support blitz?

I recently read an encouraging note from our support raising team about ideas to make the most of a short (1-2 week) support blitz. Many missionaries who serve in campus ministries have a lull between the end of the school year and summer assignments, and try to use some of that time for focused partnership development.

A lot of this effort is independent of software—things like praying and printing/gathering materials. But a lot of it is improved by using support raising software like TntConnect. Here are a few ideas for how to use TntConnect to prepare for a blitz trip.

The key with a blitz trip is to make the most of the time. If you are only at a remote location for 1-2 weeks, you cannot spend time during those weeks deciding what to do. You want to arrive on the ground ready to go.

  • Identify who to meet with. Do Lookups on the mailing state or mailing city or Region–or however you identify the potential visits in the geographic area you will be visiting.
  • Save that list using a Favorite Lookup or a Saved Group so you can quickly produce the list any time you need it.
  • Decide who to challenge, and for how much. By using the Group Actions | Export Current Group feature you can export the names and other fields such as Monthly Pledge, Last Challenge [date], Last Visit, etc. Some people would even put those challenge amounts in a “task” in advance, such as “To Do: Challenge to increase $25/monthly”.
  • Record every phone call or email. A short blitz like this usually means a lot of dials. I record every call attempt, and logging these calls or emails helps me make sure I make an attempt every day.

Whenever I challenge a person (either a potential new partner or an existing partner), I always use a consistent description: “CHALLENGE: Asked to increase by $25/month”. Then when they make a decision, I record that call or email with a similar description: “DECISION: Yes! Will increase with next month’s gift.”

By recording this history consistently, I can easily use TntConnect’s powerful jet engine for history to help me know each partners challenges and decisions over time, or for a short blitz like this, I can instantly know how many challenges and/or decisions I had.

A GREAT database management system

2016-05-22-PressureWasher

In a recent MPD Connections to Cru staff, the writer focused on the having the right tools for the job, and he started with a story about pressure washing his deck. Using a high-powered pressure washer is not only quite satisfying—seeing the grime just wash away—but it is also extremely productive: Scrubbing a deck or driveway with a brush would take forever. (The picture above is from when I pressure washed my driveway at Christmas 2014—pressure washing CAN be fun!)

He also highlighted the importance of having a good software for managing our support raising efforts. I concur with this sentiment! To me, TntConnect is like a pressure washer for our support: It is a power tool that is so helpful, it couldn’t possibly be replaced by any other method. It is a great database management system.

Recently I was in Utah and Idaho on a focused time of support raising. I was so thankful for a tool that works with such power and speed as TntConnect. I was doing some analysis, too, and there is no other support raising tool that does what TNT does automatically. For example, the Gift & History Details are something I use regularly when interacting with my partners, because it gives me a snapshot of their current—and lifetime—history with me. And all 26 of these detail fields are exportable for any or all contacts!

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Finally, the partners I was staying with in Idaho had no internet access at their house. They are “snowbirds” who winter in Arizona; so they just use their phones for Internet access. I was there for three days and I was so grateful that I had a tool that works whether I have internet access or not.

TNT is lightning fast, and the history tools are like a jet engine for support raising.