Here’s something that probably keeps you up at night:
“What should I use, User Fields or Saved Groups?”
Come on, admit it. There’s no shame. You toss and turn over the subject. I saw you brooding at Starbucks just the other day, muttering under your breath, “Saved Groups, User Fields, Saved Groups, User Fields … “.
I could probably write dozens of posts on the great and subtle nuances of User Fields vs. Saved Groups.
Under the surface, by the way, they are actually the same thing… just a “Tag” that you assign. This tag allows you to filter and sort ad nauseum.
Other software tries to lump all user-defined activity into flat tags. TNT sends that into the stratosphere by the plethora of ways you can sort, filter, group, and export tags, which most other software cannot touch.
In this extra-long post, then, I want to describe a subtle you probably did not know about because it is not obvious. Once you see it, you’ll say, “Where have you been all my life???”
You can make any Saved Group into an Exportable Contact field.
Historically (for the last 10 years at least), one of the primary benefits of User Fields over Saved Groups has been that they could be exported. It’s great to have multiple saved groups, but the only way to export was to lookup the group, then export the contacts... and then in Excel manually notate/sort them. This was awkward, especially if you were comparing membership in multiple saved groups. But that changed this year with this new feature.
Here’s a real world example I was using just yesterday, which is what led me to write this post.
On my team, we do an annual fund-raising event where we invite some of the most generous partners of our ministry.
I can (and do) easily log attendance at these events using the powerful Log History jet engine. But because of the significance of this event (it’s huge to us) and because a number of the guests come multiple times, I needed a better way to manage it. Also, I want to know exactly how many people attend each year… without having to use the History log to count it.
So I created a set of Exclusive Saved Groups that layers the entire event (called “Briefing”), then each year, with attendance underneath. Note in the picture below that I also have separate saved groups for the people who run the event, and the program people (speakers/musicians).
In the set of 19 saved groups, the entire set [labeled “Briefing”, and in black] is not exclusive (meaning any one contact can be in multiple years). But each individual year is exclusive (in blue), so within any given year, a contact must be either in the parent group (e.g., BRFG17) or the nested groups (17-Guest, 17-Speaker, or 17-Staff) but cannot be in more than one.
Note that the “Guest” group each year is shaded. This is the group that is made into a contact field:
Then in the Contacts View I created a Favourite Lookup (using Lookup | By Group) that will return the list of all contacts who are Guests (this helps me do lookups on the financial commitments and giving as a result of each event).
Here’s where the magic happens. I could export this list of contacts, but I run into a problem: We had 290 guests total for all 5 events, but that was actually only 213 people as several have attended multiple years. If I exported the list of 213, I would have no way of knowing which year(s) they attended.
BUT, by making them into Contact fields, I can now export them:
And then I can see the results in Excel, making it VERY easy for me to compare attendees for all years (that is, ‘this contact is a Member of that saved group’).
To reiterate this important tip: Note that TNT alerts me as to which Saved Groups are also Contact fields, by shading them in the Groups list:
As usual, I have only scratched the surface of how I use this feature. But this “Make Contact Field” feature is something I have used many times this year, and it has been a great addition.