Random History Tips

The History Engine is TntConnect is the most powerful task record of any software I have ever used. But it is only as helpful as the information put into it. Here are some random tips for you when logging history.

  • Log every task you do, regardless of the result. 10 dials = 10 tasks logged. One of TntConnect’s distinctives is how easy it is to log history attempts in moments. Tip: The easiest way to log a phone call is to click on the phone number; the history box will then include the number dialed right in the note.

  • When you send a support-related e-mail, blind copy (BC:) yourself, then copy and paste the whole text into the description of your task. Copy both sides if your message is a response to theirs.

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  • An event is “Attempted” if the desired result is not achieved, such as:
    • The person you wanted to talk to did not answer (busy, no answer, babysitter, child, secretary)
    • You went to an appointment but they did not show up
    • You sent an e-mail but it was returned with a wrong address

  • Save commonly-used descriptions to make your history more consistent and easier to create–the description box auto-fills from your saved list. You can add/edit items in the list by selecting Edit list… from the bottom of the drop-down list.

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  • When writing a description, be detailed so you can make sense of your history.
    History isn’t perfect. For example, if a contact calls you back and you fulfill the activity you were seeking, you may want to use “Done” instead of “Received” on the task. Here is an example of a description written after a phone call, in order from less descriptive to more:

    • ”            “ [blank; no description written, just the call recorded]
    • “Called” [why? who talked to? result?]
    • “Called; no answer” [why? next action?]
    • “Called; no answer / left message” [same as above; no real improvement]
    • “Called for decision / left message: Will call back Monday at 8pm” [more descriptive: Why (called for decision), Action taken (left message), Next action (I will call back Monday at 8pm)]

Note in the above examples, “Called” is not a helpful description when Call is a task type; there is no reason to repeat the action when the history item already logs it. Instead, use your characters judiciously to pack the best punch.


  • Write casual encounters as an “Unscheduled Visit” (found on the bottom in the “Other” task types).

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  • Log history for all the contacts in the Current Group. For example, when you send a special ask or your monthly newsletter.

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  • Be ready in and out of season. (Not really a history tip in itself, but it results in history!)
    • Have note cards handy, with stamps, to write a quick thank you.
    • Thank after EVERY appointment, EVERY decision (yes or no), EVERY first gift, EVERY tangible (non-financial) gift, etc.
    • Keep an index card to write down who you sent notes to so you can enter it in TntConnect later.

  • When talking on the phone, use a pen and paper to scribble notes, as typing may be distracting to the contact (sounds like an airline reservation system!)
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The Amazing Contribution Report

TntConnect is a data-rich program. And the value of a support raising software is the way it can deliver data to you to help you…

  • Respond to donor activity (giving habits, gifts outside of their giving habits, missed gifts, milestones, etc.)
  • Plan future support development (categorize donors in priority order, determine amount to challenge, determine responsiveness to past campaigns, etc.)
  • Build relationships in general (keep in touch on a regular basis, remember milestone events in their lives, pray for them).

One of TntConnect’s most powerful financial components is the Contribution Report. This “13-Month Report” displays all gifts from all donors for the past 13 months (summarized by donor each month, not an individual gift list).

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But that’s just scratching the surface of what this incredibly powerful and flexible report can do for you. In the upper left corner, for example, you can filter the displayed gifts based on the nature of the gift (include/exclude):

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  • Gifts synced to the web (if your organization supports that)
  • Gifts you submitted to your organization which have not posted to the web (helpful to verify gifts you mailed in were correctly posted to your account)
  • Non-web gifts (to see those outside of the web posting)
  • Personal gifts (helpful if your organization limits the amount of personal gifts you can receive during the year)

You can also change the summary by adding/decreasing months (which I have done when I wanted to compare Decembers over a 5-10-15 year period), or switching to quarters or even years. I find it helpful to display by year, then increase the number displayed to all past years–that gives me a really helpful view long term:

(this screen shot cropped to simplify the display) Clark Kent has seen a lot of growth in since he joined ToonTown Ministries in 2007, but it looks like 2015 was a big year for some reason, or he has an alarming downward trend his director should be aware of, etc.!

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Note in the above there are two boxes that may NOT appear on your Contribution Report:

  • The “All Designations” drop-down. For a database where many designations are included, and managed using TntConnect Pro, you can select any individual designation to display instead of all designations in the database.
  • The Currency drop-down box (displayed above as CAD Canadian dollar). The selected currency will show all gifts but only in the selected currency. Or you can check the box below (“Only show (CAD)“) to filter only for those donors who gave the selected currency. These boxes will only appear for those users who actually have more than one currency in their database.

A few extra things you should know about this profoundly helpful report:

  1. When you change any of the many filters at the top, you need to press the Update button to refresh the report (it does not update automatically).
  2. You can filter the displayed contacts to display only the Current Group (the Current Group that is selected in the Contacts View). This can be very helpful when you want to view the donations from a subset of your contacts.
  3. The Extra Fields button allows you to select any additional field(s) from the database to display in the report and then export. The report will remember your Extra Fields choices even after you exit the report and exit TntConnect.
  4. You can Sort by Last Gift Date (default and most common/most intuitive) or by Partner Last Name.
  5. You can Lookup the contacts who are displayed. Since your report only shows donors who meet your various selected criteria, there may be times when you want to then view only those contacts in the Contacts View.

Read the help topic about the Contribution Report
See the original help video
See the SmartStory short video

Manually Entering Gifts is a Breeze

Well over half of all TntConnect users serve with an organization that does not have a way to send gifts to TntConnect via the web or via a file. It may surprise you to learn that TntConnect was invented before the Gift Input feature was created. That is, all users had to enter gifts manually in the very beginning!

Because of this, TntConnect makes it super easy to enter gifts manually.

One option, of course, is simply to right-click in the Gifts box and “Add a Gift”—which you would do any time you add a single gift from a donor. But that is time consuming if you are entering dozens of them every month.

If you cannot download gifts at all, then your best bet is to use the Manual Gift Entry Form from the Tools menu.

Here is a blank Manual Gift Entry Form:

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If you are entering gifts multiple times per month (weekly, for example, as you view them on a web page), you will see that TNT displays all of the gifts so far this month:

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This quick-entry form allows you to enter all of your gifts in just a few moments.

  • It displays every partner who has given a gift in the past 12 months.
  • You just enter the date and the amount.
  • You can lookup and add a New Partner to the form from your entire list of contacts (if the donor does not appear on the list).
  • You can press Another Gift if a partner has more than one gift in a month.
  • If you are working from a printed list or printed email (a little easier than toggling back and forth between TNT and your email or ministry web site), you can probably enter 25-50 donations in just a few minutes.
  • Also, if you receive gifts in more than one currency, you can enter all gifts from one currency at the same time. (If you do not have multi-currency turned on, the Currency box will not be shown.)
  • If you will not be linking to the web for gifts, be sure to uncheck the box New gifts on web so TNT will not be expecting you to download them (and match them) in the future.

The great news: No matter which of the 5 ways you enter gifts, TntConnect runs the same Automatic Actions for New Gifts features so you can take full advantage of TntConnect’s powerful analytics.

Read more about the Manual Gift Entry Form.

 

“Are you all okay?”

Two weeks ago I called a ministry partner in Houston. She’s an elderly woman who lives alone, and her daughter, I know, lives in Chicago. “I’m concerned about you,” I said. “Are you okay?”

She thanked me for calling and assured me she was fine. Her street was a river, but her front steps were dry. She felt very fortunate.

That was two weeks ago. Monday this week I texted my wife and asked her, “Are you all okay?”

I’m a pretty lousy husband. While my family was sleeping in the closet as Hurricane Irma blew over our house, I was on an international trip in Africa. Except for being without power for about 48 hours, and having a lot tree debris to cleanup, they were fine. She told me our neighborhood turned out like an anthill that was just kicked over–people we almost never out of doors emerged to see who lost a tree (or didn’t). Neighbors helping neighbors clean up. Won’t last long, but it’s great to see.

I appreciate that TntConnect helps me reach out to my partners and show compassion during a weather crisis like these–events that often affect a widespread area, and because of that I cannot know how my partners have fared unless I ask them. (Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes; sad we need a reason, but showing we care… shows we care.)

The best way to connect, of course, is just to call. Email or text is okay, I suppose. But a real phone call says a lot.

I use TNT to help me do this by using the Lookups to help me identify the contacts I could call. For example, last month I looked up all partners in Texas using Lookup | By State. Sometimes Lookup | By City works if that’s what I need.

One of my partners just moved to Texas a couple of months ago; I wasn’t sure where the town was, so I used the Google Maps button in TNT to discern that they lived outside Dallas, not Houston. But I contacted them anyway because a new address & new home were a good reason to call. And I started the call simply by asking, “Has Hurricane Harvey affected you at all?”

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I don’t have ulterior motives with these calls. Every opportunity to reach out to a partner is a good one. Our partners love to hear from us, and most missionaries (like me) use the microphone portion of their smart”phone” far less than we should.

Speaking of that, How are you? If you were in an area impacted by Harvey or Irma–or wildfires in the West–I hope you have seen an outpouring of bonhomie from relatives, friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers.

Forwarding Order Expired

I just got a handful of my recent newsletters returned by the post office marked as “Undeliverable”. How do these things happen?

It turns out that I had not done a Tools | Update Donor Info recently. This connects to my organization and checks all addresses to see if the ministry has a more recent one. Several of my donors had moved (some I knew had moved but I did not have the correct address; others were a complete surprise).

After the sync, I had 35 contacts who had an address, phone, or email change. It is surprisingly common for a donor to alert the organization but forget to tell the missionary. (This is because the donor needs to change banking information or a receipt address.)

When a contact’s address/phone in TntConnect has an unresolved discrepancy with my organization’s address/phone, their address/phone will be bold and orange. There is a special Lookup just to find and resolve all these issues

After I did the donor info update, TNT offered to display the 35 discrepancies. But if I did not resolve them right away, I can still find them all later by going to:

Lookup | Unreviewed Account Info

If I see the organization’s address is one I know is an old address, I contact the office so they can update their address.

When I click on a bold orange address (or phone or email), TNT will display the Account Info box which shows me the donor information “from the organization’s view”.

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I can then click on the out-of-sync item and either Accept it (accept the organization’s version) or Ignore it (keep what I have already), if I think mine is more correct for me.

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In my experience, the organization’s address for my donor is usually more accurate. But the email or phone I have is usually more accurate than the ministry’s. This makes sense because donors change their email and phone #s a lot more frequently than their addresses, and they generally do not broadcast those little changes to businesses.

There are two very helpful topics in the Help Guides with a lot more detail about this subject:

View Organization Info (about the Organization details for this contact)

Update Donor Info (about the Tools menu link)

Oh, one more thing… even if the address is not Bold and Orange, you can easily get to the Organization Account Info either by selecting Contact | View [Org] Details, or just by clicking the Account number on the far right of the Name & Address Bar:

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“Please Pray for Me”

I put that title in quotes because I am not asking you readers to pray for me personally, but rather this blog post is about how to handle prayer requests from your donors.

One of the wonderful aspects of being a supported missionary is the opportunity we have to pray for our partners. Praying for our partners is a wonderful way to minister to them–to exercise partnership.

There are a few different ways to easily track prayer requests. Some users create a “To Do” task, and there are certainly benefits to that. It is possible to create it as a task and either not check it as “completed” until I stop praying for it; or, you can “complete” it and then having a recurring task re-create it perpetually.

I tried that once, but found that once I had two dozen or more prayer requests, my “actual” support-raising tasks (phone calls, appointments, and thank yous) were obscured. Of course I could filter calls and thank yous, but even so, the ‘urgent’ items I found were not as visible.

I personally do not view prayer as a “task”. I do not pray for someone and then check it off as “completed”.

What I have found that works well for me is actually logging the prayer request in TNT’s “jet engine”… the History Log.

I create a To Do history item (as if I had Done it). In the description I prefix the request with “PRAY:”, like this:

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Then I can go to the History View, select All as the time frame, and type PRAY: in the text filter, like this:

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When I am finished praying for this specific request, I can keep it in my history by editing the description. For example, I can change PRAY: to PRAY (DONE):

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By doing this, it will no longer appear in my prayer request filter in the History View.

See a video on this topic

Sweet Child of Mine

Over the years I have fielded many questions, thoughts, and suggestions on countless topics. But few have engendered as many differing opinions than how TntConnect handles “children”.

As most TNT users know, the Family Tab offers only one field for children information. While the yellow box is not particularly limited in length, practically it is limited to the 46 characters I can see on the screen. It does not do me much good to enter 500 characters of data if I cannot see it except by exporting.

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TNT is a “data-lovers tool”, and this is one field where data-lovers would love a lot more.

For example, several users have asked me for a table where they can list every child, have a birthday for every child (which appears on the Birthday & Anniversary Report), list the spouse of every child, and have a memo field to write notes about the children, their hobbies, etc.

Others have asked for a bigger box, others for… whatever. Bottom line–lots of different ideas. I’m not the developer, so my answer is always to explain “How to do what you want to do with using what TNT already delivers”. 🙂

So the simple answer / simple solution to this situation is either:

  1. Just use the Children field as delivered, or
  2. Set up children as separate contacts in TntConnect.

In my own personal database, I have about five families where parents and children are separate contacts (and separate donors in many cases).

Once I set up the child as their own contact, then I can record everything in delicious detail: All of their bio data (birthday, church, hobbies, spouse, etc.), and any relationship activity (birthday cards, summer mission trip support, graduations, etc.).