Tracking Chance Encounters

Visiting your home church and meet a partner in the lobby? Walking through the grocery store and chat with a partner in the checkout line? Taking an afternoon to visit partners without calling in advance? TntConnect has a special way to record these visits.

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Of course you could just use the “Appointment” task type, but that doesn’t really capture the nuance of an interaction with a partner.

An Appointment implies a commitment to meet–I made a phone call, set up a time, we are going to visit, there is an intent to the discussion (maintenance, challenge, etc.).

An Unscheduled Visit implies no expectations. I just want to connect, say Hi, thank you, show that you matter to me.

Why should you record Unscheduled Visits? Because these are relationally important. Even though they do not carry the same ministry relevance as a traditional “appointment” where you discuss your ministry, partners remember these sudden, short visits, and truly appreciate them.

Unscheduled Visits are typically one of these two things:

Intentional

You are visiting your home area and driving around to visit your partners unannounced. In this case, the visit itself is unscheduled (you have not scheduled it in advance), but it is intentional (because you wanted to do it).

Unintentional

You have a ‘chance encounter’ with a partner, often at an unexpected location (such as a store, a restaurant, a park, etc.).

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Humor note: Once in the forum someone asked, “I am trying to schedule an afternoon of driving around to visit partners, but Unscheduled Visit is not in the list…” 🙂 Not all task types available to History are available as Tasks. By design, an ‘unscheduled visit’ cannot be ‘scheduled’.

It is sad to say Goodbye (Part 2)

Two weeks ago I shared the story of how one of our long-time partners went home to be with the Lord. In this blog post, I want to share some of the practical steps you take in TntConnect to record the passing of a contact.

Over 90% of our financial partners are married couples, two of whom are widows. There are two scenarios for managing deceased contacts:

  1. When the whole contact dies, typically a single person, and very rarely (never for me), when both die together such as in an accident.
  2. When one person in a couple dies, leaving a surviving spouse. This is the more common scenario for me personally at this stage of my life.

When a whole contact is deceased

When a contact dies, the simple step is to check the Deceased checkbox on the TNT Tab. As you have probably discovered, TNT “saves as you go”, but on the TNT Tab (and other tabs where you enter data), it does not save instantly as you move from field to field but rather when you switch tabs or switch contacts. So pressing the Deceased check-box will not “instantly” cause these actions to occur. But you can force them (see them happen) by pressing the Save button at the top.

Here is Elmer Fudd through the Mark Deceased process:

1. Before he is marked deceased

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2. When the checkbox is first clicked but not ‘saved’ or switched to another contact. Note that immediately (without the Save), the TNT Phase switches to “Never Ask” and the Send Newsletter box unchecks.

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3. After the Save, the Name & Address Bar looks like this, and

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4. The Address Tab changes to this:

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When only one spouse dies

This is the more common scenario when the donor is a couple. One spouse will pass away first. And in my personal experience with the 7 couples where both have passed away, in 6 the husband died before the wife but only 1 where the wife died first.

TNT is not ideal in this sense, because it does not track this type of relationship nuance. But given the relative rarity of this, it does not make sense to program a lot of complex features for how little they will be used.

Simple steps:

  1. Press the Edit Contact button. Manually remove the name of the spouse who has died.
  2. If it is the husband who has died, then move the wife’s name to the ‘primary’ side.
  3. On the phone and email boxes, delete the deceased spouse’s information and move the surviving spouse’s if necessary.
  4. On the Notes tab, type the name of the deceased spouse (to avoid a potentially embarrassing question in the future)

In pictures:

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From Here to There and Back Again

It almost seems pointless to even mention the Maps features of TntConnect, because they are so obvious. Yet after 15 years of teaching people to use TNT, I have found that some of the things I do everyday without even thinking are a revolutionary epiphany to someone else. One of my mantras in teaching people about software is, “Even the simplest feature is an Aha! moment if you’ve never seen it before.”

So, real quick, here’s a reminder of the variety of features TNT offers related to maps:

  • You can launch Google Maps for the contact you are looking at. This opens a browser window to get to Google Maps, which is handy if you also want to create a travel map, from your location, etc. (unlike the Maps View, below, which plots contacts on a map).

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  • The Maps View opens a Google Maps view inside your TntConnect software.

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This view allows to change the map display in several ways:

  1. Show only the selected contact (“Individual” link at the top)
  2. Show the entire Current Group (as shown in the image above)
  3. Replace the Google pins with the colored Status Dot for each partner’s TNT status (e.g., Green for current, Purple for recent gift, etc.)
  4. Newsletter icon for each contact
  5. A teeny, tiny, thumbnail of the picture you have for the contact

Of course the best use for the Maps View is being able to display the contacts clustered on the map. The first time I used this feature (when it was released several years ago), I made the current group only my “newsletter recipients in X city” (it doesn’t do much good to have a map of the entire country). I have about 40 newsletter folks in my home city (roughly 25% of all newsletter people), and it was a delight to see them pop up. What was even more amazing was how many of them lived close together… since I had been building the list for several years from different channels, different referrals, etc.

One time I discovered I had two contacts completely unrelated to each other (different churches, different history with me), and they lived three houses apart.

Technical note: The first time you use the Google Maps feature, TNT tries to pinpoint the exact street location for each contact. There are some it cannot (for example, P.O. Boxes, or if you have an error in the address), but for those it can, TNT will then post the GPS coordinates in their hidden data log, so that future maps will be substantially faster.

It is possible that one reason I love this feature so much is because “Rand McNally is my middle name”. 🙂

 

It is sad to say Goodbye

Recently I received notification of the final gift from a very faithful ministry partner. She and her husband gave their first gift in October 1993, and gave the same amount 272 months in a row, never missing even once. He passed away about 10 years ago, and she passed away last month.

I can say with some pleasure that this particular donor actually prompted a feature in TNT that I rely on all the time: The “Send thank you for $X (last thank was 19 months ago).

Until a few years ago, TNT only alerted us when a donor did something unusual, such as above or below their regular gift, missed a gift and/or resumed giving, or gave a first gift. There was no automatic thank for the incredibly faithful partner who always gave the same amount, never missed, and never gave an extra gift.

I had been using TNT for about six years, aggressively recording all of my activity, conscientiously recording all of my thank yous. Then one day I said, “I’m going to spend some time this month writing thank yous to everyone on my team.” I decided to start with the ones who had gone the longest without a thank you (e.g., maybe 10-12 months earlier).

I exported all of my Financial Partners along with the “Last Thank” date field. To my horror, I discovered eight partners who had NO recorded thank you in 6 years! The field was blank! (I will say that some of them at least did have a call or appointment, but no actual written thank you.)

At that point, I developed a personal plan to make sure every partner received a written thank you at least once per year. This actually led to the development of the “thank everyone” feature I mentioned above, which was rolled out in 2007.

Also, since that time, TNT has expanded to allow me to record a THANK for ANY history action (see pic below). And an even more recent task type (“Present”) is also, automatically, a “Thank”, since my giving a present to a partner is an expression of thankfulness on my part.

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Expressing gratitude to our partners is probably the most important thing we can do in support development. And I am SO grateful for all of our partners. Thank you Lord!!!

Increased Pledge = First Gift

When a partner increases (or decreases) their pledge, enter the new amount, then uncheck the Pledge Received box.

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TntConnect will alert you when the FIRST gift of this new pledge has arrived.

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(Technically, TNT will create a thank for the next gift, regardless of the amount; occasionally I have had a partner commit to an increase, but their actual next gift was the previous amount given automatically/EFT, so I still got the thank you task even though the amount was the old amount.)

TNT will also re-check the Pledge Received checkbox and reset the “start date” for the pledge. This helps the partner’s Average Monthly figure be more accurate.

Go Back in Time

If you download gifts from your organization, you are familiar with the Starting Date / Ending Date calendars in the gift download:

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In the above example, the start date is about six weeks before the end date. The default is not “six weeks back from today”, but roughly six weeks “before your last download” as you may only download periodically. The ‘back in time’ feature is because it is common for organizations to have adjustments or corrections or even late-posting gifts. (In our ministry, for example, credit card gifts take longer to process than cheque gifts.)

The challenge with this practice, though, is that sometimes your ministry may correct a gift that was six months ago. It is not uncommon for a partner to get a year-end giving statement and notice a mistake from months earlier.

For this reason, once or twice a year I reset the Starting Date on my calendar all the way back to the first available date. (The first available date is the oldest gift in your ministry’s system.)

Quick tip: When you go way back for the first time, you may see some new gifts come in, some gifts may be slightly changed (e.g., date of gift, amount, donor name), but you may also see some gifts deleted from your database.

TntConnect will alert you when a gift is about to be deleted. Pay attention to this! Once you click Sync, that gift will be removed with no record of it. So if you see this red message, you may want to ask yourself “Why?!” before you sync.

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As a reminder, TntConnect does not download address corrections when you download gifts. If a partner has changed their address (with the ministry) but not told you, you need to select Tools | Update Donor Info to see those changes.

Why doesn’t TNT just download all gifts and/or all addresses every time? Because of how long it would take. (You would not want to download all data every time!)

Tip: Technology changes can sometimes affect how gifts can be delivered to support raising software, in one of two ways:

  1. Your organization may be adopting a new system that is not compatible with TntConnect. If this will happen, while you still can you may want to do a download back from the first available date to ensure all gift data is correct.
  2. Or, some organizations only keep so many “active” years (e.g., 7-10) in the data warehouse, so periodically going back in time makes sure you have the correct data even after it is no longer downloadable. When I first started using TNT in 2002, my organization offered donations back to 1994. But they dropped off one year at a time and now only go back to 1/1/2004.

Happy Birthday!

One of the clever, yet subtle, things that TntConnect does is how it handles birthdays for your contacts.

In my experience—and I am obviously not unusual in this since TNT is designed this way—it is unusual to get the actual (full) birth date or anniversary date for my contacts. For most, I have only partial information. For example, I was visiting a partner who told me his wife’s 40th birthday was the previous month. So, assuming he remembered correctly (e.g., it was not two months ago), I knew she was born in April 1970. I may find out the actual date later (such as April 7).

Most often I have the month and day but not the year. In fact, I have asked new partners for this: “When is your birthday?”, and they will typically only give the month and day. Indeed, for some people it can be rude to ask the year they were born!

And sometimes I have only one item. I may know they were born in 1976, but not the month or the day.

TntConnect allows me to enter any of the three items independently, for either the primary contact or the spouse:

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I can then run the Birthday & Anniversary Report to see all contacts with birthdays and anniversaries. This report is exportable to Excel. Also, I can export any/all contact’s birthday and anniversary information using the Group Actions | Export Current Group tool.

Because TNT is not designed to store comprehensive information about children, I just put their birthdays in the Children field on the Family tab. This doesn’t show up on the Birthday & Anniversary report, but it is still helpful to me:

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And if today is your birthday… Happy Birthday!