What if I have nothing to say?

If I am committed to writing a blog post every week—without fail—and yet I find myself with nothing to say, should I write one anyway?

Yes.

Why? Because consistency matters.

If I miss a week or two, should I profusely apologize to my quiet but committed readers for missing, followed by an explanation of why I missed?

No.

Why? Because they are not that committed.

Bob, aren’t you saying the exact opposite with those two questions?

Yes and No.

Boy that’s helpful.


Okay. Here’s my point. When it comes to ministry newsletters (often called a “prayer letter”), consistency DOES matter. Every person—and/or every organization—has a different cycle of consistency. Some ministries encourage their staff members to write a monthly newsletter; others encourage a quarterly newsletter with interim letters or notes to key groups (e.g., quarterly for all people and monthly for donors only).

Regardless of the frequency, I have two axioms about newsletters:

  1. Be somewhat faithful to the schedule… that is, be consistent.
  2. NEVER apologize in a newsletter

The first book I ever read on “major donor development” was called The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing by Doug Brendel. Though written for corporate donor work, it profoundly impacted how I raise my personal support. One of the most significant principles I learned was that my partners are not sitting at their mailbox anxiously awaiting my newsletters, nor secretly condemning me each day it is late.

To think that they are checking me off for sending the newsletter on time actually suggests I am the center of their world. I’m probably not.

The book also jokingly made the comment that one fundraiser could send the exact same letter twelve months in a row and raise more funds than someone who sends twelve radically different letters in a row. Why? Because consistency matters.

Next question: Without checking any history or logs, answer one of these questions:

  • How many newsletters have you sent in the last 365 days?
  • How often do you send your newsletters… monthly? quarterly? six-weeks? bi-monthly?
  • What date do you drop your letter in the mail?

Before reading further: This is NOT a guilt blog post. I am not suggesting you should write your letters with any specific frequency, on any specific day, etc.

But I am suggesting that consistency matters. And this is how and why this is a TNT tip and not just a “support raising principle”.

A common business principle is that you cannot effectively evaluate what you cannot measure. Since March 2006 I have used a Group | Log History to record sending my newsletter each month. This helps me easily review:

  • How many newsletters I send each year
  • How many people are on my newsletter list (the number ebbs and flows over time)
  • That any individual partner received a specific newsletter
  • The content of each newsletter… it’s a great way for me to look back if I have a question such as, “When did I write about Quebec?”

2018-06-06-NewsletterLog.jpg

My newsletters have been surprisingly consistent over the past 12 years. I write 5-7 ministry newsletters per year. I also, typically, write two “Family Updates” separate from our ministry newsletter. And I send 1 or 2 special gift appeals each year. So on average I send 9-11 pieces per year not including at least one handwritten thank you note to every partner.

I almost hate to say this, but when I do coaching of missionaries, more often than not the most common thing I see is too few communications. Ministry is busy and time flies, and I forget to keep my partners in the loop. This is also why I strongly encourage missionaries to use an Annual Plan. I think this helps plan and execute good communications with our partners.

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He said, She said

2018-06-25-FamilySideTotal

The portion of the support to our ministry account from my partners (blue) and my wife’s (red). This reflects mostly where I have devoted my partnership development efforts over the past 21 years. The two blips—2005 and 2016—represent significant campaigns we ran at that time.

If you are married, did you marry your spouse before or after you went on the mission field? If after, was she or he also already a supported missionary? And if so, what portion of your current or lifetime support is a result of the contacts each of you brought into the marriage?

It may surprise you to learn that TntConnect can answer that question!

But not natively.

When I started using TntConnect 16 years ago this month, I spent a lot of time getting my data ship-shape. I imported every gift we had received in the 13 years before TNT. I got all of the addresses correct. And more.

I have always loved analyzing data and seeing how things work. Even in Excel (before using TNT) I had separated contacts based on whether they were on my wife’s partnership team or my own. We were married in 1997 and at the time had almost equal amounts of support, so at the time it was about 50/50. Five years later I started using TNT, and to retain this helpful information, I used the Family Side field to differentiate between “his” partners and “her” partners.

The Family Side field is intended to be used in conjunction with the Family Level field to define “his cousin” or “her sibling”. But given that very few of our contacts are relatives, I knew I would never use those two fields as designed.

2018-06-25-FamilySideField

So I repurposed the Family Side to represent “the side of the family this contact came from”. For every contact who has given a gift I marked them as His or Hers. I do have some marked as “Neither” because the relationship has been built with us as a couple, since we got married. But surprisingly, only 1.5% of all giving to our ministry account has come from these kinds of people. The remaining 98.5% has come from partners who joined our team more than 21 years ago OR have been referrals from those two teams as recently as last year.

Because I have every contact marked as “His”, “Hers”, or “Neither”, I can then view reports on the Analysis View:

Average Monthly Gifts by Family Side:

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Lifetime Gifts by Family Side:

2018-06-25-FamilySideLifetime

The most noticeable aspect of this is that lifetime, partners from my wife’s source are a greater proportion of our lifetime giving than they are of current giving (above).

The above charts are right out of TNT with no additional effort. I did export the Contribution Report to Excel and run more reports for my own delight (that’s how I generated the chart at the top), but that’s beyond the scope of this blog post.

My point, as always: Because I asked a question of my database, I figured out a way to get the answer. In other words, I let my needs drive my use of the software, rather than the software dictate to me what I need.

 

 

Finding that lost Donor Acct #

About 10% of the donors who are in my TntConnect database have more than one account number with my organization, and sometimes I want to find all of them (for reasons I describe later). This is so easy I’ll show you first then explain it.

How to find contacts which have more than one Account #:

  1. Lookup | By Field
  2. Organization Account IDs | contains | ,    [comma]

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TntConnect stores the Organization Account ID(s) with the contact so that you can easily export them using Group Actions | Export Current Group. If a donor has more than one account #, TNT just separates them with a comma.

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How this exports:

2018-06-02-LookupAcctIDs3

There are several reasons why a donor is issued a new account #:

  • They gave by cheque previously and have just given online for the first time. Not surprisingly, they did not have their Donor # handy so they left that box blank on the online screen (if they even saw it!)
  • They have moved and given a new gift without using a return slip that had their donor # on it
  • The spouse gave a gift and his/her name was not on the original account, which is even more likely if the husband/wife couple has different last names

But there is one big reason why a donor in TntConnect may have two donor account #s NOT because of my organization:

  • *I* linked them during a gift download… sometimes accidentally.

So if I have two donor account numbers for a contact and one of them is in error, I cannot find it easily because I may not know which donor I linked it to! This lookup helps me quickly locate all contacts with multiple donor account #s, so I can then find the incorrect one.

Read More: Merge/Unmerge Donor Accounts