Take Note!

Notes, notes, and more notes. What do I do with an open-ended Notes tab?

The Notes tab is simply an open-form notepad, so my simple answer to that question is, “Do whatever you want!

So the real question then is, “What are some best practices related to the Notes tab?”

These are my thoughts on this, which in this case are “super low value” because really, you should do whatever you want with this field!

From a technical perspective, the two Notes areas (the Tab and the window above the tabs) are exactly the same. Type in one and it updates the other. Therefore, Put the most important 3 lines at the top.


Here are some of the things that I have always recommended in training sessions that are super-helpful to have in those top 3 lines:

  • If the contact has a deceased spouse–especially if you knew the spouse (e.g., they were a partner while alive)–then I put that information: “Husband (Fred) / Passed away 5/15/15“. I do this because I do not want to accidentally ask her about her husband!
  • If their name has an unusual pronunciation that you want to remember: “Pronounced Flynnstun, not Flint-stone.
  • If there is some current event in their lives that I want to ask them about first thing when I next talk to them, such as:
    • Daughter Judy going to Genovia on mission trip, July 2018
    • Elroy playing in marching band at Winter Olympics
    • Calvin is engaged to Susie; wedding April 15th
    • Planning Grand Canyon vacation summer 2018
    • Granddaughter Sarah is expecting first child in May
    • Lucy (wife) just started Master’s program in Counseling, September 2017; expects to graduate 2020
  • If they or I made a future commitment, I would of course schedule a task reminder, but it is good for me to see it in the Notes too because of the potentially long time frame and that I would see/talk to them before that time occurs:
    • Would consider increasing support after last daughter graduates from college, May 2019
    • Asked me to stop by next time I’m in town” (too vague to have a real task assigned)
  • Some people like to record the details from their past appointments here instead of using the individual History items. They do this for two reasons: (1) they can then scroll through all of that history on one screen instead of scrolling through a lot of non-appointment activity (see pics below) and (2) they can export this notes tab to a Getting to Know You form (links at bottom) or some other export.




I can definitely see why people do it this way. The disadvantage of recording appointments on the Notes tab are two-fold:

  1. You cannot search/filter/export the Appointment history
  2. You don’t capture the appointment on the “Last Visit” field
  3. When you do export your contact lists (Current Group | Export Current Group), the Notes field export could be enormous.

But those reasons are not strong enough to say “Don’t do it that way!” Because: YOU SHOULD USE TNT THE WAY IT HELPS YOU.

For me personally, I use the Notes field sparingly because of the way I frequently export my data and because I am obsessive about using the History log. Only 1/3 of my contacts have any Notes at all, and the average for them is just 15 words.

If you want to include your Notes in the Getting to Know You forms, re-read these blog posts:

Blog post: Getting to Know You (July 25, 2016)

Blog post: Getting to Know You More (Oct. 31, 2017)


Love ’em but don’t leave ’em: Archiving

“I have contacts who have no activity for years. I’m tired of seeing them in my list. What do I do?”

I have fielded this question many times over the years and the criteria for wanting to [remove] [delete] [hide] [archive] contacts varies from person to person, so for the purposes of this blog post I’ll use the word “Archive” to define the general class of contacts I do not really want to see anymore.

If you’re like me, sometimes you actually want conflicting things. For example, I can say, “I never want to see X contact again because they are no longer a part of my ministry”, and then in the next sentence say, “I want to run a lifetime report in the Contribution Report” [and that same contact had giving history 15 years ago]. If I delete that contact from my database, their history is lost as well.

This is different, of course, from these contacts with whom I am likely to never have any connection with again, and my assumption here is that these are many years past:

  • A former prayer partner (no giving history) who is now deceased. The Bible seems pretty strong on the prohibition against contacting dead people!
  • A referral who I presented my ministry to but who said No to partnership, does not receive my newsletter, etc.
  • A referral that I received whom I was never able to reach at all

One solution is to move all of the contacts I don’t want into a separate “archive” database; that database would grow and grow over time. But that’s problematic because (a) I now have relevant/historical data in two separate places (bad for reporting and analysis) and (b) TntConnect doesn’t make that easy (I cannot just ship a contact from one database to another).

Another solution is just to delete any contact I don’t think I want anymore.

My personal philosophy is to err on the side of “not deleting”. The only contacts I have ever deleted, which probably equals about 12, are the third one in the list above: Referrals I never connected with and probably will never reach out to again.

So I how do I handle this situation?

First, I changed my attitude about contacts. When I first went into ministry, I only kept contacts who received my newsletter (financial partner or not), or for those whom I was actively cultivating. Once someone said “No”–whether they had never given or had been a financial partner before–they left my list. So my list was focused only on the “very active” person (and unfortunately I have 1000+ contacts missing from my current TNT database).

Once I started using TNT, I changed to what I call “the phone book approach”. Back in the days of the paper phone book, our local phone book was filled with all of the names in town that I needed and countless names of people I never knew. Ah, the good old days, eh? It did not bother me that this book was full of irrelevant names; I just ignored the ones I did not need. So in TNT I adopted the same thinking. Currently I have about 10 names in my database for every 1 who gets my newsletter. Another 1 of 10 (10%) may be contacts I am cultivating, while the other 80% are long past and will have no connection again.

I keep these names because I want to retain all of the history of the activity… the phone calls and appointments I went on, the gifts they may have given, and even just the fact they were referred to me by someone who cared enough to share a name.

So here’s how I handle this in TNT:

  1. I use the User Status field to call them “Archive”
  2. Lookup | By Field // User Status is not Archive
  3. Add Current Lookup to Favourites
  4. Then I chose this Favourite lookup as my Default Lookup in the Options (Tools | Options | User Interface)

This is not a perfecsolution by any means. The archived contacts are only hidden when I first open TNT, not “Always hide them except when I specifically want to see them”; but I think that would be hard to program because TNT could not really know when *I* want to see an archived contact but *YOU* would not in the same circumstances.

Launching into 2018

Greetings and welcome to 2018! I just returned from a fund development conference in Switzerland where I was working with local teams in using TntConnect to raise funds for local ministry projects. Over the past year I have only scratched the surface of Local Team tools within TNT (such as the Campaign Builder and the Promise Tracker). When I talk about those things, it is my goal to help people figure out how to use those features for their own personal support (because the features are great even for individual users).

For http://www.TNT.tips, I’m looking forward a great 2018. The feedback from my survey last month has been very helpful, and here are the summary results:

  • Future: 100% of respondents said “Please continue”. Of course this is encouraging, but since a blog subscriber is already on board, that makes sense. 🙂
  • Blog posts: The affirmation that the blog posts I have been choosing are helpful and meaningful. When I asked which posts were most helpful, every person gave a different answer.
  • Desired frequency: Once per week (by far the most popular choice).

Tell us more about… (What posts would you like in the future?) This is a summary of the comments:

  • Best practices for managing two data bases
  • Best way to sync your db to phone (Android) & how to sync only a select group.
  • Tips on managing Saved Groups
  • Managing work flow in TNT… lifting contacts to a higher level of commitment, running a campaign (not just financially but the steps involved).
  • Tips on searching (email addresses, other lookups)
  • Understanding differences between Campaigns (new) and Appeals (previously)
  • How to manage data in fields… using Notes field vs. other fields, etc.
  • More on maps
  • Occasional Mac specific that are unique to Mac.
  • MPDX [assorted]

I appreciate the input and will be addressing all of these in upcoming weeks. Except, well, there are some I cannot answer, so if it’s your question…

Mac-specific questions: I’m afraid I do not use a Mac so my experience with TNT on a Mac is extremely limited to the little I have helped people around me doing it. 😦

MPDX: MPDX is a different support-raising software than TNT, built by Cru. Both are free, and they approach support raising management in very different ways. The goal of a support raising software is to help missionaries build powerful ministry partner teams, and my opinion is that missionaries should use the best tool for their needs. Having said that, this blog is focused exclusively on TNT because MPDX has its own team of support professionals. If you have questions about MPDX, you can email me directly at www.TNT.tips@gmail.com or contact help@MPDX.org.

Synchronizing with Android: TNT has a link to Outlook, but it is a bit technical and only a small percentage of TNT users use it. It is not a seamless Google integration (no support raising software that I am aware of has a seamless Google link). I generally do not discuss synchronizing with Outlook/Google because it is so technical that most users don’t want to jump through the hoops.

Thanks for the helpful input, and I hope this blog continues to help you build better relationships with your ministry partners.