Ask No Ask

  • “There’s an exception to every rule.”
  • “In a multiple choice test, ‘always’ or ‘never’ are absolutes and are rarely the correct answer.”
  • “We should always challenge everyone on our partnership team when doing a Special Ask Appeal.”

In my early years in ministry I used to spend a lot more time fretting about who to ask (for special gifts), what to ask for, how to word the ask, and when to ask. After reading excellent support raising books like Funding Your Ministry (Scott Morton) and The God Ask (Steve Shadrach), and The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing (Brendel), my view on asking for support broadened.

And an ancillary benefit of that expansion is that creating fund appeals is a lot faster than it used to be… because I am not wasting as much time culling my list for just the correct set of people to ask in any given letter, or spending literally days crafting the letter as if that was the magic bullet.

As a general rule, I do this with special gift appeals: “Ask everyone except those I do not ask.”

I have a special Saved Group titled, “Ask Exclude”. In this Group I have a small number of contacts (under 10 currently) whom I never send an ask to. This list includes three types of contacts:

  • Organizational/church contacts for whom a special ask may seem inappropriate. That is, these recipients want ministry updates, but I want to reserve special gift appeals to individuals within the organization or church, not the entity itself.
  • Relatives who may not be believers, or might have a narrow view of fund-raising. Or, to put it another way, these are people who may have reservations about fund-raising, or may have a negative view of churches or mission agencies who do fund appeals. If I send appeals to them, it may reinforce their negative views.
  • Contacts who have specifically indicated to me that they do not want to receive appeals.
  • Contacts who I am concerned that due to their age they may not interpret the ask correctly.

As I said, in my current list of Ask Exclude I have fewer than 10.

[ I also will typically exclude people who recently gave a special gift for some other reason or had a very recent change in their giving up or down. But that’s not the focus of this post. ]

When I am creating a new Campaign and want to generate the letter, I do the lookup for paper newsletter, then Lookup | By Group, and use “Take away from the current group” to remove the Ask Exclude group.

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I am a firm believer in presenting our special needs to our partners (as you are aware from our recent vehicle ask). I send at least one special ask appeal every year, sometimes two.

I am not saying that every appeal I send is always “to my entire less minus the Ask Exclude”. Sometimes I do send a special appeal to a select group of partners. But I generally start with everyone, remove the Ask Exclude, then tweak the list from there.

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“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.

He giveth and taketh away

One of the most well-known, and truly unique features, of TntConnect is the “universal filter”, the Lookup tool that allows you to add or remove any criteria from any Lookup. Most web-based tools (like shopping sites) allow you to narrow down the list, but very few allow you narrow down and add to, or “reverse” the lookup, or even combine disparate items.

TntConnect 3.2 adds some similar functionality to a little-known feature called Mass Change a Field.

TNT’s ability to change the value of a single field for all selected contacts has always been super-helpful to me. For example, I was adding the Church Name to about 20 contacts one time. I could do that for each contact individually… or I could make the Current Group those 20 contacts, then select Group Actions | Mass Change a Field and do it all at once.

Group Field Change in earlier versions of TNT: Deleted the old field value and replaced it with the new value:

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Now in 3.2 the options are expanded:

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You can now (still) simply “replace” the old field value with the new one (that is, “Change Field”).

But you can also Add to Comma Separated List, which will take the value you have and place it after a comma in addition to any other items that are in the field. Or, Remove from Comma Separated List, which will delete the chosen value if it exists in that field.

Many people use the User Fields to make TNT unique and personal. For example, if I was in athletic ministry and I renamed User 1 to be “Favourite Sports Team”. Some people may have one team: “Montreal Canadiens”. But others might have two “Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Blue Jays” or more.

The beauty of TntConnect’s amazingly powerful lookups/filters (as mentioned at the top) is that I can do Lookups within a field. Let’s say, for example, that I want to find all contacts for whom “Montreal” is in Favourite Sports Team (whether it is the Canadiens, the Expos, the Alouettes, etc.), I can just do a lookup for that:

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To wrap up, the powerful Lookups, the versatile User Fields, and the nifty Mass Change a Field all work together to make managing a lot of information very helpful. Indeed, it is so exciting it is almost like sitting in a hockey arena watching the Stanley Cup. 😉