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Psst… (I use Index Cards)

Llivia-Spain-in-France

Beautiful Llivia. Question: Which country is Llivia in?

NEWS FLASH: Index cards are the most efficient and effective support raising tool available.

I’m kidding, of course. But a statement like that does get attention. Sounds odd, of course, coming from the guy who writes the http://www.TNT.tips blog. I secretly feel like the guy who works for Coca-Cola but doesn’t drink soda. Well, it is not quite like that. Everyone who works for Coke also drinks water, right?

I use TntConnect for my support “almost all of the time”. Yet I do use index cards and consider them an integral part of my support efforts.

When I coach missionaries in raising support, I often tell them that I believe the statement I made above: That index cards are the most efficient and effective tool available.

Why do I say that to them? Do I really want them to eschew TntConnect? Not at all.

Partly I do it just to shock them: Our generation has been lulled into the belief that if you cannot do it electronically, you cannot do it at all (or, at minimum, it is archaic and cumbersome).

But using index cards—instead of software—can help people (okay, me) be more focused. While using my computer during support raising, I cannot tell you how much I have learned about remote islands when I should have been making support-raising phone calls. Did you know that Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on Earth? Or that Llivia is a Spanish city located entirely within France? (That is, it is an exclave of Spain.)

Two days ago I published a blog post about the Partner Tracking Form. Right after that I created and printed 4×6 index cards (Partner Tracking 4×6) for every donor who has given a gift in the past year. It is my plan over the next 2-3 weeks just to call them.

Using index cards will enable me to do that easily without turning on my computer. This not only will help me avoid distractions (especially email), but will also be faster since I can boot up my index cards even faster than my computer.

Here’s my simple card, with plenty of room to write prayer requests or any note I glean if I happen to reach a real person when I call. I can update TntConnect later.

It is also easier for me to pray for my partners because I can sit in a comfortable chair and just flip through the cards. If I have my computer open… there’s no telling where I’ll end up.

Interested in my 4×6 Index Card? You can download it here and use it with TntConnect’s mail merge. (4×6 is a US measurement; you can adjust it for your “large” index card in your country, if you’re interested.)

Partner-Tracking-4×6

Hi, Clark, meet Clark

I am absolutely convinced that when it comes to interpersonal relations, the digital age has hindered us, not helped us.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, my mother had a “Day Timer” brand address book–which she filled out by hand. It was the handiest little tool for her. It had tiny little rings and she could add pages whenever she got too many names for one letter of the alphabet. In the box with each address, there was actually a set of little checkboxes and she could record sending and receiving Christmas cards each year from each person in her list.

She had that book for years–maybe two decades. Never lost it or left it anywhere. And in it she had every name and address of significance to her. She hand-addressed every Christmas card she sent.

Fast forward 30-40 years, and tell me if our lives have improved:

  • Now I have multiple name and address tools.
  • I have TntConnect, my phone’s Contacts app, several email systems, online address lists for Boy Scouts or our school groups or our church small groups.
  • Most of these lists still do not synchronize with each other.
  • And even more than that, everyone I know now has about 10-15 “addresses, #, @, and phone numbers” vs. the one address and two phone numbers (home and work) they used to have.
  • And this is easier?!

Of course, the irony here is that we have more information about our friends than ever before, yet it is harder to reach them than ever.

I think we dream of a time when every we will have a “one stop shop” for every name and address.

In the meantime, at least, TntConnect does at least help you avoid duplicates in one system. When I enter a new contact–or download a gift from a person for the first time–TntConnect scans through my database to see if that person may already be in my database. For example, if I enter Clark Kent as a new contact in my database, TntConnect not only checks to see if there is a Clark Kent already in there, but even the addresses too (to see if “Clark Kent” on 123 Maple St. is the same as “Lois Kent” on 123 Maple St.).

This type of duplicate checking is a handy little feature that in the big picture does not make a major difference. But it is a nice thing, and I appreciate it.

TntConnect: Not just for support raising

Quick question: Did you know that TntConnect can be used for more than support raising?

My main ministry calling is helping missionaries and ministries use God’s money wisely. Typically, this means helping them with assorted financial management tools (such as TntConnect). But it also means helping them with software like Microsoft Office products and other accounting and finance software. I also do a lot of coaching both for support raising and personal financial stewardship.

Because I have met with over 1,000 people in these activities over the past 12 years, I have found that keeping a separate TntConnect database just for this purpose is very helpful. Especially when I am serving as a support raising coach and meet with someone every week, it is so helpful to use TntConnect’s powerful history engine to track our appointments, and their commitments for the week. I have used it to track classes I have taught all over the world, and even tech support work I have done–sometimes years later–with people who attended those classes.

Only 20% of the contacts in my TntConnect databases are current donors to our ministry work.

TntConnect could be very useful for anyone who is involved in a regular coaching or discipleship context. It could also be useful for tracking attendance at events of various kinds.

And, from a non-ministry perspective, TntConnect would be useful for anyone who wants a powerful tracking tool for tracking their work in a non-profit, in a community setting, or even as a sales/customer relationship tool.

Of course TntConnect is designed primarily for support raising, and its gift-management features are what make it unique. And there are many tools out there, especially online, that are designed for managing tasks and relationships. But the History engine in TntConnect is so powerful and fast that it really sets TntConnect apart from any other software in the world (in my opinion). Lately I have been test driving other support raising software, and I have never seen any software that manages tasks/history with anything even close to the power TNT does.

Plus, I like using the same software for both ministry and non-ministry… then I am only managing one tool.

Food for thought.

Correspondence Log & Contractors

  • Is your [non-donor] plumber or attorney in TntConnect?
  • Did you log your last phone call with your cell phone provider or your last appliance repair in TntConnect?
  • Did it ever occur to you to even do that?

Here’s an entry I pulled from 2007 in my TNT, when I wrote a sympathy card to someone in my church. Here’s the note I logged in my history:

Recently, Chris’s company was bought out; the new company fired the entire leadership team, including Chris. While reeling from this, his father died. While he was at the funeral, lightning struck the exhaust fan in his bathroom, catching it on fire, which fell in the garbage can, starting it on fire, which burned through the toilet supply hose, which flooded the house, causing $35k in damages.

Chris is not a donor or even a prospect to my personal ministry, but I wrote him a card. And I logged it in TNT. Recently I have been trying to write more personal thank yous (on real paper) to non-donors—a vendor I met with recently, a co-worker who went the extra mile for me, a leader in my Scout troop who just turned 50.

I have a contact in TNT simply named, “Correspondence Log“, and in that contact’s history I log a wide variety of things:

  • Letters, thank yous, and notes to non-partners
  • Canceling subscriptions or other annoying solicitations
  • Any interaction with a vendor that I might want to recall later (often these start out with a single call, but then if not resolved take multiple calls, remembering who I talked to, what their commitment/next action was, etc.)

I have a second contact in TNT named, “Contractors”. In the Notes tab I have a list of contractors I have worked with, and then in the History I log any kind of service call, appliance repair, etc.

Finally, for those individuals or professionals I visit on a regular basis, I have added them as new contacts with the TNT Phase of “Never Ask”:

  • Doctor
  • Dentists
  • Attorney

These contacts are individually added to my database because I want their full name, address, and phone numbers, just like I do with my other contacts.

These special contacts (“Correspondence Log” and “Contractors”) are setup as organizations:

2017-05-18-CorrespondenceLog1

And I log relevant conversations:

2017-05-18-CorrespondenceLog22017-05-18-CorrespondenceLog3

“Variant or Safe Array is Locked”

“Variant or Safe Array is Locked”

If there was ever a helpful error message, that’s it. If you use a PC, you may have seen that error this week when you tried to come in to TntConnect.

This is not really a TntConnect error. Microsoft downloaded a new “Update” onto your computer–you know, that lovely “Update and Shut Down” and you have no idea how long that will take. Then you may not have opened TNT until later or even the next day. That security update is what prevented TntConnect from opening your database.

There’s already a fix for this, and you can install the latest release to get it.

The error only prevents your database from opening, not the software itself.

If you have TntConnect open (even with your database being open), just select Help | Check for Updates. You can then download the current release (3.2 r8 at the moment I am writing this), which overcomes this Windows obstacle.

If you do not have TntConnect open, just go also to the TntConnect web site and download the latest version from there.

2017-04-14-CheckForUpdates

Just for fun, here’s an error report I received from a user three years ago yesterday (in our ministry’s help tool for donation software):

2017-04-14-2014HelpRequest

I hope you have a blessed Easter! Remember, we’re in mission work because Christ died on the cross for our sins… and rose again. Little errors like this one today are just the little challenges we face in doing this great work.

 

A deceased advertising exec helps me with support raising

This is a free bonus post about support raising, not really related to TntConnect.

I just stopped in to Staples (an office supply store in the U.S.), and honestly it was to use the restroom and not to buy office supplies.

As I left the restroom, I passed some of their office furniture, and on a desk was a stray book from their very tiny book rack. It was titled It’s Not How Good You are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden—an advertising executive who passed away in 2008.

Curious, I picked it up to see if I could get the gist of it in 5 seconds before leaving the store. It was a small book with big page headings, wide margins, and a large font. Two minutes later I was sitting in one of the office chairs skimming the book. Ten minutes later I had skimmed about 75% of it. Then I purchased it and left the store with it.

Why is that?

Because I realized the book was about support raising.

My main takeaway—which I hope to gather more of when I can actually sit down and read it fully—is that my attitude is the #1 predictor of my forward motion. But I also got some other things from this rapid skimming:

  • The easiest way to get to a goal is to write it down in the first place and pursue it unswervingly
  • Failure is awesome and extremely helpful. The most successful people have failed a lot. It’s the people who play it safe who never seem to move forward much.
  • It’s a lot easier to talk to a client (e.g., potential ministry partner) in a language they understand… instead of trying to get them to understand my language.

And this isn’t the first book that struck me this way.

Outside of the support-raising “greats” (Funding Your Ministry and The God Ask), the greatest book I ever read on raising financial support was The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing by Doug Brendel. A book about fund-development for small (and large) ministries, I ‘found’ it in the lobby of a hotel at a conference on ministry operations that I was attending in February 1999.

This was not a book for any of my sessions, and another attendee must have either discarded it or forgotten it. Or so I thought when I picked it up and skimmed the chapter headings. But God had put it there for me, and it absolutely transformed how I both think and act about raising financial support for my ministry.

In November 2012 I read The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough. This deeply-researched history on the building of the Panama Canal contains, smack dab in the middle, several pages about an obscure Frenchman, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who undertook to get the forsaken project sold to a leery American Congress. Thirty thousand people died while the French tried to build the Panama Canal before abandoning it 10% finished. The U.S. government was intent on building a canal, but in Nicaragua. How did he almost single-handedly change the mind of hundreds of key decision-makers? By employing the very same principles of building relationships that are so critical to raising personal support:

  • Believing unswervingly in our calling
  • Seeking referrals at every opportunity
  • Being generous with gifts to those who support our work
  • Thanking everyone who should be thanked, immediately

My point in sharing about these three books is that in each of these cases, these books had absolutely nothing to do with raising personal financial support. Yet amazingly, it is from unlikely sources like these I have found some of the most helpful principles that I apply in my support raising.

(The connection to TntConnect: TntConnect helps me put these principles into practice.)