It’s that time of year… graduations abound!

Graduations are a great time to connect with our ministry partners because for those who have teens graduating, it is usually a festive time. There are four common areas with our partners’ children where we try to exert ourselves:

  • Birth of the child (for younger partners)
  • High School Graduations
  • Mission Trip appeals
  • Marriage

As we and our partners walk through life, these tend to come in waves. We don’t see as many births nowadays as we do graduations, for example.

There are other events too, of course, such as college graduation or when a partner’s child has their own child. But I view those as stemming out the relationship I am building with that child. By the time they are graduating from college or having their own children, I need to have a personal relationship with them to consider giving a gift or card.

TntConnect offers a broad range of Dealing With Gifts, including gifts we give to our partners. I use the Present task type to record sending these gifts. If it is for a mission trip, I just write the amount of the gift. If it is for a graduation or marriage we often send a gift card.

The Present task type:


Recording a graduation gift:


Recording a gift for a child’s mission trip:


When we do a graduation gift card, it is usually a token gift of $10 or $15 to a restaurant near them, such as Dairy Queen or Chick-fil-A, or occasionally a retailer like Walmart. And as a general rule, I try to send it as soon as possible after receiving the graduation announcement… to do this I plan ahead with a supply of Congratulations cards and the gift cards I want to use.

Here’s one other thought: When you receive a graduation announcement, you may want to send a separate happy note to the parents too… they got them there! I just thought of that this year. 🙂


Urgent Campaign, Part 2

In my previous post, I shared about an urgent campaign I am working on related to the purchase of a new vehicle. I used TntConnect’s Campaign Builder to help me categorize my team into four groups. That was the easy part.

The harder part was building my challenge. I have a specific amount I need to raise, and I asked myself how to spread that need across a list of ~150 people. I do not need to go into exhaustive detail because I am not “teaching” you how to do this, but just sharing an idea to spur your thinking.

One option, of course, would be to just send an open-ended ask, which I have frequently done with a year-end appeal or a summer training conference appeal; but I ruled that out because open-ended asks (in my experience) do not work well with a significant and specific need.

There are several other options, but in this case I tried something I have never done before: I individually challenged each partner to give based on the amount of their giving over the past year. I used the Campaign Builder to categorize my newsletter list into four Groups:


  • For  Prospects ($0 average giving over the past two years) in the campaign], I challenged all to give “$25 or $50”. This list represents about 1/3 of my newsletter recipients, so any gift from them will be new and unusual.
  • Entry-level partners (monthly average $1 to $100), the challenge went up in $25 increments relative to their giving, so roughly equal to their monthly average. I also hand-wrote a short note on the bottom of each of these letters.
  • Mid-level partners (monthly average $100 to $200), I challenged to give similarly but with a bigger spread: “$150 or $250”.
  • Top-level partners I held back to give a personal challenge to. For these partners, I plan to verbally present the need and let them decide.

This ask involves a little bit of Excel work, because I needed to know their “Average Monthly Giving” to determine how much to challenge each person.

From the “idea” perspective, I’ve reached my maximum words, so please stop reading unless you want more details and some preliminary results…

Some practical details…

I used Group Actions | Export Current Group to send the list(s) to Excel, with both of the letter/envelope merge fields (Greetings and Mailing Address Block). But I also exported the Average Monthly Gift field to help me determine the challenge amount.


  • Columns A & B: Greetings and Mailing Address Block for the letter and envelope
  • Column C: Average Monthly Gift field from TNT
  • Column D: My suggested gift #1
  • Column E: My suggested gift #2

My ask was easy to calculate because I am attempting to raise about 25-50% more than one month’s average giving. Since I challenged most of my partners to give an amount roughly equal to their average monthly gift—which is an amount they can easily relate to—if 100% of my partners respond I will meet that goal.

But my experience does not suggest that will happen. By challenging those who never give, and offering a challenge roughly double each person’s monthly gift, the ‘maximum challenge’ is about 50% more than I actually need.

I included the challenge amount in the letter and also a mail merged response card that has their name and amounts (so that the right card gets with the right letter). [Note: Printing those response cards also involved a little bit of Excel-wizardry.]


Preliminary Results

Just in the time I was writing this blog I had to live my real life, so between the time I started writing two weeks ago and now I have sent the letter and already received 23 responses. As always, God has surprised me! I received the first gift notification (an email from my organization) on the first business day after I mailed the letter and the first paper gift (in the return envelope) the day after that.

Of those 23 gifts, 17 of them (about 75%) have given the higher amount I suggested! And 7 of the responses (30%) are from those who have not given at all in the past year. And for 1 of them, it is the first gift they have ever given to our ministry. Finally, we are just under 1/3 of our total need so far and I have yet to pick up the phone to reach out to our top-level partners. Thanks, Lord. 🙂


p.s. Shout out: We purchased our new vehicle from mats.orgIt arrived two days ago, and we are delighted.


An Urgent Campaign Idea

And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”

Matthew 20:30-33

QUESTION: When you present a financial need to your partnership team, do you ask for a specific amount or do you just share—or maybe even just hint—at the need and hope they catch it and give generously?

If Jesus, both omniscient and loving, knew what the blind men wanted (to gain sight), why did he ask them what they wanted?

I have learned the importance of asking specifically when presenting financial needs.

We are unexpectedly in need of a new vehicle for our family, and want to present a special giving opportunity to our partners. Because I have both a fairly large amount I am trying to raise (over $10,000) and my need is urgent (this month), I quickly prepared a Campaign to present this need to our partnership team.

I realized this was the perfect opportunity for me to use the Campaign Builder for the first time! (I have written about this many times, and taught in in classes, but this is the first time I have been able to use it for my own campaigns.)

The Campaign Builder in TNT allows me to automatically categorize a list of contacts into four specific levels based on giving history. (My list of contacts that I used was “My normal monthly newsletter list minus about 10% who I either never send appeals to, those who recently gave a special gift, and those who have reduced their monthly giving in the past year.”)

The top-level group is the highest third of giving, then the second and final third. The fourth level has no giving history so they cannot be financially categorized (but I will challenge them anyway). Statistically, this will create a pyramid because my top-third of givers is a smaller number of partners than the bottom third. (In fact, while the feature is called a “Campaign Builder”, in fund development we call it the Partner Pyramid.)


The Campaign Builder in TNT looks like this, with each level being a different colour; notice to the right of each level is the # of contacts that make up that group:

[ This sample Campaign Builder is created using my TntConnect training database. These numbers do not reflect my current team, nor the current capacity for our own partners. ]
I pressed the “Build Campaign” button (not shown above) and TNT automatically (a) created the Campaign in my list of campaigns and (b) Created a set of Saved Groups for the campaign itself, with a sub-group for each level. The sub-groups were exclusive, meaning that any contact can only be in one sub-group.

I will not go into further details as I could write an entire book on the subject of assorted features related to Campaigns, Promises, and Allocations. But for this blog post, let me say these things:

  1. I really, honestly, used the Campaign Builder for this specific fund appeal. I’m not just giving a hypothetical example.
  2. After I launched the Campaign Builder, I was able to manually move some contacts up or down into different levels just for this appeal.
  3. After I built the campaign and had the contacts assigned to each of the four levels, I planned my fund appeal strategy for each level separately. (That is the entire idea of a Partner Pyramid: You approach each level with a different challenge).
  4. For my Top-level partners, I am going to call them personally and challenge them.
  5. For my Mid-level partners, I am challenging them for a specific amount based on their past giving. These are tiered from $150 up to about $300.
  6. For my Entry-level partners, I am challenging them for a range based on their giving. These vary from “$25 to $50” to “$100 to $150”.
  7. For my Prospects, I am challenging them for a modest suggested range ($50 or $100). If any of these give, it may the first gift they have ever given to our personal ministry.

In my next blog post I will share how I came up with the ranges to challenge for, based on each partner’s giving history and our total need.