Exclusive Saved Groups + Export

Here’s something that probably keeps you up at night:

“What should I use, User Fields or Saved Groups?”

Come on, admit it. There’s no shame. You toss and turn over the subject. I saw you brooding at Starbucks just the other day, muttering under your breath, “Saved Groups, User Fields, Saved Groups, User Fields … “.


I could probably write dozens of posts on the great and subtle nuances of User Fields vs. Saved Groups.

Under the surface, by the way, they are actually the same thing… just a “Tag” that you assign. This tag allows you to filter and sort ad nauseum.

Other software tries to lump all user-defined activity into flat tags. TNT sends that into the stratosphere by the plethora of ways you can sort, filter, group, and export tags, which most other software cannot touch.

In this extra-long post, then, I want to describe a subtle you probably did not know about because it is not obvious. Once you see it, you’ll say, “Where have you been all my life???”

You can make any Saved Group into an Exportable Contact field.

Historically (for the last 10 years at least), one of the primary benefits of User Fields over Saved Groups has been that they could be exported. It’s great to have multiple saved groups, but the only way to export was to lookup the group, then export the contacts... and then in Excel manually notate/sort them. This was awkward, especially if you were comparing membership in multiple saved groups. But that changed this year with this new feature.

Here’s a real world example I was using just yesterday, which is what led me to write this post.

On my team, we do an annual fund-raising event where we invite some of the most generous partners of our ministry.

I can (and do) easily log attendance at these events using the powerful Log History jet engine. But because of the significance of this event (it’s huge to us) and because a number of the guests come multiple times, I needed a better way to manage it. Also, I want to know exactly how many people attend each year… without having to use the History log to count it.

So I created a set of Exclusive Saved Groups that layers the entire event (called “Briefing”), then each year, with attendance underneath. Note in the picture below that I also have separate saved groups for the people who run the event, and the program people (speakers/musicians).


In the set of 19 saved groups, the entire set [labeled “Briefing”, and in black] is not exclusive (meaning any one contact can be in multiple years). But each individual year is exclusive (in blue), so within any given year, a contact must be either in the parent group (e.g., BRFG17) or the nested groups (17-Guest, 17-Speaker, or 17-Staff) but cannot be in more than one.

Note that the “Guest” group each year is shaded. This is the group that is made into a contact field:


Then in the Contacts View I created a Favourite Lookup (using Lookup | By Group) that will return the list of all contacts who are Guests (this helps me do lookups on the financial commitments and giving as a result of each event).



Here’s where the magic happens. I could export this list of contacts, but I run into a problem: We had 290 guests total for all 5 events, but that was actually only 213 people as several have attended multiple years. If I exported the list of 213, I would have no way of knowing which year(s) they attended.

BUT, by making them into Contact fields, I can now export them:


And then I can see the results in Excel, making it VERY easy for me to compare attendees for all years (that is, ‘this contact is a Member of that saved group’).


To reiterate this important tip: Note that TNT alerts me as to which Saved Groups are also Contact fields, by shading them in the Groups list:


As usual, I have only scratched the surface of how I use this feature. But this “Make Contact Field” feature is something I have used many times this year, and it has been a great addition.


When Bureaucracy Is a Good Thing

“Bureauracracy” usually brings up images of multiple (and seemingly unnecessary) layers of management.

But in TntConnect, multiple layers are now a good thing.

TntConnect 3.2 now offers unlimited sub-groups in the Saved Groups.

Previously, you could only have a “Category” with Groups underneath it. You could have neither sub-groups, nor contacts within the Category itself (it was just a label, for ‘grouping groups’).

Now there are no more “Categories”, just a “Parent Group”. And like a real family, a Parent can have children, grand-children, great-grands, etc.


In this example, in previous versions of TNT, “Year-End Campaign” was just a category, but it could have no contacts in it. Now, it is a Group too, and it can have contacts.

When you look at the Groups tab (in the Contacts View), you can see how these same groups are listed. Note that “Exclusive Saved Groups” (where a contact can be in only one of the available groups) stand out with a line above and below the exclusive set.


In this example, “Year-End Campaign” is the parent group. It is not exclusive, meaning it can contain contacts that also appear in the sub-groups.

Year-End Campaign\2015 is an exclusive set of groups, so any contact can only be in (a) the parent group (“2015”) or one of the sub-groups.

Year-End Campaign\2016 is also an exclusive set of groups, but not mutually exclusive to 2015. So the same contact can be in one of the 2015 exclusive groups and the 2016 exclusive groups.

And this example is a common one in sending campaigns. With a year-end campaign, for example, it would be normal to send a letter to all partners each year. But you still want to know (later) which group they were in (e.g., made a follow-up call, decision received, etc.).

(Almost) As sweet as Chocolate

I am writing from Switzerland, and that is apropos because I love chocolate. One of my favourite books is The Emperors of Chocolate, the definitive (and only) history of both the Hershey Company and Mars Chocolates.

In November I was in Brussels—the chocolate capital of the world—walking around the city square literally giddy with excitement at the sheer volume of chocolate stores (as well as the free samples, he he).

I came on this current trip with the wrapper of a chocolate I bought in Brussels, hoping against hope I might find it here in Switzerland.

My kids’ stuffed animals travel with me–and were thrilled to meet the Milka Cow in the airport in Amsterdam.

What does chocolate have to do with Saved Groups / User Fields? Well—give me a minute, okay, sure, it’s stretch—I love them both. And there are subtle qualities that just raise them to the level of excellence. And the more you know about them, the more you appreciate them.

Do you like milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Many people have pretty strong feelings about them, typically preferring one over the other. I like them both… the right chocolate for the right time.

Well, Saved Groups and User Fields are like that. Both chocolate, and yet subtly different. And both magical.

Let’s say you are passionate about chocolate like I am. So much so that you always ask your partners what their favourite chocolates are. Then you have to record this information in TntConnect, and you can use either a User Field or a Saved Group. Both will accomplish the goal—but have different virtues.

Favourite Chocolate as a User Field: (This appears as a drop-down, with the list growing automatically as I add new chocolates.)


Favourite Chocolate as a Saved Group:


Favourite Chocolate as a Saved Group, using the new ‘nested’ groups.


One blog post cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the virtues of Saved Groups and User Fields—for they are many. Over this week I will be exploring some of these features, as they are related to TntConnect 3.2.

In the meantime, I need to go take a walk and find some chocolate.

Major Changes to Saved Groups / Sub-groups

TntConnect 3.2 introduces two major changes to the way the Saved Groups handles sub-groups.

1. The “Category” has been replaced by a “Parent Group”

In TNT 3.1 and earlier, you could see a Category of Saved Group, with sub-groups below it:


In the above example, the Category is “Other Newsletters“, but that is just a label for the sub-groups to be hung under.

In TntConnect 3.2, that Category is gone, replaced by a “Parent Group”. Now, “Other Newsletters” is also a Saved Group–and Contacts can be added to it. Then, sub-groups can be added to it.

2. New, “unlimited nested sub-groups” allows you to make additional sub-groups under any sub-group. There are no limits to how many layers you can make (you may not want 10 layers, but you could make them!)

Example. Goal: Create a sub-group for my Christmas letter, which is already a sub-group of my “Other Newsletters” parent group above:



On the Groups Tab, these groups will appear like this. Notice that the “Handwritten Note” sub-group is a three-group string separated by slashes:


Notice in this image that “Other Newsletters” is now its own Saved Group which this contact can also be added to. This set of sub-groups is NOT exclusive, which you can tell because it is not blue. That means that one contact can be in any or all of the nested sub-groups.

I will not go into detail here about why a “Parent Group” is better than a Category, other than to say this: Having a parent group is super-helpful when building a strategy that you want to move a lot of contacts through (such as an Increase Strategy). I will explain this more in a future blog post.

Drumroll please: EXCLUSIVE Saved Groups

Exclusive Saved Groups means that a contact may only be in ONE of the sub-groups, unlike previously when a contact could be in multiple groups in the category.

I have longed for this feature for years. Indeed, my video on using Saved Groups to manage an Increase Strategy would have been substantially easier had Exclusive Saved Groups been available back then!

Basics of Exclusive Saved Groups:

  • Only available by right-clicking in the Groups list and selecting “New Exclusive Group”
  • Can have “nested exclusive saved groups” (also new in 3.2, and covered in an upcoming blog post)
  • When you add a contact to the Exclusive Saved Group and that contact is already in a related exclusive group, that contact will be removed (without notification) from the other group. (You can see this happen if you check the box on the Groups tab)
  • Are more visible on the Groups tab. Now, instead of a simple, long list of all Groups, all exclusive saved groups are in blue and have a line above and below the exclusive set.


There are several subtle nuances that I do not have room to explain here, but you can learn about through trial-and-error.

Not all sub-groups should be exclusive

There are times, of course, when you want one contact to be allowed in multiple sub-groups. For example, I have a “Newsletters” category that has four different newsletter options. The regular newsletter preferences (Paper, Email, etc., + multiple languages introduced in 3.1) are not helpful if you have multiple newsletters in the same language.


In this example, it is possible that one contact could receive multiple newsletters—such as the Christmas Newsletter and the Prayer Blast.

Edit Group Name in One Click

This tip should save you at least 0.0001 seconds of work. Actually, all it does is slightly change TNT so that this item does what people expect it to.

Prior to TntConnect 3.2, you needed to double-click on a Saved Group to edit the name:


Now you can edit by clicking once on the group name, then clicking once to edit:


I admit, this new “feature” may not be one to write home about. But what it does is simply respond “like users expect it to”. Double-clicking is not intuitive for all users.

(You still need to double click to define the Parent Group (formerly “Category”).

This is really just to whet your appetite: Over the next two weeks I will be devoting upwards of ten posts to the powerful new features of Saved Groups.