New Year’s Resolutions, Part II

Last week I shared about “New Year’s Resolutions” and how often these are idealistic and activity-based. For example, typical Resolutions include eating better or exercising. And it feels more achievable if we say, “I am going to go the gym three times a week.”

Of course we know that most New Year’s Resolutions last a week or less, so I have a couple of extra thoughts about how to make your “Support Raising Resolutions” stick.

The core to a successful Support Raising Resolution is the Annual Plan. Looking at a whole year really helps bring perspective.

First: Before making plans for the year, it is helpful to know where you are at. In support raising, this may include the following:

  • Knowing your realistic support goal (hopefully, based on your personal budget or ministry’s standards)
  • Knowing your solid monthly support
  • Therefore: Knowing how much you need to raise

Then: Make realistic plans for

  • Communications
  • Thanking your partners
  • Raising new support

The way TntConnect helps you in this process is primarily in helping you know what is true of your support. If you have assigned a Pledge Amount and Frequency to each partner, then the Analysis View will tell you your solid monthly support.

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If you have 45 partners and are at 90% of your support goal, then on average, each partner is 2% of your team. So theoretically, you need about 5 partners to bring you to 100%. (I do not mean to be simplistic, but sometimes simple goals are more attainable than really complex ones.)

New Year’s Resolutions, Part I

Every year after Christmas we start hearing about “New Year’s Resolutions”. And then, of course, anyone who hears about it mentions how those are often broken within days, if not hours. How come we cannot try to do good things without everyone telling us why we will fail? Hmmm.

While regular New Year’s Resolutions are typically focused on either better eating or exercise, with support raising we can also do similar New Year’s Resolutions:

  • “This year I am going to write thank yous sooner.”
  • “I’m going to call all of my partners personally, just by calling 2 every week.” etc. etc.

Like my other resolutions, grand (and vague) wishes like that usually last a few hours. But one thing we can do that is potentially more practical (and achievable) is come up with an Annual Plan that guides our support raising efforts throughout the year. The best way [my opinion] to do this is to coe up with a written plan with real activities and real deadlines.

For example, instead of the “write 2 thank yous per week” resolution, what if you actually printed a check list with each partner’s name and a date to send the thank you? Then you can get the satisfaction of checking off the list.

There are dozens of things you could do to start off your next year well from an MPD perspective. But as you consider this, let me give one piece of advice: People first. Your partners are what keep you in the mission field. So choose activities that will tangibly connect you with your partners.

In the upcoming New Year’s Resolutions entries, I’ll give a few simple and practical tips for starting off the new year.

Steady Plodding Brings Success

From Proverbs 21:5:

Steady plodding brings prosperity, Hasty speculation brings poverty. (Living Bible)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (ESV)

In my last year of college I took an “Outdoor Experience” class in college in Utah, which included three days in some of the most amazing locations on earth: Zion National Park. We took a hike up to Observation Point, four miles up long sweeping switchbacks, culminating in a stunning view down Zion Canyon. I was the very last person off the bus. I situated my shoes laces and my water bottle, took a deep breath and began the hike, periodically passing groups of other students taking pictures, goofing off, chatting, or otherwise just enjoying the beauty. Although I was practically the slowest walker in the group, I passed 37 of my group and was 4th to the top. Steady plodding brings success.

The point is that in almost every area of life, “planning” and “diligence” bring the desired result. But “hastiness”—either in planning or in execution—result in nothing. In fact, hastiness (poor planning, weak follow-through, etc.), could be WORSE than doing nothing, because it squanders even what you have.

Support raising is an excellent example of this. One of my co-workers likens fund development to farming, not hunting. A hunter goes out and kills game, lives off of it for a time, then goes and hunts more. But someone who plants a farm—and even better, an orchard—sows and cultivates over a long time. A well cultivated orchard takes a long time to yield, but once it starts, as long as it is maintained it will provides for decades.

Too often in support raising I am searching for the “quick win”: something that will require little effort on my part but yield big results in terms of new support or special gifts. I wonder why I am rarely successful in that, yet continue to hope in it!

In Jeremiah 17:7-8, we read,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

A great orchard does not always mean abundance, but a poor orchard fails entirely during the lean times.

Every great business book I have ever read stresses the importance of the weekly touch of the most critical planning components. For us in ministry, that is our support team. I ‘practically’ guarantee that if you open TntConnect at the end of your week and spend just 10-15 minutes reviewing your ministry partner world and planning the next week–and then taking even one single action as a result–your support will grow strong.

A GREAT database management system

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In a recent MPD Connections to Cru staff, the writer focused on the having the right tools for the job, and he started with a story about pressure washing his deck. Using a high-powered pressure washer is not only quite satisfying—seeing the grime just wash away—but it is also extremely productive: Scrubbing a deck or driveway with a brush would take forever. (The picture above is from when I pressure washed my driveway at Christmas 2014—pressure washing CAN be fun!)

He also highlighted the importance of having a good software for managing our support raising efforts. I concur with this sentiment! To me, TntConnect is like a pressure washer for our support: It is a power tool that is so helpful, it couldn’t possibly be replaced by any other method. It is a great database management system.

Recently I was in Utah and Idaho on a focused time of support raising. I was so thankful for a tool that works with such power and speed as TntConnect. I was doing some analysis, too, and there is no other support raising tool that does what TNT does automatically. For example, the Gift & History Details are something I use regularly when interacting with my partners, because it gives me a snapshot of their current—and lifetime—history with me. And all 26 of these detail fields are exportable for any or all contacts!

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Finally, the partners I was staying with in Idaho had no internet access at their house. They are “snowbirds” who winter in Arizona; so they just use their phones for Internet access. I was there for three days and I was so grateful that I had a tool that works whether I have internet access or not.

TNT is lightning fast, and the history tools are like a jet engine for support raising.

Squirrels … and data-nuts

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I do not profess to be an expert on squirrels, though they are fun to watch. They are always scurrying about, collecting food and stocking it away. And they seem to have a lot of fun with their friends!

As I understand it (again, not an expert), squirrels put away a lot of nuts (or acorns in my yard)… nuts they do not always remember later. But since they have a lot stockpiled, they can get some when they need it. Some observations on squirrels:

  • There are harvest times where there are more nuts and acorns than there are at other times.
  • When the harvest is plentiful, squirrels are busy gathering.
  • God has designed some animals to be “storers” (like squirrels) and others to trust Him for every meal (like deer). One is not more spiritual than the other.
  • Squirrels are fun.

I have a couple of take-aways from watching these squirrels in my yard:

  • There are harvest times in my own ministry, where it is easier (internally or externally) for me to raise support than at other times. Internally (often within my control) is that I have time to focus; externally (outside of my control) when the economy is perceived to be better, or a church is hosting a missions conference, etc.
  • When the harvest time is ripe, I should be busy connecting with my ministry partners, to prepare for the leaner times.
  • God has called me to a ministry that believes in preparing and storing. Other ministries do fund-raising differently than mine, and that’s okay.
  • Missionaries should be fun! I want my ministry partners to want me around.

What does this have to do with TntConnect? Well, a loose association, but this:

  • When I engage with my partners, I am always collecting tidbits about them. What they like, what interests them, what their communication preferences are, hobbies, children, etc.
  • I also store away all of the acorns of my engagement with them—my phone calls, personal visits, cards, etc.
  • TntConnect makes it easy for me to store all of these nuts. Like the squirrel, I may never use (or even see) some of this information again. But when I do need it, there it is, neatly stored away.
  • Let’s face it; I’m a data nut. For me, not to collect and store all of this stuff… is, well, just plain nuts.

One final thought: For squirrels, sometimes the acorns they pick up actually sprout before they can eat them. God uses the squirrels’ efforts to build the forest! Similarly, God uses my interaction with ministry partners to bless them in ways that may never benefit me or maybe that I will ever even know about.