The day I returned a gift

Well, I confess it wasn’t me who returned it. It was my ministry.

My partner inadvertently sent his donation check to his auto lender and the auto lender’s check to my ministry. And the funny thing is, both companies had the same initials. Since his handwriting was basically unreadable–except for the three capital letters–both recipients thought it was for their company.

But the auto lender took immediate action: “Thank you for the $25. Where is the other $400?”

The really sad thing about this is that I had not thanked the partner for the surprise extra gift of $400, because if I had thanked immediately (like I try to do now), this error may have been resolved more quickly. And I would have shined in the eyes of my partner because I took immediate action.

That was 1994, way before TNT. So I actually did not know about it until I received the paper printout in the mail several weeks after the gift. But even so, I should have called and thanked him as soon as I did know–that extra $400 was about half a month’s pay for me back then!

Point is: One of the major benefits of the Automatic Actions for New Gifts is that it allows me to respond to any unusual activity on the part of my partners.

When we respond promptly to anything unusual, whether it is an extra gift, a special gift, or even a decrease, it says, “I noticed! You matter to me!”

 

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Congraduations!

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:

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Recording a graduation gift:

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Recording a gift for a child’s mission trip:

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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. 🙂

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.