Random History Tips

The History Engine is TntConnect is the most powerful task record of any software I have ever used. But it is only as helpful as the information put into it. Here are some random tips for you when logging history.

  • Log every task you do, regardless of the result. 10 dials = 10 tasks logged. One of TntConnect’s distinctives is how easy it is to log history attempts in moments. Tip: The easiest way to log a phone call is to click on the phone number; the history box will then include the number dialed right in the note.

  • When you send a support-related e-mail, blind copy (BC:) yourself, then copy and paste the whole text into the description of your task. Copy both sides if your message is a response to theirs.

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  • An event is “Attempted” if the desired result is not achieved, such as:
    • The person you wanted to talk to did not answer (busy, no answer, babysitter, child, secretary)
    • You went to an appointment but they did not show up
    • You sent an e-mail but it was returned with a wrong address

  • Save commonly-used descriptions to make your history more consistent and easier to create–the description box auto-fills from your saved list. You can add/edit items in the list by selecting Edit list… from the bottom of the drop-down list.

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  • When writing a description, be detailed so you can make sense of your history.
    History isn’t perfect. For example, if a contact calls you back and you fulfill the activity you were seeking, you may want to use “Done” instead of “Received” on the task. Here is an example of a description written after a phone call, in order from less descriptive to more:

    • ”            “ [blank; no description written, just the call recorded]
    • “Called” [why? who talked to? result?]
    • “Called; no answer” [why? next action?]
    • “Called; no answer / left message” [same as above; no real improvement]
    • “Called for decision / left message: Will call back Monday at 8pm” [more descriptive: Why (called for decision), Action taken (left message), Next action (I will call back Monday at 8pm)]

Note in the above examples, “Called” is not a helpful description when Call is a task type; there is no reason to repeat the action when the history item already logs it. Instead, use your characters judiciously to pack the best punch.


  • Write casual encounters as an “Unscheduled Visit” (found on the bottom in the “Other” task types).

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  • Log history for all the contacts in the Current Group. For example, when you send a special ask or your monthly newsletter.

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  • Be ready in and out of season. (Not really a history tip in itself, but it results in history!)
    • Have note cards handy, with stamps, to write a quick thank you.
    • Thank after EVERY appointment, EVERY decision (yes or no), EVERY first gift, EVERY tangible (non-financial) gift, etc.
    • Keep an index card to write down who you sent notes to so you can enter it in TntConnect later.

  • When talking on the phone, use a pen and paper to scribble notes, as typing may be distracting to the contact (sounds like an airline reservation system!)
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“Are you all okay?”

Two weeks ago I called a ministry partner in Houston. She’s an elderly woman who lives alone, and her daughter, I know, lives in Chicago. “I’m concerned about you,” I said. “Are you okay?”

She thanked me for calling and assured me she was fine. Her street was a river, but her front steps were dry. She felt very fortunate.

That was two weeks ago. Monday this week I texted my wife and asked her, “Are you all okay?”

I’m a pretty lousy husband. While my family was sleeping in the closet as Hurricane Irma blew over our house, I was on an international trip in Africa. Except for being without power for about 48 hours, and having a lot tree debris to cleanup, they were fine. She told me our neighborhood turned out like an anthill that was just kicked over–people we almost never out of doors emerged to see who lost a tree (or didn’t). Neighbors helping neighbors clean up. Won’t last long, but it’s great to see.

I appreciate that TntConnect helps me reach out to my partners and show compassion during a weather crisis like these–events that often affect a widespread area, and because of that I cannot know how my partners have fared unless I ask them. (Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes; sad we need a reason, but showing we care… shows we care.)

The best way to connect, of course, is just to call. Email or text is okay, I suppose. But a real phone call says a lot.

I use TNT to help me do this by using the Lookups to help me identify the contacts I could call. For example, last month I looked up all partners in Texas using Lookup | By State. Sometimes Lookup | By City works if that’s what I need.

One of my partners just moved to Texas a couple of months ago; I wasn’t sure where the town was, so I used the Google Maps button in TNT to discern that they lived outside Dallas, not Houston. But I contacted them anyway because a new address & new home were a good reason to call. And I started the call simply by asking, “Has Hurricane Harvey affected you at all?”

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I don’t have ulterior motives with these calls. Every opportunity to reach out to a partner is a good one. Our partners love to hear from us, and most missionaries (like me) use the microphone portion of their smart”phone” far less than we should.

Speaking of that, How are you? If you were in an area impacted by Harvey or Irma–or wildfires in the West–I hope you have seen an outpouring of bonhomie from relatives, friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers.

“Please Pray for Me”

I put that title in quotes because I am not asking you readers to pray for me personally, but rather this blog post is about how to handle prayer requests from your donors.

One of the wonderful aspects of being a supported missionary is the opportunity we have to pray for our partners. Praying for our partners is a wonderful way to minister to them–to exercise partnership.

There are a few different ways to easily track prayer requests. Some users create a “To Do” task, and there are certainly benefits to that. It is possible to create it as a task and either not check it as “completed” until I stop praying for it; or, you can “complete” it and then having a recurring task re-create it perpetually.

I tried that once, but found that once I had two dozen or more prayer requests, my “actual” support-raising tasks (phone calls, appointments, and thank yous) were obscured. Of course I could filter calls and thank yous, but even so, the ‘urgent’ items I found were not as visible.

I personally do not view prayer as a “task”. I do not pray for someone and then check it off as “completed”.

What I have found that works well for me is actually logging the prayer request in TNT’s “jet engine”… the History Log.

I create a To Do history item (as if I had Done it). In the description I prefix the request with “PRAY:”, like this:

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Then I can go to the History View, select All as the time frame, and type PRAY: in the text filter, like this:

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When I am finished praying for this specific request, I can keep it in my history by editing the description. For example, I can change PRAY: to PRAY (DONE):

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By doing this, it will no longer appear in my prayer request filter in the History View.

See a video on this topic

Tracking Chance Encounters

Visiting your home church and meet a partner in the lobby? Walking through the grocery store and chat with a partner in the checkout line? Taking an afternoon to visit partners without calling in advance? TntConnect has a special way to record these visits.

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Of course you could just use the “Appointment” task type, but that doesn’t really capture the nuance of an interaction with a partner.

An Appointment implies a commitment to meet–I made a phone call, set up a time, we are going to visit, there is an intent to the discussion (maintenance, challenge, etc.).

An Unscheduled Visit implies no expectations. I just want to connect, say Hi, thank you, show that you matter to me.

Why should you record Unscheduled Visits? Because these are relationally important. Even though they do not carry the same ministry relevance as a traditional “appointment” where you discuss your ministry, partners remember these sudden, short visits, and truly appreciate them.

Unscheduled Visits are typically one of these two things:

Intentional

You are visiting your home area and driving around to visit your partners unannounced. In this case, the visit itself is unscheduled (you have not scheduled it in advance), but it is intentional (because you wanted to do it).

Unintentional

You have a ‘chance encounter’ with a partner, often at an unexpected location (such as a store, a restaurant, a park, etc.).

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Humor note: Once in the forum someone asked, “I am trying to schedule an afternoon of driving around to visit partners, but Unscheduled Visit is not in the list…” 🙂 Not all task types available to History are available as Tasks. By design, an ‘unscheduled visit’ cannot be ‘scheduled’.

Oooops… wrong place!

There are two places in TntConnect where I find information ending up in the wrong place.

  1. Right address… wrong place. Because I download gifts from my organization, the address for a business, or even a special mailing address, ends up as the “Home” address for a partner.
  2. Right history… wrong person. I have, on occasion, logged History for the wrong contact.

In both cases I can easily move to the correct spot just by right-clicking. Just this week I was working on my office database (for ministry fund development), and discovered we had two contacts that were the same–and both had gifts and tasks/history associated with them. In moments I was able to merge the donor accounts and migrate all tasks/history to the correct contact.

For the address, on the Address tab I can right-click on the address and select “Move to” to switch it to one of the other address options for the same contact. (You cannot move an address to a different contact.)

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On the History and Task tabs, I can “send” an item to another contact, again just by right-clicking on the desired item.

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The other TntConnect tip here, in case you did not catch it, is that TNT has a number of secret “right-click” features. Every once in a while, just right-click somewhere… you might learn something new!

Saved Descriptions: Easy & Consistent

They say that a couple in love gets to know each other so well that they can complete each other’s sentences. I guess that means I love TntConnect, because it always completes my sentences when I write descriptions!

Last year I devoted focused attention to support raising for several months. During that time I completed 1,119 unique tasks, including dialing the phone, appointments, writing thank yous, seeing partners at church, recording text messages, etc. (this number does not include newsletters sent).

Almost 500 of those were phone dials and appointments/unscheduled visits. Because I may dial the phone 5-10 times before actually talking to a person, I find myself writing the same description over and over again, things like:

  • “Call for Decision”
  • “Follow-up to appointment”
  • “Initial support appointment” (whether I am calling for the appointment or going on the appointment itself)
  • “Drive-by Visit” (for unscheduled visits)

Rather than re-type that description every time—and maybe type it a little differently each time, at this moment I have 27 “saved descriptions” that I commonly use. Some have been there for 14 years (such as “Sent Brochure” and “Call for Initial Appointment”), while others are new this year just for the current strategy I am working on, and will be deleted when I am done with the strategy.

The handy thing about saved descriptions is that I can just start typing in the Description box, and TNT will auto-fill from the saved list. This makes dialing the phone a lot easier.

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You can read more about the Saved Descriptions feature in the Log History tutorial in the TNT help. (Scroll down to the “Tip: Saved Descriptions…” section.)

Consumer Tip: Given that so many attempts to reach a contact do not work, if the result is “Attempted“, then I add the cause of failure at the end. For example: “Call for Decision (no answer)” or “Call for Decision (left message)”.

Watch the short video on writing good descriptions.

Make Note of this

It’s official! TntConnect 3.2 is now available for download. Whether you have already downloaded the Beta version or not, go to the Downloads page and download the most current release. Over the coming days I will be sharing about lots of new features.


In the ongoing series of “data change logs” in TntConnect 3.2, this one is a little unique compared to the others. The other data changes I have highlighted reflect the change of a field value from one to another (e.g., an address changes from old to new, a pledge changes from old to new). But with the Notes tab / Notes field (same thing), users typically do not replace the entire field, but just keep adding to it.

When logging this data change, TntConnect simply logs the change that was made within the field, not the whole field.

Here is the Notes field for Fred Flintstone prior to the change:

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And then the addition of another sentence:

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The generic logged data change (indicates that it was a change to Notes):

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Which you can view by hovering over the notepad:

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Or by double-clicking on the row:

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Again, two reminders:

  1. The content on the “Notes” tab of the history item (not to be confused with the “notes” tab in the Contacts View, he he) is grayed-out because it cannot be edited, and
  2. You can revert this change in the Notes field by right-clicking on the history entry.

Best Practices for using the Notes field/tab:

Many people have asked me for advice on the best way to use the Notes tab. Of course, the basic advice is: “Use it any way that it helps you!”. Here are some of the tips I have given users over the years:

  1. Do not use the Notes field/tab to log regular actions such as phone calls, letters, etc. Use the Log History area, since it records the type (letter/call), result, date, etc. of each item–and can be filtered on the History view.
  2. Instead, use the Notes field/tab for those things you want to remember about them–their interests, conversations you have had, etc. This can be a good field to export to an “Appointment Sheet” you review on your way to an appointment (along with their names, address, phone numbers, childrens’ names, etc.)
  3. Make sure the top 3 lines of the Notes tab displays the most important information, since those are the only three lines visible all of the time. Here are some examples of things I want to see every time I select this contact, either because they are permanently relevant or important for this season:
    1. “Husband (Fred) is not a Christian. If he answers the phone, talk about golf.”
    2. “Wife (Ethel) passed away 10/11/12.” (Because it would be REALLY insensitive to ask them how their spouse is doing… when that spouse is deceased.)
    3. “Curling for Canada in the 2018 Olympics” (because I want to see it every time before the Olympics, so I can be sure to ask about it later)
    4. “Pray for summer mission trip 2017 to Toonzania”
    5. “Daughter (Pebbles) getting married 5/15/17.”