A League of His Own

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I felt like a chump after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal last night, realizing that I am “in a whole other league” compared to this guy. Here are the opening paragraphs (Emphasis mine; I cannot link to the article as it requires a subscription login):

POCANTICO HILLS, N. Y.—Some might say David Rockefeller, a scion of America’s greatest fortune and the veteran chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, was a dedicated networker long before the age of Facebook.

That would grossly understate his horizons. Mr. Rockefeller recorded contact information along with every meeting he had with about 100,000 people world-wide on white 3-by-5-inch index cards. He amassed about 200,000 of the cards, which filled a custom-built Rolodex machine. He kept the 5-foot high electronic device at his family’s suite of offices in New York City’s Rockefeller Center for about half a century.

In the annals of CEO history, the breadth and depth of this record of contacts stand out,’’ said Nancy Koehn, a Harvard business professor and historian.  “This is a man with a large, long reach.’’

Sample card, for Richard Nixon:

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David Rockefeller was the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, but famous in his own right, having served as a primary shareholder and chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan, largest bank in America at the time.

The article explains Mr. Rockefeller’s meticulous record-keeping on the top-secret cards–a vault so secret it was only revealed when he died this year at age 101. His will stipulates the cards may not be fully released for at least 10 more years.

Many of the entries were typed on the cards, with some notations made by hand. Information that was out of date was crossed out.

Most of the seven cards shown in the article (Trump, Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, Sadat, Mandela, Gates) have multiple appointments listed. Here are some of items I noticed on some or all of the cards:

  • Name
  • Spouse’s Name
  • Greeting format (“Mr. President”, “Dick”, “Bill and Melinda”)
  • All relevant addresses and phone numbers; many of the phone numbers and postal codes are the pre-1970 formats!
  • Short notes on face-to-face appointments (date, location, context)
  • Public information not from a personal appt (e.g., election to presidency; cite newspaper article about a life change)

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Here’s one comment about a visit with Nelson Mandela:

7/5/93-DR hosted dinner honoring above, Rainbow Pavillion. Gave DR beaded belt. M/M J. Wayne Fredericks helped him pick it out. DRs putting it in a glass frame.

If David Rockefeller had 100,000 people covering 200,000 cards, it is safe to say that the number of data entries must have numbered in the millions. Admittedly, he probably had a personal secretary updating these cards, a luxury I have not had!

I am staggered, yet envious, of this kind of detail. Many times since I started using TNT I have wished that I had kept the records of every support-raising contact and appointment I had. Sadly, like many missionaries I “threw away the card box” [metaphorically; mine was electronic] once I reported to my assignment. Initially I contacted more than 1,000 people on my road to full support, but the vast majority did not make it into TNT because the Excel files were discarded years before TNT came along… remember back when file storage was limited to little plastic disks that held little? “Why would I want to keep this?” I probably asked myself in 1990s.

But I do take heart that since TNT came into my life I have in a very poor emulation done the same thing, and why TNT is also “in a league of its own” in terms of software. My two TntConnect databases have in them 3321 names and (not including data changes) more than 51,000 rows in the history log. And that only represents my last 15 years—less than half of the 31 years I have been raising support for my organization. The very fact I was able to come up with those two numbers (3321 contacts + 51000 history items) in about one minute is evidence of the data-managing power of TNT.

When I joined my organization full-time I was actually trained using an Index Card system quite similar to Mr. Rockefeller’s. Maybe to my detriment, upon returning home I immediately switched to “my own homemade system” (that is, a simple spreadsheet). Yet I know several people today who still maintain their entire partner list on index cards. What a treasure!

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History: The Jet Engine of TntConnect

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Every afternoon about dinnertime three 747s fly over my house as they make their final approach to our airport. My sons and I can feel the plane coming, even before we hear it. We never get tired of looking at them.

Boeing was designing this plane at the same time the Concorde was being developed, so it was a huge gamble (many thought a company-destroyer). The common thinking at the time was that “all passenger planes will soon be supersonic” and that this monster ‘traditional jet’ would be obsolete before it even rolled off the assembly line.

Because of this concern of obsolescence, they designed it to be particularly useful for cargo—which is why there is a cabin on top (this leaves the entire main fuselage available for cargo). Of course mass supersonic travel never happened and the 747 proved to be a phenomenal success, completely changing the way global air traffic was handled. Passenger and cargo traffic exploded far more than anyone expected. For almost four decades, the 747 held the passenger capacity record, the distance flying record, the cargo capacity record, and the speed record for all passenger jets.

Boeing ended up selling more than four times their wildest expectations, and the plane is still in production today, almost 50 years later.

For years I have asserted that “The Log History feature is the jet engine of TNT.” If we compare the above photo with the one below, the differences are obvious.

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Both planes are valuable and useful, and both fulfill the same core purpose—getting someone from Point A to Point B. But if your Point B is any great distance, or you need to carry a lot of stuff, you’ll probably prefer a jet.

But which jet? The 747, a fighter jet, or a business jet?

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For me, when I say that “History is the jet engine of TNT,” I have a fighter jet in mind because of its incredible speed and agility.

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But I also think of the 747. Support-raising is a long-haul, and I want a tool that will do it … easily, comfortably, with excellence. My TNT history contains tons of cargo—tens of thousands of history entries—and TNT carries that cargo with the strength of a 747 but the agility of a fighter jet. So when I talk about the Jet Engine of TNT, I really mean that TNT embodies the best of all four planes…

  • It can be a Piper Cub for someone who just wants a little hopper to manage their newsletter list.
  • It can be a business jet for someone who wants fast and nimble.
  • It can be a fighter jet for someone who wants sheer power and responsiveness… to attack their support raising efforts.
  • It actually is the world’s biggest, baddest, bestest “jumbo jet” support-raising software with incredible cargo-carrying abilities, phenomenal performance, and sheer good looks.

Many TNT users do not even realize how much power is at their fingertips. They want to “Fly from Montreal to Auckland,” thinking they have a Piper Cub at their disposal when they really are piloting the 747.

In addition to being able to record thank yous, phone calls, and appointments, some of the long-haul ways I use History includes:

Now that you know what a powerful tool TntConnect is, I hope http://www.TNT.tips can be a pilot-training course to help you be the best pilot you can be.

Um, 8 months ago you…

Let’s be honest for a moment. Many missionaries find it difficult to follow-up with their partners after the partner does something. Case in point: Last month one of our partners gave the largest gift we have ever received. When did I thank them? Four weeks later. Ugh. How does that happen?

In my case, I was out of the country when the gift came. I came home to a hurricane-ravaged yard that took countless hours–every free hour I was home it felt like–to clean up (the FEMA debris haulers just came today to wrap it up, and used four semi trucks to haul our debris alone). Pretty soon four weeks had gone by.

How did I resolve this? I just called them. I left a message on their voice mail, so I sent a paper thank you card the same day.

It’s not my practice to be so behind in actions. But there is one action I dread more than any other action: Calling a partner who has missed a gift.

Here’s a quote from the TNT online help regarding “Calling Late Donors”:

Many missionaries are reluctant to contact a donor who is behind on their giving. They are afraid of appearing pushy or aggressive. Many just hope the donor will resume giving with no contact at all. The reality is that many donors who are behind on their giving may be unaware that they are behind, and a quick, friendly phone call can help them remember. And if there is a reason why they cannot give, your phone call can give them an opportunity to share that reason, rather than leaving you wondering.

When calling a donor who is behind on their pledge, make sure that your focus is on them. In the conversation, they may initiate with you regarding their giving, but if they do not, you should do so only after finding out how they are doing. Then mention how you were reviewing your giving reports and noticed that their normal gift had not arrived. Mention that perhaps there was an error recording the gift. Then let them respond. If they need assistance, for example, if they need an envelope or giving slip, then promise to get it to them right away.

Whenever you import gifts into TntConnect, it runs a check not only on all the gifts that came in, but also on partners who should have given (based on their giving trends). If a partner appears behind, you get a task suggesting you contact the donor. This same information is displayed in the Pledge Fulfillment Report.

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Read More about the Pledge Fulfillment Report

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!)

“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’.