Promises, Promises…

The Bible takes promises pretty seriously. By my count, the word Promise appears at least 160 times. But when God makes a promise, it is a certainty it will be fulfilled.

With people, though, we understand that “promises” have varying degrees of intent. For example, when my kids were little, I avoided the word “promise” because of the potential disaster: “But Dad! You promised…!

Now I have teenagers, and I look at their commitments as “potential intentions”. Not that they intentionally forget/forego promises, but they haven’t quite got to the point where a commitment is a rock-solid “You can count on me!” statement.

And so it is with ministry partners. TntConnect has to wrestle with so many different nuances of commitments.

In TNT, there is the “pledge” which in TNTese means, “an ongoing, recurring commitment, such as a monthly gift”. But it does not mean “legally-binding” (which a person does when they pledge $100 million to a hospital, for example).

And until now, TNT had no way to track a commitment for a one-time gift. Until now.

With the expansion of the Campaign features to include new “Promise Tracking”, it was essential to come up with a term different from “pledge” or “commitment” which were already in use. So by new definition, A “Promise” is a commitment to give a certain amount by some due date. This could be a monthly increase, but in most cases will be a one-time or special gift. (Or, in some cases, it is a one-time commitment fulfilled over time, such as a $3000 commitment given in three $1000 installments.)

The most common scenario for this is a new missionary raising both their initial support as well as significant one-time support for their initial expenses (training, relocation, etc.). A campaign can track the response to both of those.

But regarding a large, ongoing campaign, this week I had a perfect test case for this profound new feature in 3.2.

Last Fall—just before the release of TNT 3.2—my office held a special event where a group of potential partners heard about several opportunities. They filled out commitment cards at the event. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way I could track both the commitments and the progress towards fulfilling them? 🙂

Here’s how I handled this in TNT:

Before you start: The Promise tool is an advanced setting. Go to Tools | Options and check the box “Display extended information (TntConnect Pro)”.

1. In the Campaign Tracking / Manage Campaigns area I created a separate campaign for each project that received a commitment. (Tools | Campaign Tracking, then New Campaign button. This is only in TNT 3.2).

2. For each partner who made a commitment—that is, a Promise—I right-clicked in the Gifts list and selected Add new promise.

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3. I then entered the details of their promise… amount, Date the promise was Made, Date the Promise is due (e.g., when the donor intends to fulfill by), and any memo they may have written on the commitment card. The “Fulfilled” box fills automatically as the donor gives.

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4. If they have any gifts I can already link to the Promise, I just need to press Apply, and then I can assign the gifts right then. The promise will appear Yellow in the Gifts list until it is 100% fulfilled.

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5. Otherwise, when the gift does come in, I can assign them at a later date. As the promise is partially fulfilled, the amount outstanding will update.

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When the promise is 100% fulfilled, the promise row will no longer be Yellow, and the text will be gray.

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Okay, so all of this Promise and Campaign Tracking can be a bit overwhelming. I’m not really trying to teach you all about it… just whet your appetite so that someday you’ll think, “Hey, I need that feature!”


Note: Campaigns are SO powerful and SO significant that in the upcoming TntConnect 3.3 release they will receive their own Menu link and their own Contacts View tabs so you can manage the Campaign activity for any individual contact:

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Correspondence Log & Contractors

  • Is your [non-donor] plumber or attorney in TntConnect?
  • Did you log your last phone call with your cell phone provider or your last appliance repair in TntConnect?
  • Did it ever occur to you to even do that?

Here’s an entry I pulled from 2007 in my TNT, when I wrote a sympathy card to someone in my church. Here’s the note I logged in my history:

Recently, Chris’s company was bought out; the new company fired the entire leadership team, including Chris. While reeling from this, his father died. While he was at the funeral, lightning struck the exhaust fan in his bathroom, catching it on fire, which fell in the garbage can, starting it on fire, which burned through the toilet supply hose, which flooded the house, causing $35k in damages.

Chris is not a donor or even a prospect to my personal ministry, but I wrote him a card. And I logged it in TNT. Recently I have been trying to write more personal thank yous (on real paper) to non-donors—a vendor I met with recently, a co-worker who went the extra mile for me, a leader in my Scout troop who just turned 50.

I have a contact in TNT simply named, “Correspondence Log“, and in that contact’s history I log a wide variety of things:

  • Letters, thank yous, and notes to non-partners
  • Canceling subscriptions or other annoying solicitations
  • Any interaction with a vendor that I might want to recall later (often these start out with a single call, but then if not resolved take multiple calls, remembering who I talked to, what their commitment/next action was, etc.)

I have a second contact in TNT named, “Contractors”. In the Notes tab I have a list of contractors I have worked with, and then in the History I log any kind of service call, appliance repair, etc.

Finally, for those individuals or professionals I visit on a regular basis, I have added them as new contacts with the TNT Phase of “Never Ask”:

  • Doctor
  • Dentists
  • Attorney

These contacts are individually added to my database because I want their full name, address, and phone numbers, just like I do with my other contacts.

These special contacts (“Correspondence Log” and “Contractors”) are setup as organizations:

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And I log relevant conversations:

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My Campaign for Campaigns

Probably the most significant new feature of TntConnect 3.2 is the Campaign Builder.

What was known in TNT until recently as a Special Gift Appeal, or in ministries as “Special Asks”, is now called “Campaigns” in TntConnect.

Why the change? Because an Appeal implies a one-time ask. It is also often related to a single “Support Letter” (task type). For example, many missionaries may do a special appeal for a summer mission trip, a new baby, a specific need such as a vehicle or medical expenses, or even an annual recurring appeal around year-end. Each of these appeals implies a ‘funding opportunity’ for partners.

In some cases the missionary may be seeking a specific amount (such as the amount needed for the vehicle or the travel expenses for the summer mission trip), while in others there is no exact amount specified (such as a year-end appeal which is just an ‘extra giving opportunity’).

TntConnect 3.2 takes Appeal Tracking to an all-new level, and this is reflected in the new name of “Campaigns”. While the focus of the new Campaign features is primarily local teams or small ministries, individual TntConnect users may find these new features to be very helpful.

There is a lot to unpack with all of the new Campaign features, so let me list some and then give a screen shot of the most impressive new feature. Don’t worry if some these don’t make any sense… features this powerful will take time to learn and benefit from!

Here are some bullet points related to the new features:

  • Campaigns are the NEW name for what was formerly “Special Gift Appeals”
  • “Campaign Tracking” is the new name for “Special Gift Appeal Tracking”
  • Campaigns can now have a goal amount
  • Campaigns can have a start and end date
  • Campaigns can be linked to both one-time gifts and monthly increases (such as an “Increase Campaign”)
  • Completed campaigns can now be inactivated (they will not appear in the drop-down list in Add Gifts, for example… but they can still be used easily if needed)
  • Partners can make a promise in advance of fulfilling the gift
  • Partners can make promises to multiple campaigns
  • Partners can fulfill a portion of one or more promise(s) with a single gift
  • A Campaign Builder (shown below) helps you categorize your potential partners using the new “Partner Pyramid”
  • The Campaign Builder, when run, will automatically create Saved Groups for each level of the Campaign, and automatically assign contacts exclusively to each level
  • The Data Change Log will log when you move a partner from one campaign group to another

To whet your appetite, here is a screen shot of the new Campaign Builder which divides a list of contacts into three levels based on their giving record:

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The Campaign Builder has a lot of stuff behind it that I cannot even scratch the surface of here! I could write blog posts for months just to unpack all of the new features related to Campaigns!

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.

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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.

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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.).

New Pledge Change in History

I’ve written before that I love tracking stuff. When I first started using TntMPD back in 2002, one of the first things I said was, “Wow, I wish I had TntMPD when I first started raising personal support 10 years ago!” I lamented the hundreds of lost contacts and thousands of unrecorded history items. 😦

Speaking of that, I always thought it would be handy if TNT would record every time a partner changed their pledge. The only way for me to determine that was to scroll through each partner’s gift list individually and just guess the dates.

Since TNT could not do that automatically, I started using the History Log to record a “To Do” each time a partner changed their pledge. I wrote a simple little code (“PC:” for “Pledge Change”) followed by the change they made. Then I could look at a contact’s history and see all of their pledge changes from their first commitment.

Fast forward 15 years, and now that feature exists in TntConnect 3.2!

Now, when you change a pledge amount for a partner, you will see this new Data Change in the history log. There is also a coloured icon that tells you whether the pledge changed up or down:

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Using the History View you can later filter these data changes, to view just the pledge changes or even view just the pledge changes for a specific contact. (But there is not room to explain that here.)

Note: Unfortunately, TNT does not have a way to build your pledge history by going back and retroactively guessing the date of pledge changes from when your gifts first started in TNT, whether that was 2015 or 1990. But if you’re really motivated, you could manually enter them (wink)!

“Variant or Safe Array is Locked”

“Variant or Safe Array is Locked”

If there was ever a helpful error message, that’s it. If you use a PC, you may have seen that error this week when you tried to come in to TntConnect.

This is not really a TntConnect error. Microsoft downloaded a new “Update” onto your computer–you know, that lovely “Update and Shut Down” and you have no idea how long that will take. Then you may not have opened TNT until later or even the next day. That security update is what prevented TntConnect from opening your database.

There’s already a fix for this, and you can install the latest release to get it.

The error only prevents your database from opening, not the software itself.

If you have TntConnect open (even with your database being open), just select Help | Check for Updates. You can then download the current release (3.2 r8 at the moment I am writing this), which overcomes this Windows obstacle.

If you do not have TntConnect open, just go also to the TntConnect web site and download the latest version from there.

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Just for fun, here’s an error report I received from a user three years ago yesterday (in our ministry’s help tool for donation software):

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I hope you have a blessed Easter! Remember, we’re in mission work because Christ died on the cross for our sins… and rose again. Little errors like this one today are just the little challenges we face in doing this great work.

 

He giveth and taketh away

One of the most well-known, and truly unique features, of TntConnect is the “universal filter”, the Lookup tool that allows you to add or remove any criteria from any Lookup. Most web-based tools (like shopping sites) allow you to narrow down the list, but very few allow you narrow down and add to, or “reverse” the lookup, or even combine disparate items.

TntConnect 3.2 adds some similar functionality to a little-known feature called Mass Change a Field.

TNT’s ability to change the value of a single field for all selected contacts has always been super-helpful to me. For example, I was adding the Church Name to about 20 contacts one time. I could do that for each contact individually… or I could make the Current Group those 20 contacts, then select Group Actions | Mass Change a Field and do it all at once.

Group Field Change in earlier versions of TNT: Deleted the old field value and replaced it with the new value:

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Now in 3.2 the options are expanded:

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You can now (still) simply “replace” the old field value with the new one (that is, “Change Field”).

But you can also Add to Comma Separated List, which will take the value you have and place it after a comma in addition to any other items that are in the field. Or, Remove from Comma Separated List, which will delete the chosen value if it exists in that field.

Many people use the User Fields to make TNT unique and personal. For example, if I was in athletic ministry and I renamed User 1 to be “Favourite Sports Team”. Some people may have one team: “Montreal Canadiens”. But others might have two “Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Blue Jays” or more.

The beauty of TntConnect’s amazingly powerful lookups/filters (as mentioned at the top) is that I can do Lookups within a field. Let’s say, for example, that I want to find all contacts for whom “Montreal” is in Favourite Sports Team (whether it is the Canadiens, the Expos, the Alouettes, etc.), I can just do a lookup for that:

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To wrap up, the powerful Lookups, the versatile User Fields, and the nifty Mass Change a Field all work together to make managing a lot of information very helpful. Indeed, it is so exciting it is almost like sitting in a hockey arena watching the Stanley Cup. 😉