Two for one post on Saved Groups!

This blog post is a Bonus post because I am hoping to provide two benefits from one blog post:

  1. Teach you about a really helpful but somewhat obscure TNT feature
  2. Show you how to do a commonly-asked question

First, the question (from my reader survey in December): How do I compare the membership in two Saved Groups?

This question has two answers; I’ll share the simple answer first. The complex answer further down introduces what may be a new feature for you.

For the purpose of this post, I am using an example from a major fundraising event our ToonTown Ministry holds each year. Every spring we host an annual donut baking gala event with some of the country’s best donut bakery chefs; our current and potential donors love to toss the flour around with these well-known celebrities. It’s a huge hit, trust me. While we log each partner’s attendance in the history, for my own sake as an operations person I also keep everyone in a Saved Group for each year we’ve held the event:


Compare using the Groups View itself (simple)

  1. Select a group (such as 2018)
  2. Compare To a Saved Group. Note: “Compare to” is the centre column even though it is not labeled as such. 

The members of that group appear on the right. Gray italic means the contact is in both groups. So there are four partners who attended last year but are not coming this year:


Now the more powerful and more complex way (new feature alert!):

Export Group Membership as a Contact Field

TntConnect 3.2 introduced the wonderful ability to make any Saved Group also be an exportable contact field in the Group Actions | Export Current Group list.

Note: Making a group into an exportable contact field can only be done when the new group is created. An existing saved group cannot be made into a contact field.

Here is adding a New Group:


TNT alerts me that a saved group is a Contact Field by highlighting the saved group in the list.

Now I can go to my Contacts View and export whatever I want, but for the sake of ease I’ll just export Everyone:


Then in Excel I can see all of the exported contacts AND whether they attended the 2017 and 2018 donut gala event:


As you can see, among others, Dopey Dwarf attended 2017 but not 2018, while the Lions were the reverse. And some contacts attended neither.

This is super helpful for so many ways. For example, I can easily use Excel’s Count feature to get numbers that attended each year. Or I can use Mail Merge to export names or attendance.

Now, lest you think this is just some hypothetical example, I assure you it’s not. Although the question came from a reader response to my survey, this is actually something I do myself regularly.

My team does in fact host a major donor fundraising event every year, and I am frequently asked about how many people attend, how many have attended more than one, etc. Every year for the past five years I have logged in TntConnect who has attended, either as a Guest (Partner or Potential Partner), a Speaker, or a Staff Member (working the event).

The groups are exclusive within each year—a speaker cannot also be a registered guest (although speakers and staff members are often donors at the event as well, they are not the target audience).

In the screenshot below you can see all of my saved groups for the past six years. Only the Guest groups are exportable contact fields


Finally, again let me reiterate that every person attending the event also has their attendance logged in the history. That history entry is an important part of their individual relationship to our fund development team. The saved groups are for my management of the lists.

Blog post 1152, originally posted 2018-08-06.

Beware the Ides of Google

I love Google for many things. I remember the first time I used the Google search engine, how amazingly simple the screen was. And I remember my wife asking the now laughable question, “What’s ‘Google’?”

I love (and hate) how Google remembers things. For example, recently I was looking up my favourite donut shop, Tim Hortons, to see if there was one in a town I would be visiting… about 2,000km away. Imagine my surprise when the next week I was in that town and pulled up Google Maps intending to search for Tim Hortons. Before I typed anything, Tim Hortons was already in the search list. Scary. Fun too.


You’ve got to love it when you’re in a small town in Saskatchewan and there is a Tim Hortons on each side of the street.

One time I was searching for a Tim Hortons and the map said, “You were here a year ago.” Yikes!

Anyway, that has nothing to do with this post.

I just want to say a couple of things about Google, and I would call this a “1% about TNT post”. Here’s the 1%:

If you use Google Drive AND use TntConnect, do NOT store your database on Google Drive or OneDrive.

TntConnect is optimized for Dropbox only. If you are sharing your database with another person (such as a spouse or team member), or if you routinely use your database on two separate computers, it is essential that you only use it on Dropbox.

Why is that? Because when you open and use TNT, Dropbox automatically locks the file to prevent someone else from opening and using it. If by chance two people do have it open and make changes, then when the second person closes it, Dropbox will recognize the file date/time don’t match and will copy the file and rename it as a “Conflicted Copy”. Then the next time you open TNT, TntConnect will recognize the conflicted copy, alert you, and walk you through a way to synchronize the two so that any information entered in one is updated in the other. Once they match perfectly, TNT will delete the conflicted copy. Also, Dropbox manages the database better: It only uploads changes instead of the entire (large) database, so the web-sync is substantially faster.

Google Drive (and OneDrive also) do not work this way. They have a much simpler procedure: Last one wins. So if you spend 5 hours painstakingly updating 100 different things in TNT (like we all do monthly, he he) and your spouse opens and closes it… just after you… your spouse’s copy “wins” (because it was saved last, it must be more accurate, right?). All of your work would be lost.

So while I often say that TNT has a lot of flexibility to do things your way, in this case I am adamant: DO NOT STORE YOUR TNT DATABASE IN GOOGLE DRIVE or ONEDRIVE!

I mention this because I wanted to bring something else up: My organization has a business account with Google that gives me unlimited storage on Google Drive. This was a real boon to me because I scanned a lot of old documents and photos and other things over a year period.

Only after I did that did I realize that all of those hundreds of files will be lost to me when I leave my organization… which will happen some day. So now I have to go through each of those files and send a copy to my personal account so that they are mine forever.

Ironically, my dad kept budget ledger books and my mom kept photo albums and a DayTimer planner. Years upon years, decades upon decades, these files were instantly accessible. Today we generate more data than ever–more fitness data, more photos, more financial data–yet that information is of no value if it is not retrievable.

And, humorously, this brings me back to why I love TNT: It allows me to keep and store and retrieve and export all of my data, any time and anywhere I want.

What if I have nothing to say?

If I am committed to writing a blog post every week—without fail—and yet I find myself with nothing to say, should I write one anyway?


Why? Because consistency matters.

If I miss a week or two, should I profusely apologize to my quiet but committed readers for missing, followed by an explanation of why I missed?


Why? Because they are not that committed.

Bob, aren’t you saying the exact opposite with those two questions?

Yes and No.

Boy that’s helpful.

Okay. Here’s my point. When it comes to ministry newsletters (often called a “prayer letter”), consistency DOES matter. Every person—and/or every organization—has a different cycle of consistency. Some ministries encourage their staff members to write a monthly newsletter; others encourage a quarterly newsletter with interim letters or notes to key groups (e.g., quarterly for all people and monthly for donors only).

Regardless of the frequency, I have two axioms about newsletters:

  1. Be somewhat faithful to the schedule… that is, be consistent.
  2. NEVER apologize in a newsletter

The first book I ever read on “major donor development” was called The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing by Doug Brendel. Though written for corporate donor work, it profoundly impacted how I raise my personal support. One of the most significant principles I learned was that my partners are not sitting at their mailbox anxiously awaiting my newsletters, nor secretly condemning me each day it is late.

To think that they are checking me off for sending the newsletter on time actually suggests I am the center of their world. I’m probably not.

The book also jokingly made the comment that one fundraiser could send the exact same letter twelve months in a row and raise more funds than someone who sends twelve radically different letters in a row. Why? Because consistency matters.

Next question: Without checking any history or logs, answer one of these questions:

  • How many newsletters have you sent in the last 365 days?
  • How often do you send your newsletters… monthly? quarterly? six-weeks? bi-monthly?
  • What date do you drop your letter in the mail?

Before reading further: This is NOT a guilt blog post. I am not suggesting you should write your letters with any specific frequency, on any specific day, etc.

But I am suggesting that consistency matters. And this is how and why this is a TNT tip and not just a “support raising principle”.

A common business principle is that you cannot effectively evaluate what you cannot measure. Since March 2006 I have used a Group | Log History to record sending my newsletter each month. This helps me easily review:

  • How many newsletters I send each year
  • How many people are on my newsletter list (the number ebbs and flows over time)
  • That any individual partner received a specific newsletter
  • The content of each newsletter… it’s a great way for me to look back if I have a question such as, “When did I write about Quebec?”


My newsletters have been surprisingly consistent over the past 12 years. I write 5-7 ministry newsletters per year. I also, typically, write two “Family Updates” separate from our ministry newsletter. And I send 1 or 2 special gift appeals each year. So on average I send 9-11 pieces per year not including at least one handwritten thank you note to every partner.

I almost hate to say this, but when I do coaching of missionaries, more often than not the most common thing I see is too few communications. Ministry is busy and time flies, and I forget to keep my partners in the loop. This is also why I strongly encourage missionaries to use an Annual Plan. I think this helps plan and execute good communications with our partners.