In Memory … (It’s the people)

Heard this week that my very first ministry partner passed away. Full disclosure: I use the term “ministry partner” loosely in this case. I don’t think she knew the Lord and never gave a gift to our organization. But she was the first recipient of my very first newsletter on August 10, 1977, and had an incalculable influence on my life.

I first met Frances Bianco on September 7, 1976, in South Orange, New Jersey … when I started fourth grade and she was my teacher.

Mrs. Bianco in 2019, our first face-to-face visit in decades.

Mrs. Bianco was a great teacher and a tremendous encouragement.

The following summer my father announced a sudden family move across the country to Connecticut (okay, 125 miles away). I broke the news to her and an aunt in Montreal by writing a handwritten “newspaper” just like the little school newspaper we had created that year in class. It cost 13¢ to mail anywhere in the USA or Canada.

Since we also left two older sisters in New Jersey, I wrote a second edition to update them on our fall activities and Thanksgiving trip to the homestead in Quebec. Over time, my mother introduced me to photocopying, typewriters, press-on lettering, and third-person writing.

Four years on the high school newspaper staff almost led to a career in journalism, but at least gave me skills I use today.

Last month I published the 132nd edition of this family history. Mrs. Bianco was a subscriber and pen pal for 45 years. I texted her photos as I traveled around the world; I often called her on her birthday or just to chat. She turned 83 last November, did yoga daily and walked miles; she was a model of health and fitness. But alas, a short illness wound down the life of a teacher who influenced hundreds of kids over the decades. Living a half mile from the elementary school where she taught, she saw many of these students into adulthood.

Montrose School in 2019, looking unchanged from when I attended in kindergarten through 4th Grade.

In 2018, a ministry trip brought me to the town of my youth and I visited with Mrs. Bianco for the first time in 40 years. My teen son joined me on a later trip where I introduced the two of them; she made him feel like he was the only person in the room. No wonder her students loved her!

Mrs. Bianco and Camden at the South Orange Public Library across the street from her house.

What did I learn from Mrs. Bianco that has helped me in my years in ministry?

  • Whoever she is talking to is the most important person to her at that moment. I saw this when I brought my teen son with me; he wasn’t an accessory to our conversation. He was the center of her attention.
  • She asks great questions. She asked Camden about his studies, his interests—great leading questions that resulted in thoughtful answers.
  • She believed in me. I once overheard her compliment me to another class (she did not know I was passing the room outside).
  • She loved hand-written letters—she wrote to me until about five years ago when we started texting. Her letters were always filled with positive encouragement and praise for our work and family.

Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds…” In Old Testament times, these were the source of sustenance for the people and they needed to be regularly cared for. Our source of sustenance is our ministry partners. God is the ultimate provider, of course, but now—as then—it is up to us to care for and cultivate what He has entrusted to us.

We can learn a lot from a fourth-grade teacher.

Vol. 1 No. 1 (the first printed edition) and Vol. 45 No. 1 of our family update.
A book publisher helped me compile the first 43 years into a full-color, hardbound book so everyone in our family could have their own copy.


Picture This!

Post Date: 2022-02-22

Today is one of those “great days” for numbers people: 2/22/22. 🙂

One of the most surprising positive outcomes of the pandemic and the significant increase in Zoom usage is my improved use of the Pictures in my TNT database.

I have not had many partnership development calls in Zoom but even so, I have made it a habit to capture quick screen shots which I crop and upload. For the most part I have always relied on Christmas letters and the pictures included with them, which I scan in and crop, interestingly, I have noticed the number of Christmas letters and pictures we receive is declining significantly in recent years.

Since the picture space on the Name & Address Bar is so small, the main goal is to maximize the head portion. By default, TNT will compress uploaded photos to keep them under a certain size; this is controlled in Tools>Options>Pictures. You can turn off the auto-reduction, but I definitely do not recommend it!

A full-size photo shrunk down is not as good as one cropped to show just the heads.

Some other Pictures tips:

1. To add/delete pictures, right-click in the open space of the Pictures Tab or on the picture in the Name & Address Bar.

2. The Pictures Tab allows you to add one or more pictures of your contacts. If you have more than one picture, you can click on any picture and it will instantly change on the Name & Address Bar. (As an aside, I do not necessarily recommend this, as TNT is not intended to be a photo storage center and a lot of pictures can slow down your database.)

3. You can see all of the Pictures in your database, and the contact they are associated with, using Tools>All Pictures. You cannot modify or delete pictures from that box.

One final tip…

Something I just did today—which is what led me to write this post—was to Lookup all contacts with Pictures just so I could take a look at them, update my pictures, etc. I submitted a Forum entry to ask for advice and got this helpful and short tip:

Lookup>Custom, and enter this text:

ContactID IN (SELECT ContactID FROM Picture)

Look me up sometime!

This post is an overview of the amazing Lookups feature.

When you open TNT, it actually does a Lookup immediately. The default is simply to lookup “Everyone” in your list. This is the “Current Lookup“, and the result is the “Current Group“:

What is a Lookup? Some software call lookups a “Filter”. This helps you narrow down all possible items to just the few you want. It’s how we shop for things… stores have countless items. As we search for one item, a variety of helpful filters appear on the left to help us further filter down to a manageable list.

Lookups help me filter a list of unlimited items into a manageable list. When shopping, I can successively size, type, colour, brand, etc. to narrow the list to something more useful.

In TntConnect, the default lookup is “Everyone”—all contacts in your database. Any other lookup will search ALL contacts in your database who fit the criteria you ask.

  • You can filter on all 175+ contact fields, as well as on all giving activity and other criteria. After each lookup, you can do Successive searches to further narrow down your results. (Think “All products > Hockey Sticks > Youth > CCM Brand).
  • You can also save a Lookup as a favorite for future reference or to be the default lookup when you open TntConnect (in Tools>Options).
  • You cannot harm your database in any way by doing Lookups, so use trial-and-error to learn to use Lookups more effectively.

The Lookup menu is simply a list of lookups pre-written for you, where you add the specific criteria. When you choose a Lookup from the menu, the “Lookups” box appears. To the left of the box are the various lookup options (by field, by list, by giving, by group).

In the big box in the centre is the “Filter” box where you select the specific criteria. For example, if you are doing a “Lookup By Field” and the field you are searching for is “Home City”, then the criteria is the city you are looking for (such as “Calgary”).

In the top of the Lookup box is the action you want TntConnect to take when doing this lookup, in relation to the Current Group. There are four options:

  • Replace the current group. This means, “Ignore the Current Group and search all of the contacts in the database. Then give me a new current group.”
  • Lookup within the current group. This means, “Of the Current Group I already have, now search only within those contacts.”
  • Add to the current group. This means, “Search within the entire database, then add any I find to the Current Group I already have.”
  • Take away from the current group. This is the opposite of #3 and means, “Of the Current Group I already have, take away any that meet the criteria I have selected.”

As an example, let’s say you wanted to call donors in Calgary, but not any who have given a gift in the last 3 months. In words, then, you would…

1. Do a Lookup>By Field for Home City = Calgary, and Replace the Current Group. You now have a Current Group of all contacts in Calgary. (Tip: This particular lookup is also pre-written in the menu: “Lookup>City…”)

2. Then you do a second Lookup>By Giving, Within the current group, so that only Calgary donors are represented. I leave the starting Date Range blank to capture all donors up to the desired date. (Tip: When you do a Lookup>By Giving without entering any criteria, TNT automatically looks up all contacts with lifetime donations > 0.)

There is no “correct” way to do lookups. In fact, while writing this post I actually had it written differently and then realized I could do it in two steps instead of three.

I am often asked, “How do I get back to ‘Everyone’ like when I open TntConnect?” It’s easy… just press the “Lookup Everyone” button on the button bar (it looks like a funnel or filter). Press it again, get your other lookup back… it’s a toggle switch!