Notes on Notes

In this “Back to the Basics” series, I address one of the most common questions I receive from new users: “Where is the best place to write Notes about partners… In the Notes tab or on the Notes box on an individual task?”

The answer is easy: BOTH.

So the real question then is, “What are some best practices related to writing Notes?”

These are my thoughts on this, which in this case are “super low value” because really, you should do whatever you want with the Notes fields!

First, let me say that there are three different ways (or 2-1/2 as you will see) to record notes about interactions with partners. Look at this from a really big picture, and as you read below, think about how you might review this information years down the road. The crucial concept about recording anything about a partner is the ability to retrieve/review that information in the future. And that’s why there are three different ways.

  1. On the Notes tab in the Contacts View, viewable in two places as described below (same text, displayed in two spots)
  2. In the Description box of any individual task
  3. In the Notes box of any individual task

(I say 2-1/2 because both #2 and #3 are on the history entry, but in different places.)

Notes Tab

The Notes tab is a free-form notepad that is effectively limitless. Besides those pros of both ‘free-form’ and ‘limitless’, the main virute of the Notes tab is that a small window of the Notes tab appears always at the top of every Contact’s main screen. Type in one and it updates the other. Therefore, put the most important 3 lines at the top.

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Here are some examples of how I take advantage of this “in my face” portion of the Notes tab:

  • If the contact has a deceased spouse—especially if you knew the spouse (e.g., they were a partner while alive)—then I put that information: “Husband (Fred) / Passed away 5/15/21”. I do this because I do not want to accidentally ask her about her husband!
  • If their name has an unusual pronunciation that you want to remember: “Pronounced Flynnstun, not Flint-stone” or “Her name is AHN-Dray-Uh not An-dree-uh“.
  • If there is some current event in their lives that I want to ask them about first thing when I next talk to them, such as [notice that I include the year on each of these future notes; not doing that has tripped me up in the past!]:
    • Daughter Judy going to Genovia on mission trip, July 2022
    • Elroy playing in marching band at City Park Spring Fling in April 2022
    • Calvin is engaged to Susie; wedding April 15, 2022
    • Planning Grand Canyon vacation summer 2022
    • “Granddaughter Sarah is expecting first child in May 2022
    • Lucy (wife) just started Master’s program in Counseling, September 2022; expects to graduate 2025
  • If they or I made a future commitment, I would of course schedule a task reminder, but it is good for me to see it in the Notes too because of the potentially long time frame and that I would see/talk to them before that time occurs:
    • Would consider increasing support after last daughter graduates from college in 2024
    • Asked me to stop by next time I’m in town” (too vague to have a real task assigned)
  • If they have a spouse who is not a Christ-follower and I need to adapt my conversation if I am talking to them. (I’m not making that up; I actually had a ministry partner whose spouse was not interested in our work; when I called them and the spouse answered, I wanted to be able to have a conversation with them but not about spiritual things.)
  • Some people like to record the details from their past appointments here instead of using the individual History items. They do this for two reasons: (1) they can then scroll through all of that history on one screen instead of scrolling through a lot of non-appointment activity (see pics below) and (2) they can export this Notes tab to a Getting to Know You form (links at bottom) or some other export. [If you do this, I personally recommend putting the most current info at the top, so that the further you go down, the older the data is.]
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Description box on an individual task

When I complete any task with a partner, logging that task includes the task type (call, appointment, etc.), the date/time, and a brief description (max 100 characters). Only the task Type, Result, Contact name, and Date are required fields; all others are optional (including the Description and the Notes).

When I first started using TntConnect, I wrote very short descriptions, and sometimes none at all (such as when I attempted a call and did not reach them). This proved to be unwise for me, because years later when I would try to look back on my activity history with them, a blank Description was not helpful.

I have a separate post (coming soon) on “Writing Good Descriptions” that will go into great detail on the way to maximize these 100 characters. The primary benefit of this field is that it super-charges TNT’s powerful History Engine.

Because I can easily filter, search, sort, and export these descriptions, the benefit of describing something in these 100 characters overpowers all other places to take notes (in my opinion).

Notes tab on an individual task

As seen in the picture above, the individual Log History also has its own Notes tab. This is great for recording more information about this specific history entry. For example, if I click on a partner’s phone number in the Name & Address Bar, TNT will pop up a Log History box and automatically put that phone number in the Notes tab. I love that! (I can then fill in the Description box at that moment.)

In the History View, the list of completed tasks displays a notepad next to any item with a Note. If I hover over that little notepad, the note will pop up:

Pros and Cons of these methods

Writing long free-form notes can be very helpful, for two reasons:

  1. Being able to view all of the notes quickly, in one place.
  2. To mail merge and print Getting to Know You forms to review before you go on appointments (links below). These are particularly helpful for couples where one person does a lot of the partnership development effort, and the other spouse is less familiar with the partners.

But recording all of your history this way has some drawbacks…

  1. You cannot search/filter/export the Appointment history
  2. You don’t capture the appointment on the “Last Visit” field
  3. When you do export your contact lists (Current Group>Export Current Group), the Notes field export could be enormous.

If you want to include your Notes in the Getting to Know You forms, re-read these blog posts:

Blog post: Getting to Know You (July 25, 2016)

Blog post: Getting to Know You More (Oct. 31, 2017)

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The Year of the Partner

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Hello and welcome to 2019! When I took a Pause in September, 2018, I had no idea what God had in store for me in the Fall. I mentioned in that post that my life was a bit crazy due to a new donation system we’re rolling out in our ministries around the world (um, next week). I did not know at the time that between then and Christmas I would be in Budapest, London, Paris, and Auckland doing design work on the system.

I confess that simply naming those cities brings a different response than if I say I am going to, perhaps, Bismarck (North Dakota), Peoria (Illinois), Schenectady (New York) or Brandon (Manitoba). While it is my objective to make the most of any place I go to, going to those places without my travel-loving wife is only half as good.

But there is a downside to a busy season like I am going through: My relationships with my ministry partners really suffers.

Since 2002 I have tried to use TNT’s History Log to record all of my interactions with partners. I recently ran a query of my lifetime history in TNT and made a somewhat discouraging discovery: In those 16 years, 2018 was the dead last for my initiations with partners… # of appointments, letters, newsletters, and phone calls (actually phone calls was 15th out of 16, by two calls!).

I’ve also used TNT to log a pledge change for every partner since 1990, and of those 29 years, 2017 & 2018 came in 28th and 29th in terms of new support raised for our ministry work.

Clearly I cannot have another year with statistics like that!

In light of that, and in spite of my busy schedule, I have declared 2019 to be my “Year of the Partner”. I made three very simple New Year’s Resolutions just for partnership development:

  • Write a thank you everyday
  • Call every Financial Partner at least twice, just to say Hi
  • Write a newsletter every month (I went 5 months without a newsletter in 2018)

How am I doing? January just ended and I’ve written 32 thank yous. I had intentionally completed all of my 2018 year-end special gift thank yous before 12/31 to start 2019 with a blank list. I’ve had a handful of “have not thanked in some time” tasks pop up and a few special or annual gifts in January.

Without any pending thank yous in TNT, sometimes I’ve had to be creative: Last week I sent a thank you to the friendly person at Sam’s Club who helped me. This week I sent a co-worker a thank you… in the mail.

(Yes, they are not ministry partners. But I found that when I’m thanking every day, each new TNT thank you task gets completed promptly.)

One time a few years ago I discovered my thanking had plummeted way below normal, and I made a humorous discovery as to why: I had run out of thank you cards! So I have already purchased 200 cards made by a friend who is a professional photographer from some time she spent on the countryside in England. These are timeless, occasion-less photos of thatched roof cottages, doors in brick walls, rowboats in a canal, etc., so they are perfect for any purpose and also gender neutral which is good for a man who writes cards to women and men.

Do I think you should write a thank you every day and a newsletter every month? Not at all. My encouragement to you is to find one or two easily-accomplishable habits to help you just connect and love on your partners this year.

It’s good to chat again.

Bob

p.s.: As I go into 2019, I would love input from you on what questions I can address in this blog. Send your questions to http://www.tnt.tips@gmail.com and I will try to work them in to future posts.


 

 

That old breakfast appointment

I was trying to find a specific comment from a note I wrote years ago. I knew the name of the partner, but I could not remember the exact appointment. Was it in 2005 or 2010?

That is to say, I KNOW I talked to Wile Coyote about “Acme Anvils”, but I just cannot remember when.

Fortunately, TntConnect makes it very easy to search through history–not just all history but even for one specific contact.

  1. In the Contact list, I selected the specific contact in question
  2. Select Lookup | This Contact to filter the list to just that one contact
  3. Go to the History View
  4. Check the box at the bottom Filter by Current Group
  5. Change the date range to All
  6. Type in the word I am looking for in the text filter

1. Select Wile Coyote

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2. Select Lookup | This Contact

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3 & 4. Go to the History View and check the box Filter by Current Group. Notice a blue bar appears that says, “Only items related to contacts in the current group are shown.” In this example, Wile Coyote has no History in the “Last Week”, so the list is blank.

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5. Change the Date Range to All

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6. Type the desired text in the Text filter. This searches any text in either the Description of the history OR in the actual notes of the logged history. In this case, the words “Acme” are in the notes.

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Here is the actual history entry:

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The fun thing about this blog post is that I actually did this just this morning before writing this post, which is what gave me the idea for this post. I had to re-create the details for this sample, but I truly did search through my entire database for one specific history event many years ago.

Being able to filter on one contact in the Contacts View (Lookup | This Contact) allows me to do two helpful things:

  1. Perform a mail merge on one specific contact only (such as to prepare a giving submission form for my organization, or for printing a Getting to Know You sheet)
  2. Use all of the six History filters. I cannot filter (much) on the History Tab for the contact, but when I view the contact’s history in the History View, I can filter by all six filters (date, type, current group, data changes, text-in-notes, etc.).