FEC reporting deadline 7/15/14

by Mark Panger11. July 2014 13:53

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) would like to remind you that the 2014 July Quarterly Report is due on July 15, 2014 (for quarterly filers) and the 2014 July Monthly Report is due on July 20, 2014 (for monthly filers). 


Comments on Deposits

by Mark Panger10. July 2014 14:08

Yesterday a customer requested a comment field be added to deposits.  Her wish was our command (sometimes they are really easy):



Time Traveling?

by Mark Panger10. July 2014 13:58

If recently you have been unable to set the exact time for your email to be released, that is now corrected with today's release.  The ghost of H.G. Wells somehow entered our systems and removed that feature temporarily.  All better now.



Doing the Same Thing Over and Over?

by Mark Panger19. June 2014 09:48

I occasionally get a call from a customer where they tell me they are painstakingly opening each record to make a specific change.

In almost every case there are two possibilities for making this easier.  One, we may already have a tool in TB to help.  Two, we here on the support team have a few tools that are not in the application that we are able to execute.

Example.  Yesterday a customer called and wanted all the county names updated on his address records.  There were some inconsistencies.  This change can be done by you:  There are several columns in the database upon which you can change en masse.

Also, yesterday a customer had imported a large set of contributions with a date of 1/1/1900.  Obviously incorrect.  They were supposed to be 4/5/2014.  We do not have a utility to bulk update the dates on contributions.  I mentioned to her that I could fix that in just a minute or so.  Upon her approval I did.  

The lesson here is if you find yourself spending a lot of time making the same update to a large set of records, let us know.  We likely have a really fast, 

, less labor intensive, way of completing the task.


BTW, the June 9th Post is Related to the June 5th Post

by Mark Panger10. June 2014 08:11

For those who have requested the household report mentioned on June 5th, if you decide you need to re-household some of your records, the June 9th post has some of the info needed.

Of course, for some of you this will be a bit mind numbing.  We are here to help.  Our support information is at the top of this page.



Advanced Technique for Querying with Multiple Voter/Donor ID's

by Mark Panger9. June 2014 16:20

I frequently need to query for a list of voters/donors based on their Trail Blazer ID.  Usually this information comes from an Excel spreadsheet that I have modified.  Trail Blazer has no easy way to query a list of ID's and have the list returned. 

Some time ago I created a tool that allows me do this.  It will take a columnar list of ID's (usually copied from Excel) and turn them into a comma separated list that I can then paste into the SQL tab.  

This is an advanced technique so only those who are willing to devote a little time to learn the process should proceed.

In the video below, I have created an example where I export data to an Excel file, add data to the file, and query for those records I updated in the spreadsheet.  I have also placed the tool referenced in this video on our website.



Let me know if you find this useful.


Use Households? You May Be Interested in This.

by Mark Panger5. June 2014 17:22

In my troubleshooting travels I often see areas of data that need to be corrected.

One of those areas is Householding.  Frequently I find people who live at the same address who have different households.  That means if you are using Household Salutation or Household Envelope Name in your merge letters, you are often missing someone.  It also means you may be sending more than one letter to a single address.

I'd like to make an offer to you.

Here's what I will do.  If you email me at mpanger@trailblz.com I will return to you a report (for free) in Excel 2007 format that will show you where you have more than one person at the same address, but they are not householded together.

I will need two things:

  1. Your database name or customer name and,
  2. Your email address.
The report will come back looking something like this: 

In the sheet above, you can see that the house with AddressID of 162 has two different HouseholdID's.  This is an indication that house should be reviewed to see if it should be re-householded.  This will likely lead to a discussion regarding whether or not people with different last names should be householded together (see HomeAddressID 184 at the bottom of the sheet and notice the last names).  



Entering an Event Order Manually - New Video

by Mark Panger30. May 2014 10:28

Usually your donors are completing their orders for tickets or other event purchases online and little further data entry is required by you.  What about those that pay by check?  This video will teach you how to enter the order and complete a payment for that order.



Version 6.2.5256.xxxxx (released 5/23/14)

by Mark Panger27. May 2014 09:41

International Configuration

Do you live in France?  We found our customers using Windows configured for international had some issues with the use of a decimal point in contributions.  This has been corrected.


Event Attendance

The Summary tab within Events has been updated to allow you to filter by attendance.


FEC Contribution Memos

Manual FEC contribution memo capability has been added.  In the past the program made all the determinations regarding the memoing (Apparently 'memoing' is not a word. Maybe it should be.) of a contribution on the FEC report.


Sloooooow query

If you were running queries to find people who opened or not opened specific emails, the query ran somewhat slowly.  We have improved that query's performance.


Notes on tickets

Each ticket within the event can now have its own note.


Loan improvements 

Loan balances are now correctly updated upon update.  It's been like that for 13 years and no one noticed that until now?!  We also added a loan payments column when you have the Lender card open.






Importing was fixed today

by Mark Panger22. April 2014 14:00

If you were having a problem with your import stalling, it was due to Tom installing an anti-import switch in yesterday's code.  Tom figured if no one could import then he could take a few days off and maybe enjoy some sun he hasn't seen since last Halloween.  We gave him a sun lamp and had him turn off the anti-import switch.  

You can import now.


"Undo" fixed and tweak to the Call Book Report

by Mark Panger21. April 2014 14:01

As we have been tightening security on the system, that has necessitated some changes to how some things work.  One of those was the roll back feature where you could "undo" a recent activity. However, increased security caused that to break for our customers.  That has been fixed now.

The call book report now has an option to print log notes in reverse date order.


Trail Blazer does not use OpenSSL and is NOT vulnerable.

by Mark Panger10. April 2014 07:59

Do you get your news via TV, radio, or straight off the internet?  Hard to miss the conversation around the OpenSSL vulnerability.  The website https://lastpass.com/heartbleed/  offers a way for you to determine if the sites you visit are vulnerable.  They gave us a clean bill of health.  We have two domains in use; trailblz.com and trailblz.info.  Here are the results:





Java Got You Down?

by Mark Panger3. April 2014 09:24

Our FEC customers running on a 64 bit machine will sometimes get a message when attempting to run an FEC report that they need to install Java.  I usually hear them say "but I already have Java installed!"

True. You do.  But the default Java installation is a 32 version.  Unless you have a pretty old machine, you are likely on a 64 bit machine that needs a 64 bit Java to run the FEC reports.

It's FREE and easy to install.

Click here: http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp

Click the link shown below:



Printing problem has been corrected in this version

by Mark Panger21. March 2014 07:43

If you were experiencing a printing problem this week, this version will correct that.  We recently ran some upgrades to our servers.  One of those upgrades seeped into our application that required all our customers be upgraded as well.  For those on Windows XP this upgrade is not compatible.  We have downgraded the software on the server and all should be back to normal (whatever that is).


Say Goodbye to Windows XP

by Mark Panger17. March 2014 08:34

I wrote about this last year letting you know that Windows XP would be deprecated in 2014.  It's happening.  This article in USA Today says the date is April 8th.   


"Since the end of Microsoft's security updates is big news, hackers and scammers are going to be targeting computers still using XP. You're going to be very, very vulnerable."
             Kim Komando



If you are still using Windows XP, you are not alone.  A survey of our customers shows about 20% of you are still running on Windows XP.


Pledges - Thank You Dates - International Address Support

by Mark Panger14. March 2014 08:26

Security has been tightened in the Contribution Allocation, Match, and Notify lists.

Pledges - weekly pledges are now supported.  This means if you have a bi-weekly payroll deduction, you can now enter them into the pledges.


Expiring Pledges - would you like to know the date the last pledge is due?  We've added a couple of columns to assist in determining pledges that may be expiring soon.


 Add these columns from the Format button:





Thank You Date - you asked, we listened.  The date you set the Thank-You-Sent check box is now displayed.


 International Addresses are now better supported.

Within the application: 


Labeling will adjust:



If you are using version 2 of the donation page you can now include international addressing as well:



Your iframe text to support this would look something like this:

<iframe src="https://www.trailblz.info/yourdatabasenamehere/Donations.aspx?rdif=http%3a%2f%2ftrailblz.com%2fdemositemarkonly%2fpolitical%2fthankyou.html&ver=2&international=1" style="width:800px;height:1200px" frameborder="0" scrolling="yes" onload="scroll(0,0)" ></iframe>




New Menu (just to mess with your heads)

by Mark Panger11. February 2014 17:06

We restructured the File and Edit menus on the Voter/Donor Search tool strip.  They have been moved into sub folders.  ALL menu items were retained.  Just moved to sub folders.





BANK RECONCILIATIONS (for our political customers)

by Mark Panger3. February 2014 09:36

I don’t normally harp.  Ok, yes I do….  constantly...  Just not in writing.  Today I’m changing that up.  The past couple of weeks helping customers complete their year-end FEC filing had me noticing something.  

Many of our customers do NOT reconcile their Trail Blazer accounting with their bank accounts and then ensure that balance reconciles with what’s being reported to their campaign finance authority.

I’ve had a few folks say they reconcile with Quickbooks.  Great!  But….  Quickbooks does not do your FEC filing.  On many occasions I have found missing transactions in Trail Blazer even though their Quickbooks accounts were reconciled.

Some do reconcile, but don’t ensure that the bank numbers are then reconciled to what is being reported to their campaign finance authority.  Again, too frequently, I have see an unexplained difference between the reconciled bank balance and the reported number.

Why reconcile?  You cannot know if you have captured all on your contributions and payments unless you are reconciling.  Reconciling increases your confidence that what you are reporting is much more accurate.  Reconciling on a timely basis ensures your books do not get out of control.

Interestingly I don’t get enough requests from customers asking for training on how to do the reconciliations.  Training IS INCLUDED with your subscription.  Take a look at the curriculums page.




More FEC updates today

by Mark Panger20. January 2014 08:24

- Enhancements/Fixes to FEC disclosure reporting:

  - When Create-Report is pressed, a progress bar is displayed during the preparation of the specification form.

  - For Form 3 and Form 3S Schedule A, the 'force disclosure itemization' setting was not being honored.  Fixed.

  - FEC reporting will now tally receipt type 'Refund/Rebate' in the Offset to Operating Expenditures box.

  - Added an 'FEC Site' toolstrip button to bring up the committee's page on the FEC site.



  - Fixed the Validation-Results tab page link to the FEC site.

  - Grid titles were updated with the form's purpose.  For example, Schedule C now displays as 'Schedule C - Loans'.



  - The width of the panel portion of all grids was set to an appropriate size to maximize the space devoted to the datagrid.

  - All grids where more than one row can exist provide for a summary line.  Dollar amounts are specified as summable.

  - All grids where more than one row can exist now include an 'Include' column.

  - Freeze column point is now specified for all grids.

  - All dollar amounts are formatted with commas and two digits.

  - Column widths were adjusted to be suitable for the column use.

  - Exports from grids work.

  - Form 3 processing:

    - Form 3 grid in its column headings includes the summary page line number associated with the column.

    - Most grids now show the column numbers as part of column headings.

  - Form 3x processing

    - Found and corrected a significant performance problem.

    - Form 3x grid in its column headings includes the summary page line number associated with the column.

    - Most grids now show the column numbers as part of column headings.



FEC Update

by Mark Panger13. January 2014 19:13

We released the new FEC tools to be compliant with the 1/14/2014 deadline.

With the new release the FEC has made some changes to the upload locations.  They provided this table to us: 



In Trail Blazer you MAY need to make these changes here when doing your FIRST upload:




It's Time to Update Your Cycles/Elections

by Mark Panger7. January 2014 11:08

In case you missed it, it's a New Year.

If you are a nonprofit or PAC customer, it's time to update your default Cycles/Elections in Trail Blazer.  It will speed up your contribution and expenditure data entry.


From all of us at Trail Blazer

by Mark Panger30. December 2013 16:31






Spice Up Your Donation Page With Our New iFrame

by Mark Panger18. November 2013 13:10

With last week's release of our software we added a new enhancement you can include on your donation page.


Our legacy donation iframe looked like the left side picture (click to enlarge).  The right side is the new style.


The new iframe can be colorized to match the coloring on your site.


I recently assisted a customer in upgrading their donation page.  Take a look!



You will need to add ?ver=2 onto your iframe text.


My old iframe text looks like this:

<iframe src="https://www.trailblz.info/DemoNonProfitMark/Donations.aspx" style="width:500px;height:1200px" width="500px" height="1200px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" onload="scroll(0,0)" ></iframe>


Here's the ever so minor change needed:  

<iframe src="https://www.trailblz.info/DemoNonProfitMark/Donations.aspx?ver=2" style="width:800px;height:1200px" width="800px" height="1200px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" onload="scroll(0,0)" ></iframe>


The only change is the additional text shown in large letters.  The width change to 800 will allow a side by side donation page layout as shown in the screen shot above.

Give support a call to match the coloring on your site.  Currently that option is not yet released to our customers.



What have we been doing since October?

by Mark Panger15. November 2013 08:14

In a prior release we added the Voter/Donor Relationships list


In this release we added a proper search panel.


Bank Reconciliation Enhancements.

You can now print the reconciliation. (Ya, that's been a long time comin')

When a transaction is cleared, we now add a bank statement date to the transaction.  This will allow you to go back and see WHEN you cleared a particular item.


We did finally come out of the middle ages and make consistent the column PriorLastName.  It's no longer referred to anywhere as MaidenName ( I hope we found them all).


Payroll Contribution Imports

Some of our customers import payroll contributions regularly.  If you added the Trail Blazer id to each record in the payroll file, it was nicely merged with the correct individual.  However, if you had a new person you had to import them separately or manually add them.  You can now have records with missing Trail Blazer id's.  The program will create a new person in the database.




Whole Bunches of Changes Today

by Mark Panger22. October 2013 12:53

Signature date added to FEC reporting.  This will allow you to run your report days before it's due, but still set the signature date to the due date (or any date you wish). 

If you file FEC reports for several Trail Blazer customers, the FEC upload tool will load the proper committee number on the upload screen.  You need only enter your password. 



Bank Account list now displays the account balance instead of 0.
In the voter/donor table, the Notes column now allows editing right from the list without opening the voter/donor card.
If an attribute was deleted, and if immediately afterward the import utility was started and the New button was pressed to create a new source attribute, an error occurred.  Fixed.  How does one find these things?!
Added linkable fields to the Event card's Order lines.  Also the Event card's Ticket tab has a linkable order line and order line items.

If you had your Include column removed from the list and you attempted a drag n' drop merge, you got an error.  Fixed.

Bank Reconciliation - standard Export and Print buttons added to tool strip.

The Email Links search unit was not honoring the 'Not' setting. Fixed.

Improved exception handling in the search panels.  This will aid us in determining where a search did not perform as expected.


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