We NEVER Stop Working For You - more changes in the last update

by Mark Panger12. March 2013 10:58

Most of these were direct requests from you.


- Trail Blazer's YouTube channel can be opened from with the Trail Blazer Help Menu.

- Add Max Household Member count to Create Household dialog. Allows user to decide how big the households may be before separating into single households.

- In walk lists, a page break is caused by either a street name or a precinct code change.  This was causing page breaks in cases where the precinct code was missing.  Trail Blazer was updated to ignore such cases and to consider only non-blank precinct codes when breaking pages.


- Desktop refinements:

  - On the Order-Line tab, the product type control was not being set correctly when the underlying record was an existing record.  Fixed.

  - With the Order-Line tab, the Delete button was activated for merchandise-type orderlines.

  - With the Order tab, you can delete the order when when:

    - the order amount is 0

    - the amount paid is 0

    - the amount open is 0

    - the order line count is 0

    - the ticket count is 0


- Allowing deposits of contributions, receipts, etc. from committees other than primary committee.

- VA Reporting - Schedule E was over reporting loan information. Corrected.

- Renamed in menu what was a Transferer List from 'Transfers In' to 'Transferers'.

- Enhancements to the Lender/Loan area.

- Deposit List - no longer preloads list.  You must click the Search button.



- The FEC reporting code will now include a contribution where the absolute value of an individual contribution amount exceeds the itemization threshold.  This assures that in a reattribution situation, both contribution records are included in the report if the reattribution amount is greater than the itemization threshold.

- Added a 'force itemization' checkbox to the voter contribution data entry panel.



Microsoft Will Be Retiring Windows XP

by Mark Panger11. March 2013 14:13

I realize this is probaby known to you and it's still 12 months away.  For some of you it deserves some attention.

On April 08, 2014 Microsoft will no longer provide any support for Windows XP. Of course your machines will continue to operate just fine...  as long as you never need anything more than what you have now... and nothing breaks.

Windows XP was released in August of 2001 and has had a great life. 

What if I don't want to upgrade?

I know, change is hard.  Especially when what you have is working just fine.  Well, it will continue to work just fine... until it doesn't.  Then you will likely be forced into an upgrade that is not on your schedule.

My advice?

Be pro-active.  KNOW that you will be unsupported after 4/8/2014.  Consider setting money aside each month to pay for any upgrades you may need in 2014. Set your expectations.

Good News for Trail Blazer customers.

Trail Blazer recently required a .Net software upgrade of all of our customers.  We are good for several years.  If Trail Blazer is currently running on your PC, it will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.


Tax Deductible Amounts Can Now Be Entered on Each Contribution

by Mark Panger7. March 2013 09:28

For our nonprofit customers you may now enter a tax deductible amount on each of your contributions.  

You may update prior transactions en mass to back fill your data.  You can select specific types of transactions and then set the tax deductible amount to be equal to donation amount, not deductible at all, or even a percentage of the donation amount.

The tax deductible amount can also be included in your thank you letters.

Learn more.




If You Have Downloaded Our Most Recent Version...

by Mark Panger6. March 2013 15:09

...you may notice that attributes are now counted in your lists: 


Oklahoma Customers:

by Mark Panger15. February 2013 10:02

Our state database for Oklahoma has been refreshed with data as of 1/24/2013.  Look for Voter Update pricing on this page if you are interested in having your database refreshed.  Contact support@trailblz.com for more information.


From the FEC:

by Mark Panger4. February 2013 11:09


You may have received this email today from the FEC:

Dear Treasurer,

As part of its continuing effort to improve customer service while saving taxpayers money, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is pleased to announce that the Reports Analysis Division (RAD) will begin sending Non-Filer Notifications via e-mail in February 2013.  Non-Filer Notifications are sent when a required Report of Receipts and Disbursements (Forms 3, 3X, 3P), or a Report of Contributions Bundled by Lobbyists/Registrants and Lobbyist/Registrant PACs (Form 3L) has not been received at the FEC.  


Once the e-mail process begins, you will no longer receive paper Non-Filer Notifications through the mail, so please ensure that the e-mail address listed on your committee.s Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1) is current and correct. (Please provide no more than two (2) e-mail addresses for your committee.) To update your e-mail address, please file an amended Form 1.

If you would prefer to continue to receive Non-Filer Notifications on paper, please file a miscellaneous document (Form 99 for electronic filers), to indicate this preference.  




Today's Version

by Mark Panger24. January 2013 14:08

FEC changes: 

We have eliminated the Ending Cash input box when creating a new FEC report.  The FEC used to warn us when the number input was different from the number computed.  Unbeknownst to us, it has removed that check and could thus cause imbalances in your reporting.



The event system has been enhanced to allow creation of 'orders' from the desktop.  Previously, that could only happen through the web site.  It's brand new as of this morning and has not yet been documented.  Stay tuned.


Importing Contributions:

Donor/Voter table User Fields are now supported during a contribution import.


Event 2013 Has Been Released

by Mark Panger9. January 2013 09:36

Patrick's fingers are worn to the first knuckle but the new Event Management system has been released.  It's still being enhanced, but you many of the tools are available for you to use right now.  The video below will show what the new system looks like as well as teach you how to configure your Event to utilized the new features.



It's Time to Update Your Cycles/Elections

by Mark Panger3. January 2013 11:05

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.


What's New Today?

by Mark Panger26. December 2012 14:46



Trail Blazer is releasing a new Event Registration system.  Today's release is getting various parts of the program upgraded to accommodate the new system.  You can preview and experiment with the new pages here.  Feel free to enter information as you please.  When you get to the credit card page, just enter fake credit card info.  The page will accept anything.


Event Searches Were Enhanced in Today's Release

by Mark Panger20. December 2012 16:37

We added a few items to the search panel for Events.  Until today the only searchable field was the Event Name.



Is today the end of the world?

by Mark Panger20. December 2012 16:26

Or is that tomorrow?  I can never remember.


New Version Today

by Mark Panger19. December 2012 23:51

We upgraded our SQL server last night.  In so doing it broke Trail Blazer.  We had to put out an emergency release to fix the owie.  As this release was unexpected, I do not have materials ready to discuss the changes we've been working on.  Stay tuned.  This will put us into hyperdrive to get something out soon.  However, if you happen to notice something changed and need more information, feel free to call in.


It Can Sometimes Take A While To Change How We Do Things

by Mark Panger29. November 2012 08:16

I had a very productive meeting yesterday with a long time customer.  They had questions about cleaning up their existing data, best practices, and how to fully utilize the existing features of Trail Blazer. The meeting is something I encourage you to do with us.  We can do it over the phone or if you are in the Minneapolis area, come on in.

We started with database hygiene (Their phrase. I can't take credit).  We talked about splitting their couples records into individual records.  We talked about householding their data.  We talked about how to find and remove their duplicates.

Best practices can be different for each customer.  Should I use an attribute or user field?  Generally, there is not a single correct answer.  

If you have been a customer for a long time, you may not be aware of all the enhancements added to Trail Blazer.  In their case they were aware of mass emailing and online donations, but were not using them.  We discussed a plan to move them towards using those features. 

So, like going to your mechanic for a tune-up, it's a good idea to check in with us once in a while and see what you may be missing.  You can't beat the price.  It's free!




Do you have a memory like a sieve?

by Mark Panger15. November 2012 09:58
This is a conversation about checklists.

I got this email from a customer this morning:

"I can't tell you how often I've done this: "hurry, hurry - send this eBlast" and then I forget to update the text version!!!!!!!!!!!"

It reminded me of a political campaign I was working on in 2006. 
  We mailed out a postcard that had no contact information printed. On a second mailing we forgot our website.

We immediately instituted a checklist system for ALL outgoing communications (email or printed).  That checklist was followed each and every time. 

Problem solved.


Attributes, User Fields, and Log Notes… Oh My!

by Mark Panger13. November 2012 13:19

Trail Blazer has the functionality to store data in attributes, user fields or log notes.  But how do you decide?  We've added a white paper to our knowledge base that discusses this subject.


How do I enable a person to receive test email drafts?

by Mark Panger12. November 2012 13:58

If you regularly send eblasts using Trail Blazer, it's a good idea to have a group of people review those emails PRIOR to sending to the larger list.  They can be anyone you have give access to use your database (users).  This article will show you HOW to enable a user to receive test emails.


Political Customers - it's time to change your default cycle

by Mark Panger8. November 2012 11:27

Feeling a little empty now that the election battles are over (for most)?

Let's fill that emptiness by thinking ahead to the next election.  In Trail Blazer you need to set your default election cycle to the next election.  

This article (http://www.trailblz.com/kb/?action=view&kb=110&cat=1) will get you there.


Election day is here -- finally...

by Mark Panger6. November 2012 12:51

It is even possible for you not to know that?

Trail Blazer wishes its political customers the best of luck today.


For everyone else, do we need to say it?  Vote!


Marketing Notions Are Becoming Products

by Mark Panger29. October 2012 16:26

With today's release we are migrating the terminology away from Marketing Notions and towards Products.  The first place you will see this change is in the System Manager window.  Over the next few weeks you will see more references change from Marketing Notions to Products as we enhance our Events and ticketing system.




New Look To This Start Page

by Mark Panger25. October 2012 16:32
We are changing the tool we are using to publish to this Start Page. Previously, it was a simple web page that we edited regularly. We have switched to a blog format. We'll be experimenting with this format for awhile to see which style works best for all.


Today's Release

by Mark Panger25. October 2012 16:27

This was mostly FEC updates to our system.

Our application allows for longer field lengths than does the FEC filing system.  In some cases our program will error out when we attempt to 'overfill' an FEC field with too much data.  We corrected this on Schedule B and on Form 6.


Care to run Trail Blazer on your iPad or iPhone?

by Mark Panger18. October 2012 16:20
So last night I'm out with an old friend having a ginger ale (yes, really, it was a ginger ale).  He stepped away for a few minutes and being addicted as I am to my email, I checked it.  Sure enough there was a question from a customer about giving her additional access to the database.  After checking with her boss to ensure it was ok, I opened up my 2X Client and connected to the database.  I made the change and exited before my friend returned to the table.

Using the gestures for expanding and contracting the image I was able to easily navigate to make the needed change.  Although not recommended for heavy data entry, it's pretty useful to have full access to all the data in your database.

See this KB article for how to install and configure 2X Client on your iPad or iPhone.  A link to a video is also included.


Locked Records

by Mark Panger16. October 2012 16:14
The following image is JUST an example.  IT IS NOT REAL!!
It's for the article that follows.

Have you ever attempted to open a record and instead you saw a message like the one above? 

What would happen if you and I both opened Susan Abalan's (made up name) record and you set her home phone number to 555-555-1111 and I set her home phone to her cell phone number of 444-444-2222?

Well, whoever saved the record last would win thus removing the first person's changes.  Since that's an unacceptable situation we place a lock on that record when it is opened by any user.  That lock stays in place until the record is closed.

And that's where it gets a little sticky.  Sometimes the records are not closed all the way and the lock remains. This can happen if Trail Blazer stops unexpectedly.  It can happen if you close Trail Blazer without closing all the open voter/donor records. In this case we try to close them, but we don't always succeed.  It can happen during an aborted import.  An internet communication error can also cause a record to remain open.

While writing this today, I took a quick look and found that amongst all our customers about 1200 records that have been open for MORE THAN ONE WEEK.  

We have a tool that lets you see what records are locked, by whom, and when they locked it. That same tool will allow you to unlock them as well.  Be sure to sort by the Date/Time Locked column if you have numerous locked records.


Advanced Queries

by Mark Panger8. October 2012 15:31
Our Query panels provide you with a lot of power to find nearly everything you want.  Of course there are special purpose queries that look for things in your database the panel does not support.

For instance, you've been adding photos onto voter/donor records.  Now you would like a list of all voters or donors who have a photo attached to their record.

Maybe you would like to find those multi-person households where at least two household members are of a particular party.

How about finding all your new donors this week (30 days, 365 days)?

Over the years I have accumulated a small library of these queries that you can copy and paste into your database.  This article will show you how.  If you have a need for a query you don't see here, let us know.


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