http://www.aahanet.org/

With 800 memorial gifts a week to handle, Tamara Fox of the American Animal Hospital Association Foundation needs a good system.

“FundRaiser Software helps with the integration to QuickBooks®. In the past, I had to enter incoming information into both, but now I just enter it all into FundRaiser and it kicks out the letters.” The tributes module is also important. “I send out letters weekly, sometimes twice weekly.”

The incoming tributes come from AAHA members. They are used primarily for the Helping Pets Fund, which provides financial assistance for vet care to pet owners with financial difficulties, and for veterinarian practices doing Good Samaritan work.

The memorial gifts come from veterinarian practices and pet owners. “Veterinary practices will have a client who has a pet that passes away. The vet then makes a memorial donation to the program in memory of the animal. Some practices send in huge lists of donations; some only do it for long time clients. A few come from pet owners themselves in honor of a pet who has died, say every year on the anniversary of the pet's death.”

Being organized helps

“A big challenge is time.” Because of the volume of tributes, it is nearly a full time job to enter them, “so I do them everyday or at least every other day. Everything is dated as it comes in. If the week is coming to an end, then I make sure that they are done. Being organized helps.”

“Because of the purpose of the tribute, to memorialize, timeliness is of the essence.” Clients who have lost a pet “will appreciate the letter if it arrives within a short time of the death, but if it arrives later, when they have hopefully dealt with it, then it won't be as welcome. Having systems in place where you process things quickly is very important.”

In some cases, “we also send a thank you letter to the vets,” says Fox. For big donors and high volume donations, “we give them the option to receive quarterly statements, and don't send out a thank you every time.” This makes it easier for the veterinary practices to scan what has been sent and keep their own records in order.

One thing Fox really likes about FundRaiser is how she can handle multiple tributes made by a single donor. “Sometimes we get one big check to cover ten memorial gifts.”

Reinforcing the Bond

"There is the whole emotional side of the memorial gift that is very important," says Fox, and the letter that is sent to pet owners is carefully written with this in mind. "We always start off with something about the importance of pets in people's lives. We are sensitive to the fact that for many people, a pet is part of the family. We also let them know about the Helping Pets Fund, what it does, and that their vet cares enough to make a gift, which is so important. It reinforces the bond between vet and client," explains Fox.

"We don't say how much money was sent. We try to emphasize the sentiment," explains Fox. "We get a lot of feedback on the letter from pet owners and veterinarians that they like it."

Reporting

Fox is also responsible for gathering the data on who gave and what they gave for, which is then reported to the trustees. "We use groupings a lot to get the information we need. For that, codes are very important. If a mailing goes out, then we can track gifts that come in from that; or gifts that come in as a grant or that go to the Animal Health Studies. For the tributes, some practices give in different ways. They may send us a list of memorial gifts," (in which case AAHA sends out the letter to the pet owner), "or they may purchase a card in advance and send it later to whoever needs it."

Needs Met

"There is a huge need for the Helping Pets fund," says Fox, which is supported by the tributes that AAHA receives. With her hard work and the good tools provided by FundRaiser, this need will continue to be met.

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