FundRaiser Blog

The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.

Sasha Daucus

Sasha Daucus

Sasha Daucus enjoys helping nonprofit organizations make connections between their specific fundraising activities and how FundRaiser Software can help. She's social media director. "I believe that working in a great working environment helping organizations who want to create a better world is a wonderful gift. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is looking at the posts on facebook made by our customers. On any given day, I'll see people putting their hearts into all the issues close to my heart and doing it with great creativity and committment. It makes me feel good about whatever it is that I have before me on the task list."

With Spring, the Ozarks come truly alive. It's one of the most gorgeous places on Earth, with lots of rain, vibrant green grass, and sweet tiny flowers. It's impossible to remain untouched by all the beauty and growth, and we have been touched! As the first shrubs began blooming a few weeks ago, Autumn Shirley, CEO of FundRaiser and I sat down and brainstormed ideas to make our Facebook page more of a resource for you. We came up with some great ideas-- some brand new and a few tweaks to old standards.

Brand new are the weekly Facebook-only Flash Sales, which include things like discounts on modules, donor portal set up, NCOA processing, training credits, additional user licenses and more. These are only available on Facebook, so be sure to check our page each week to stay in the know.

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"What does it feel like to watch FundRaiser move into a new phase?" I asked FundRaiser founder Gene Weinbeck, who retired last year after a gradual turn over of leadership to Autumn and Joshua Shirley. He stopped by the FundRaiser office  last week to join in the fun of celebrating birthdays for several staff members who, like himself, were born in January. 

After a thoughtful pause, he shared these reflections on the past, present and future of FundRaiser... 

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What is an End of Year letter? Usually it is one of two things:

  • a letter which contains a summary of all donations that a donor has made to your organization in the past year. This is sent in January, to help donors with their taxes.
  • an appeal letter which is sent in November and December to solicit donations.

This article will go more in depth about tax summary letters. You might be surprised at the return you get from this simple and helpful correspondence.

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Raymond, on left, enjoys watermelon with Josh Shirley, right, at the FundRaiser staff party

Raymond started working in FundRaiser Technical Support in a smooth transition when former FundRaiser Support Technician Lee Johnson moved to another job. Lee asked Raymond if he might be interested in working at FundRaiser.

Raymond followed up on the suggestion and both he and FundRaiser staff felt it was a great fit. “I like it here. It’s a good place,” says Raymond. “I’m cheerful, and I try to have a positive influence. It’s great to work in a place like FundRaiser that values happiness, too, and wants people to be happy at work while they are helping others.”

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Tamara Lovan is the newest FundRaiser Support Technician. You may hear her voice and enjoy her pleasant, easy-going style of helping people use their software now if you call in to FundRaiser Technical Support.

Tamara Lovan

She is enthusiastic about joining the FundRaiser staff and working in an area where her personal interest lies. Her computer involvement in the past has been with coding related to website and game development, and computer art, such as animation and 3D modeling. The graphic images in this blog post, including the header are Tamara's work. “I enjoy the educational aspect of it all.”

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As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I tried my own hand this year at fundraising for an organization I support. From creating my first fundraising campaign, to doing a little extra donor outreach with FundRaiser to reach our campaign goal, I enjoyed the experience and look forward to more. 

One of the very satisfying things was not just reaching the fundraising goal, but also an additional and important side benefit that I had not foreseen:  Based in part on the work our fundraising committee did, we had a wonderful turn out for the event in spite of some challenges that hit just before the event took place. Here's what happened...

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In June, I tried my hand at my first fundraising campaign. I started with a basic mailing to loyal donors. You can read about my beginning efforts in my blog post here.   

After I sent the letters out, I didn’t have to wait long before our first donations came in. Loyal donors replied rapidly, and it was great fun to open the envelopes and see their notes and checks. 

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Monday is Happiness Happens Day, and FundRaiser has a long tradition of celebrating the day, established by the company founders. In anticipation of the day, staff spent a little time contemplating happiness - what makes them happy on the job, off the job... and their favorite recommendations for increasing your level of happiness. Here's their list in honor of the day of... 

 
FundRaiser staff, left to right: Autumn Shirley, Jonathan Smith, Joshua Shirley, Sasha Daucus, & Lee Johnson. Photo by Mary Lenker. 

10 Ways to Find, Enjoy or Spread a Little Happiness:

  1. Writing a thank you note
  2. Doing a Random Act of Kindness, like paying for the hamburger of the person in the car behind you at the drive-through window. 
  3. Going out to a rock, or other safe, beautiful place, and meditating.
  4. Exercising
  5. Taking a  walk and keeping an eye out for the things that are really interesting to you, even just little details.  
  6. Calling a friend and noticing the things you most like and admire about them. 
  7. Hanging out with kitties 
  8. Have a good honest talk with someone about what it really going on with you.  
  9. Getting some fresh air
  10. Taking some time off, even if it feels like you have a lot to do! 

What Makes Us Happy on the Job

On the job, staff find enjoyment in the pleasure of working with people we admire and appreciate; and we find enjoyment in the challenges of the job. "I love the people I work with and like helping people do good works," says Jonathan Smith, support technician. His teammate, Lee Johnson loves the opportunity to solve problems.

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Memorial giving reminder on flap of reply envelope
Example of reply envelope text. This is the First Witness reply envelope, and the text is on the back under the flap. It has generated much of their memorial gift donations.

Memorial giving feels good. A donor is able to give to an organization they or a loved one values, and at the same time express a positive connection to someone important to them. Because of the all-around 'feel good' of memorial giving, organizations who successfully promote this kind of donation reap the benefits not only of the gifts, but also the extra good feelings associated with the gifts.

Letting your donors know that they can give to your organization in honor of someone can be very simple and straightforward. Becky Lindberg of First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center and a FundRaiser Select user says, "it is such an easy painless way to keep people connected to your program."

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At FundRaiser Software, staff members are experts in helping nonprofit organizations use our software. We have learned a lot about the how-to's of fundraising from our customers... but very few of us do it ourselves. For me, over the years, I've become eager to try my own hand at it. Yesterday, my wish came true as I mailed out my own first fundraising campaign. The experience was both fun and humbling, giving me a new and deeper appreciation of the work that our customers do daily! 

Let me say at the start, that the organization I volunteer for has done well for more than 35 years tracking donors by spreadsheet and memory. It's understandable that when I suggested using a FundRaiser program they were wary. This year, however, the other volunteers at the organization agreed to let me have a go at it... as long as I was the one working with FundRaiser.   

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In Kim Klein's article on stopping a subtle decline in donations, she mentions the importance knowing your donor retention and attrition rates. You can figure donor retention (how many you have kept) and atttrition (how many you lost) easily using Fundraiser. 

Both are calculated by taking all the donors you had in the previous calendar year and comparing which of those donors gave in the most current complete calendar year. In other words, which of the people who gave in 2014 also gave in 2015? Expressing that number as a percentage of loss gives you your attrition rate; expressed as a percentage of renewal gives you your retention rate.

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Our Clubhouse.org has a dedication to improving the lives of cancer survivors that inspires me. They keep up a very active schedule of fundraising to pay for the services they offer to cancer survivors and their families. They started small, using FundRaiser Basic, and over the years have built momentum so that they now are running several events at once. Staying organized is a challenge, and they have done it by skillful use of special campaign management features in FundRaiser Software.

Using the Campaign Management Console is straightforward, and in doing so, Gilda’s Club of Western PA is able to easily view campaign ROI, and make adjustments as needed to their campaigns. Debra Markovich, Executive Assistant at Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania uses FundRaiser Professional on a daily basis and explains how they stay organized while running several simulaneous events:

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We’re pleased to announce that Lee Johnson joined the FundRaiser technical support staff this month. He brings to the staff a strong background in computer service and repair, and recent training in programming and web development. He has worked at a local computer service shop in West Plains for the past 8 years since moving from California to West Plains, Missouri and just graduated with a degree in computer science from Missouri State University. He started his computer training in California, where he was born. His long-term goal is to be working in programming full time. His real love is programming in Sql database, which is the basis for FundRaiser, so we are pleased to have him on board.

This month, Lee is getting up to speed on the ins-and-outs of FundRaiser, taking training classes and going in-depth with the program.  You’ll begin to hear his pleasant easy going voice answering technical calls soon. 

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Larry Weaver at his retirement part
 Larry Weaver, at his FundRaiser retirement party in December 2014. 

It is with sadness we report the death on January 13, 2016 of Larry Weaver, long-time employee and friend at Fundraiser.

Many of you have have “known” Larry for years, as he helped all of our FundRaiser users in his roles as Technical Support expert, and in later years, the “star” of our Training videos and live classes. Larry was the first employee hired by founder Gene Weinbeck, and remained, through the ups and downs of the company and his own move from Missouri to Arizona, a staunch friend and supporter of FundRaiser’s mission.

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Now is the time to start thinking about what information you need for your End of Year letters for tax season.  Start with a few simple decisions and complete your data entry for 2015 in order for the process to go smoothly. Questions to answer are

  • Will you send out letters to all donors, just to donors who will be required by the IRS to have written proof of their donations, or skip sending them altogether?
  • Do you want to include a fundraising appeal with the tax summary letter? 

What is a tax summary letter?

Tax Summary letters, often called End of Year letters, give donors information on what they have donated to your organization that year. These statements differ from the holiday appeal, in that they are sent after the holidays. Their primary intention is to give information to the donor for taxes; however it is not uncommon to combine them with another appeal.

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How a Christian Radion Station Got Back On Track by Responding Quickly to Listener LettersAbout 15 years ago, key members of CrossTalk ministry took a step back from their work, and realized they weren’t getting where they wanted to go. “We had a lag of four to six weeks in responding to people who contacted us. When we got around to contacting them they were irritated and didn’t care anymore. We were failing,” says Caleb Weiss, Development Director.

Caleb knew that donor management software could help, but theirs was more of a liability. “We had some kind of membership tracking software at that time. It took more work to use than it saved. We were also using several Excel spreadsheets. We needed a software product that would help us do our job without having to put so much into it.”

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BRING Recycling is adding #WorkUpstream – an online campaign starting on #GivingTuesday , December 1st – to their traditional end-of-year fundraising strategy. The social media portion of the campaign targets new donors from their Facebook and Twitter followers, says Ephraim Payne, Development and Communications Director at BRING.

New donors attracted through social media outreach will be added to the FundRaiser database as contacts, allowing for regular follow-up. “It allows us to reach them in a more focused way than we can through Facebook or Twitter,” says Ephraim. “We’ll be able to include them in our donor appreciation and cultivation communications.”

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Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) started their #GivingTuesday efforts 2 years ago, and those efforts have paid off big. The first year they brought in $65,000. Last year, their second year, they brought in $87,000. “This year we are hoping for $100,000,” says Steven Waldman, Executive Director of the Society of St. Andrew. Many of the donations they receive from #GivingTuesday come in from their website. The online giving will be handled by the FundRaiser Donor Portal this year.

Steven believes that SoSA’s success with their #GivingTuesday campaign is due primarily to “keeping things simple. We make a clear connection to the GivingTuesday message and we make it easy for donors to give to us.” 

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Like many development directors, Raelene Pullen of Figge Art Museum has a small staff and limited budget, so she needs to use resources wisely. On first arriving at her new job, she turned to the donor database in place at the Figge for information on how to do that … and found that the data she needed wasn’t there. “The previous development team didn’t use the software in a very dynamic way. I’d have a question and refer to the software. The answers weren’t there. So I had to ask myself why that was. Is this software not good? The software can only return information based on what was input,” says Raelene about her first experiences with the donor database.

Instead of giving up on FundRaiser, she sat down to figure out what information she needed and if FundRaiser could do the job. She went through each of the technical trainings offered by FundRaiser Training and spoke to FundRaiser Technical Support.  When properly implemented, FundRaiser was able to provide almost all she needed. “Since then, we’ve revitalized and revamped the coding and campaign management processes. Now we are able to benchmark and track the differences in response for appeals, museum events, gifts, and engagement and have data over a number of years.”

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Nonprofits who make it easy for donors to give gifts in memory or honor of someone, increase both donations and positive feelings towards their organization... especially when the follow-up on your part is handled well. Joan Young, a volunteer at Kairos Dwelling, who are FundSelect users, says that the key to managing tributes is understanding that two different letters are usually sent: the normal acknowledgment letter to the donor, and then an additional letter, called the notification letter, that goes to the family member of the memorialized person. Tracking both of these letters requires some attention.

The American Animal Hospital Association Foundation receives 800 or more memorial gifts a month."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," explains Tamara Fox. She says to deal with this volume of tributes, "being organized helps."

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