The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.
Writing down an established work flow for entering gifts and name data after a fundraising event is one of single best things you can do to increase your donor management effectiveness. What's more, it creates a good working atmosphere and makes routine work a pleasure, even relaxing after the hectic pace of a fundraising event. What you need in your database will be put there effectively, free of unnecessary mistakes, or need to backtrack. Making it a regularly scheduled task is one great way to increase your all-around effectiveness. The frequency of the task, whether daily or weekly, will depend on the volume of gifts, of course, but it should be a part of the office routine.
Write it down as a task outline, laying the steps out in logical order. The ease of working will be a reward to continue doing the task. It also helps when the person who normally does the data entry is out sick, or is promoted to another position, or is otherwise taken out of the data entry picture. The person who takes over will appreciate having those steps in logical order, with hints, tips, and tricks in their appropriate places along the way. Here's a suggested flow that will work for most nonprofits. Adapt it as needed to make it right for your nonprofit's needs.
The first thing that will need to be in place, even before any gift entry occurs, is a thank you letter template. You may need several templates available, if you have different sources of giving, or different events happening during the same time period, but the main point is that you must have your letter templates in place BEFORE you begin the gift entry process. Remember that you will be associating a letter template with each gift as you enter them, so, rather than having to go back and change a lot of gifts later, just have the letter template(s) ready to go.
Before you can enter a gift, you need to see if the donor is in the database yet, so, for each donation, the first step is to search for the name record. Of course, if you can't find the name record, you'll have to take the time to create one. You'll need at least a name, but the more information you can enter about the donor at this point, the better.
It's a good idea to put your gift checks in chronological order, with the older gifts entered first, although it's not absolutely necessary. The date you assign your first gift during any session of running FundRaiser will be the date that automatically appears on the next gift you enter, however, so having them laid out in order by date will make entry quicker. Another thing that will speed up your entry of gifts is to take advantage of the Options | Gifts area, which allows you to set default entries for gift codes, including the Mode code, or payment method. You'll be able to make changes on individual gifts as needed, but if most of your gifts are coming in through one event, you can save a lot of time by having FundRaiser fill in the blanks automatically. You can change these options before each gift entry session if needed, or even in the middle of a session, so consider how many gifts you have, and which settings will be the most used for that session.
What reports you generate, and how you go about that, will depend on what information you normally want, of course, but I suggest you create a couple of different reports for each gift entry session. The first is simply a Donation report, the first variation, using the entry date range of "today" through "today". This will give you a report that includes only those gifts you entered today. Next might be the Donor report, again using the entry date range of "today". The final report will be a part of the Thank You letter generation, which is the next and final step of the routine.
Once all the gifts are entered, for existing and new donors, it's time to run the Automated Correspondence for Gift Thank You's. This will include printing (or email, if you have that set up) your thank you letters, printing corresponding labels or envelopes, printing a report of the gifts that were included in the thank you letter process, and the very last part to be done, marking the thank you's as done. It's very important that you don't mark thank you's done until ALL other printing is completed, because this step removes the "print in next batch" mark from the gifts, and it can be a bit frustrating trying to get back to those records to print, say, labels, if that mark has been removed.
It's great when a plan comes together, but in order for that to happen, one needs to have a plan. You may have more tips or tricks or pointers or suggestions you want to include in your plans, and that's great. Just having the plan as a guide will make the task that much easier to complete, and there's nothing set in stone as to how the plan should be written. Whatever plan works for you, use it, and make it available to others in your office, just in case. This article is revised and republished from the original written by Larry Weaver.
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