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.

 

So, how do you know from within an organization when and if you should hire a development director? The answer is simple, and it starts with knowing the costs of running the organization as it carries out its mission as set out in the its long-range strategic plan. It continues with the development of a fund-raising plan.

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The short answer is sooner rather than later! If a non-profit organization is beginning to ask whether it needs a professional development director, it probably should have hired one months, even years ago.

The biggest mistake non-profits make in hiring their first development director is waiting until the board, executive director, and other key personnel have arrived at a consensus that one is needed NOW. An organization that waits until it is necessary to hire a development director has waited too long.

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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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Dear Kim,

We work with refugees and immigrants, providing legal services, workshops and even sanctuary in some churches. I have been reading a lot about fundraising metrics recently and wonder how much time I should spend figuring out our retention rates and return on investment and that kind of thing? We have three paid staff: I am the development director and we have an executive director and a director of programming. We have about 100 volunteers and serve 2,500 people a year, and growing. We have about 1,000 individual donors as well as a number of faith-based organizations who are partners in a variety of ways. Sometimes we make money from workshops. We are all stretched thin but I want to run a good development program. What is the value of all this data?

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When several different people are entering codes into FundRaiser, ‘code creep’ can occur. Code Creep is where several different codes are used to designate the same type of gift. This creates complications when you want to get the data out of FundRaiser for a report. Because codes are the main way that you get data out of FundRaiser, keeping codes consistent will ensure that your reports accurately reflect all the data you have entered into FundRaiser on a particular topic.   

To prevent code creep, make sure that everyone who is entering codes understands your conventions. Basic training on using FundRaiser and on your coding conventions is important. Also the program settings allow you to limit certain people’s use of the program to only the areas that are needed for the job they are doing. The Administrator can do this by going to Options > User Set Up to  

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Establishing a Work Flow for your FundRaiser Database

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.  

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There are three main reports within FundRaiser for viewing donor or donation data: Master, Donor, and Donation. Each of these reports contains separate pieces of information, though there is some overlap between the reports. Each report has a unique use.

The Master Report is one of the few reports where you can see information for non-donors in your database. The variations allow you to look at donor codes, donor addresses, or donor information including gifts.

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There are times when you are looking to see the names and addresses for your donors, and FundRaiser supports multiple ways of retrieving this information. If you need a list to use as a print out, for example, then the Master Report has a variation which only prints names and addresses. You can access this through Reports > Master Report.

If you need to export those names and addresses to send to a vendor for printing mailings or to import into another system, the most efficient way to obtain this information is to follow a 2-step process.
  1. First, create a grouping of the individuals whom you wish to include in the mailing list. 
  2. Then, go to File > Export, select your grouping, and export the names and addresses directly into a CSV (Excel-compatible) file. You can export additional fields such as total giving or last gift as well if you'd like.
By choosing one of these methods you'll be able to export names and addresses in a format that will work for your organization and in an easy to transfer manner.

To learn more on this and related topics, sign up for one of our live webinar training classes or contact support at 800-543-4131 or Support@FundRaiserSoftware.com 
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The nine basic truths of fund-raising listed below are taken from the introduction to my book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and they are the foundation of my successful career as a development officer for and consultant to nonprofit organizations.

  1. Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it.
  2. Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared.
  3. Fund-raising is not raising money; it is raising friends.
  4. You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization.
  5. People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give.
  6. You do not wait for the “right” moment to ask; you ask now.
  7. Successful fund-raising officers do not ask for money; they get others to ask for it.
  8. You don’t decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money.
  9. Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business.

Learn more about how FundRaiser can help you acheive your fundraising goals

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When you upgrade to a new version, such as the recent new release of FundRaiser, it is good to familiarize yourself with the new features. A great way to do that is to read the update notes, which are easily available through the Help menu after you update the software.

Just click on Help and look for the selection that says “Read Update Notes”. Click on that to bring up the document. The Update Notes are a snapshot of the changes that were made to FundRaiser since the last update. Focus on the column marked “New.” These are the new features for this release. If you don’t understand a feature or how to use it, please contact support. We’ll be happy to help you.

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A common question that we receive in Technical Support is that if an organization has an IT department which creates backups of the server computer which holds FundRaiser, is an actual FundRaiser backup necessary?

The answer is yes. When an IT department backs up a server that is different from a FundRaiser backup.

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Dear Kim,

I have a multipart question.  We want to start doing thank-you calls but often don’t have donor phone numbers. Is it creepy to get their phone number from the white pages? Should we require a phone number on our donation page so we can capture phone numbers going forward?

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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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Dear Kim:

You often advise asking people who have been giving you a certain amount of money for many years to consider giving more.  But how do you do that without making them feel you were not grateful for what they have already given?

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What would you do with 22 more minutes each day? According to a survey by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technologies, most workers lose approximately 22 minutes every day due to technical issues. That’s 4 hours and 24 minutes per 5-day work week. Or to put it in another context, its 228 hours and 48 minutes, or roughly 5 ¾ weeks out of your year! Of course, this could be anything from a slow computer to printer issues; however, when it comes to your FundRaising software, you don’t have to lose any time at all!

The support team at FundRaiser is always available to answer questions. From a quick how-to question or a more intensive technical issue, our talented and friendly support technicians want to help. Part of that 22 minutes each day also comes from trying to learn about the programs that we use and how these work. Here, too, FundRaiser Software has our customers covered. In addition to our support team, we offer on-demand training videos as well as a full schedule of training classes.

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The Annual Resolution Parade

This time of year, most of us "resolve" to make changes: in our lives; in our work habits; in our approach to life in general, etc. And many of those resolutions fall by the wayside as the year develops, either because they seem too difficult, or they weren't that important, or (fill in the blank with your last unfulfilled resolution reason). I'd like to suggest a resolution that will help you all through 2017, and will almost certainly repay your efforts many times over: learn how to better use your FundRaiser software to do what needs doing for your organization. While learning the program doesn't sound nearly so important as changing lifestyle choices, or gaining virtues, or shedding bad habits, it can, for your non-profit organization, be the catalyst for many changes, like donor retention, increased donations, better communications, and less effort expended for all of it.

Which type of training do you prefer?

FundRaiser offers several different training formats, to fit your individual and organizational efforts, from self-help using the program's built-in Help manual and training videos on our website, to scheduled live webinars, to on-site training at your facilities, and you always have the option to call or email the training office, or tech support, for help. Each method of learning has it's pros and cons, of course, but the choices are available to you, and in this blog I'll try to give you some tips on how to approach them. And at the end of this, I'll let you know how all this can benefit you at the end of the year.

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If you are going to use last year's letter, it is good to review the letter in FundRaiser’s Word Processor, if the letter was used in FundRaiser previously. One of the common problems we see in Tech Support regarding Tax Summary letters is when people would like to use the letter from last year, and it isn't showing the right gift amounts. That’s easily solved. 

With the letter open in FundRaiser, click on the Gift List or Gift Total Function code and make sure that the date range is in the right year. You can also remove the merge function for the total giving or gift list and reenter it, and that will allow you the opportunity to reenter the date range. 

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One of the most frustrating experiences as a nonprofit is to send out a carefully crafted appeal letter only to have several envelopes be returned as unable to be delivered by the post office. Not only have you spent postage and used paper and time to send the letters, but your message won’t reach your donors. How do you prevent this from happening?

NCOA, or National Change of Address, is a United States Post Office program designed to prevent non-deliverable mail. The USPS maintains a database of all permanent address changes within the past three years by people who have completed change of address cards. When you export your database and use a USPS licensed processor, they will run your donors’ addresses through this program and provide you with information such as a changed address, the complete ZIP+4 zip code, which helps with mail processing, and which addresses are not valid without any further information. When you merge the received data back into your database, it will be updated and your donors coded appropriately to help you better manage your mailings.

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It's time to produce Tax Summary letters (also called End of Year letters) again. They are usually sent in January after the last donation for the year is in. To help you breeze through this process, here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users.

Step One

First, start by deciding how you want to list the donations in your letter. Two merge functions found in the FundRaiser word processor are used specifically for this type of letter.

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Our Mission:  FundRaiser Software proudly stands for Integrity, Approachability, Responsiveness, and Excellence in service and product.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the time to step back and reflect on why I am so committed to my work at FundRaiser. With my husband and FundRaiser co-owner, Joshua Shirley, I spent the weekend quietly reviewing where we are in relation to the FundRaiser. In the process, I reread the FundRaiser mission, thinking that with all the recent changes, perhaps we needed to update it. I was delighted to feel how fresh and alive this mission is for me. I thought, "This is why we do it—we do this because it means something to us to be working with the people we work with. We chose a career that helps us help the people that help. It allows us to support those who do that. We help helpers."

I'm aware that I only have so much energy and time, and that how I spend my life matters. The same is true for you, our customers. Your life matters and so does what you do with it. People who work at nonprofits take this to heart in a special way, which is why we love supporting you. I think our work will become even more important in the coming years. Nonprofits will need to step up and become more stable, and I am even more glad to be a part of this. We have always focused on helping as much as we can, and I can see how much the work of helping where it is needed is falling on the shoulders of the nonprofit sector. 

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