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.

When your organization needs to send out communications, the mass mailings feature within FundRaiser provides a quick and easy way to do so. Simply choose the letter, select who receives it, and then print and send. In times of disaster or when funds are needed urgently, the Mass Mailings feature provides a way for you to communicate with your donors, even through email.

What sort of letters can be sent out through Mass Mailings? Anything you can create. As long as you can format the template, it can be sent. Mass mailings also works for mailing labels and envelopes, which means labeling postcards just became a lot easier.

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Sending a mailing, whether it is a postcard or an appeals letter, doesn’t end the communication with the donor or prospective donor. Hopefully a reply is received with a donation, and you will want to track this to better understand the effectiveness of your campaigns. Within FundRaiser Professional there are two ways to monitor and track this information.

The Campaigns and Events module makes tracking mailings, as well as other events within a campaign, easy. Include people who receive appeals letters sent through Mass Mailings as participants and then attribute gifts received to the letter. Reports found within the module will enable you to see the response you received as well as the cost and the return on investment.

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You haven't seen the power of a cyclone till you've seen the calm at the eye of the stormFundRaiser: We are republishing this blog post on responding to disasters because it is so helpful for nonprofits on how to respond when the public's attention is focused on a disaster. Following Nancy's guidelines can help you stay centered, appropriate and helpful under challenging circumstances.

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when this most recent crisis of epic proportions—the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan—is rightly dominating our minds and conversations, as well as the media?

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The most essential factor is persistence-- the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by discouragement that must inevitably  come.

Dear Kim,

How often should you try to get someone who gave your organization money once to give again?

~Persistence and Pestering: Where is the Line?

Dear Persistence,

The sad fact that has to be taken into account when building a donor program is that most people who give once will not give again. The percentage of people who give a second gift varies from 25-40%. (This is called your “conversion rate” and is an important metric to track.)

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There may be times when you want to track the potential giving, either in a possibility or in a place in a sales cycles, for your donors or potential donors. Noting a donor record by the amount that they may be able to give is something that you want to do as well. Keeping notes is okay, and our note fields within FundRaiser are searchable and able to be included in groupings. However, there is an easier way that will create a more uniform way of keeping track of this information across your database.

Spare fields.

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You create your own opportunities by asking for themWhen it comes to rating and evaluating prospects, fund-raisers spend the lion’s share of their time on individual donors. After all, in nearly every campaign, they are the primary source of contributions. However, it behooves us to take a look at the process as it pertains to other giving sources. For our purposes, let’s assume that governmental funders can be handled like foundations and private and community foundations can be viewed as essentially the same.

For foundations, the best and most comprehensive source of information is The Foundation Center. It maintains reference libraries in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta and Cleveland. The Center also publishes The Foundation Directory, a reference book listing each foundation in the United States and including:

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Knowing the giving level of your donors has numerous benefits for both the donor and the organization. When you’re aware that a donor gives in a certain range, then it becomes easier to ask the donor to match, or exceed, giving done in past years. As an organization, when you know at what levels most of your donors give, then you can begin asking for suggested donations.

FundRaiser provides powerful tools for donor levels. First, our options all you to set your own levels. We provide examples based off some commonly used levels, but you can change not just the names of the levels but also the dollar amounts. With up to nine levels, there’s plenty of flexibility to create what you need.

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Reach high, for the stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. No one would argue the fact that every fund-raising campaign needs a goal and that everyone connected with the campaign, including prospective donors, needs to be aware of that goal. Then why do people so often fight the setting of a goal for each prospective donor and sharing that goal with the prospect? Trustees often blanch at the idea, and it is the rare solicitor who the first time he or she is told that there will be a suggested giving amount for each of his prospects does not respond with, “I can’t tell people what to give!”

They’re right. Solicitors shouldn’t try to tell prospects what to give, as this will engender a great deal of resistance. Yet setting a personal goal for all prospective individual donors, letting prospects know what their goal is, and helping them see where and how it fits under the umbrella of the campaign goal is probably the most important element of a campaign. No matter what sources you are approaching, you need to be ready with a suggested giving amount in line with what each prospective donor is capable of giving. Dealing with foundations, corporations, and government funders in this manner is easy. In fact, it is usually required. Grant application forms have a blank space where you fill in the amount requested. But when it comes to individual donors, we seem to think it is a different kettle of fish. It isn’t.

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Bold, bright graphics catch your donor’s eye and make him or her want to read the correspondence. Putting your logo on the letter provides additional organization recognition. No matter your reason for wanting to include graphics in your letter, you want to make sure that your images enhance your message.

FundRaiser Software allows you to dress up your letter with a photograph or other special image. Your picture needs to be in a recognized image format (such as .bmp, .jpg, .png, or .gif). If your computer reads the picture as an image then there’s a good chance it’s already in a supported format.

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That’s the subject line of this morning’s email from our local JCC, asking for my input on its member survey.
Give whatever you are oding and whoever you are with the gift of your attention
My immediate response was to delete it, because it’s all about the JCC’s needs and not about what members like me need. At least that’s what the subject line conveys!

Has your organization ever alienated its audiences doing something like this, something totally narcissistic?

Here’s what’s really annoying: The JCC folks do get it right in the first sentence of the email itself — There is only 1 week left to take our online JCC feedback survey. Please take a few minutes to complete it. Your opinion is extremely important as it helps us focus our improvement efforts on the areas that matter most to our community. We hope to hear from all of you!

But that’s the only sentence in the entire wordy email that speaks to serving the wants and needs of us JCC members. And most folks won’t even get there because the subject line is so JCC-focused.

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When offering sponsorships, you may wish to be able to record a commitment to sponsor and then accept payment for it later. By doing so, your organization can keep track of the numbers of sponsorships sold and project income for an event. However, there’s the problem of sending an invoice and recording later payment.

The good news is that no matter what version of FundRaiser you’re using, there are ways to record these circumstances as a later promise to pay. Instead of a “thank you” letter, the invoice could be sent. By using gift motivation codes, and possibly gift notes, you could document the gift as a sponsorship and event information.

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The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers

Dear Kim,

We are a 50-year-old social service agency and we have done a gala wine tasting event for the past 20 years. For many years, it was really fun and was the place to “see and be seen” in our community. About 300 people always came and we netted more every year. Our highest net was $75,000.

We had a strong volunteer group who did most of the work and a list of sponsors who said yes almost without being asked. But in the last 5-7 years, several things have happened which have depressed our income and the fun of the event, and almost all of them have to do with aging. Our main volunteers retired and many of the regular attenders started saying they don’t like to go out at night, or their doctor has said they can’t drink wine or they can’t hear and the event is unpleasant for that reason. Needless to say, some have died. Last year, staff did most of the work on the event and we netted about $25,000. About 200 people came but that’s because we let staff invite five friends for free so we only had 120ish paying customers.  

My question is this: is the event worth it? Should we change it up entirely? People have a lot of loyalty to this event but it seems to be slowly dying.

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Those who can, do. Those who can do more, Volunteer. Once you have established the basics of your campaign, you'll need to develop a plan for attracting members, (personal solicitations, direct mail, events, etc.). You'll also need to develop and produce the materials needed to support your plan (Case for support, brochures, letters, event and meeting invitations, instructions, PR material, etc., as well as to provide necessary campaign information and related materials for the volunteer campaign team of leadership and solicitors. (Such working examples are often easily obtained from other organizations).

Recruiting Your Solicitation Team

Job #1 is the identification and recruitment of a volunteer leader for the membership campaign. If no such candidate emerges from the board, seek a strong supporter from the business community—preferably someone with sales and marketing skills—and influence.

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Now that January is coming to a close and end of year letters have been printed and mailed, it’s time to think about other ways in which you can prepare for the upcoming year. Performing some general maintenance tasks will help keep your FundRaiser running smoothly and your donor management process easy.

First, think about the letters you send. With the change in the calendar, you can update the accomplishments or perhaps highlight special stories from the previous year that would resonate with your donors. Updating the letters with new codes will help staff and volunteers alike use the correct letter. And don’t forget to mark your old letters inactive to keep them from being repeated.

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There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great

What's in a Name?

You can be creative in determining the names you'll assign to each membership giving category, but donors will be drawn immediately to "tags" specific to your organization and related to your mission. You can also employ familiar categories such as, Friends, Benefactors, Pacesetters, etc., or designations such as "Individual," "Family," "Associate," or "Sustaining.

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The Households module comes with Select and Professional versions of FundRaiser Software and it allows you to group families or organizations together so you can see overall giving for an entire group. Although the module is called Households, it isn’t limited to families. It also works well for organizations, for example to see the giving patterns of a group of people related to a single organization.

So why would you want to create Households?

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One of the biggest quandaries you may face when you think about communicating with your donors is to be formal or informal with your greetings. In general, there is a trend to become more informal in our communications. However depending on your organization, you may wish to stay with formal salutations.

Formal salutations use titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Informal salutations are when you address the donor by his or her first name. There are times when each is acceptable, and the salutation may change based on the donor, the event, or the type of correspondence.

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Contact lapsed donors as part of your membership programRead part 1 of this series, Membership Campaigns: The "How-To"

In part 2 on building a membership program, you'll learn how to prepare to ask your members to move up the giving ladder.

Creating a Reality-Based Gift Chart

Compile an A to Z listing of all current donors and  lapsed donors—no more than three years (excluding those whose reason for lapsing is known).

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For organizations with annual events or campaigns, there are many ways to track the donations that come in each year. From fund and motivation codes to more general category codes, there are a multitude of ways to make sure you know exactly how and why your donors gave to your organization.

Keeping your coding system understandable plays a big role in the effective use of your donor management software. Therefore, when it comes to your annual events, think about using one main code and append then year to it. For example, a gala would be GALA14, GALA15, and so on. This way you would know that all codes that start with “GALA” would be for your annual event. (Or whatever prefix you choose to use for your event.)

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Build donor relationships with mutual interestsDear Kim,

We are being advised by a consultant to stop trying to build a broad base of donors and instead to focus on high net worth individuals and seek six figure gifts from them.  The consultant says it will be faster and more lucrative which makes sense to me.  Why do you advise focusing on small gifts?

~Seeking Efficiency and a High ROI

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