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.

Local fundraising fixes feral cats

Local fundraising fixes feral cats
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A tribe of happy feral cats lives near the FundRaiser office and several staff members are involved in helping care for them. Last September, I mentioned this colony in the FundRaiser newsletter. Newsletter readers responded warmly and we received quite a few emails expressing concern for the cats. Along with sharing our feelings for the cats, many hoped that we had plans to spay and neuter them.

This month, Autumn Shirley of FundRaiser organized a campaign to do just that.

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How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 2

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 2
The Development Committee

The development committee has basic responsibility for overseeing and advising on the organization’s fund-raising activities. Its main duties are to:

    Set policies, priorities, and goals for fund-raising programs for the current fiscal year.    Review the ongoing performance of each campaign.    Review campaign achievement versus its objectives.    Identify and rate all major prospects for support.    Recruit key volunteer leadership and solicitors for the organization’s fund-raising campaigns.

Chairs of development committees, like development directors, must resolve the various contributed income needs of the organization without exhausting its base of support. The best development committee chairpersons are able to see the job in its entirety. They have broad vision. They don’t fall in love with one fund-raising idea, campaign, or concept at the expense of the overall development effort.My preferred development committee chairperson is a general managerial type with a strong marketing background. Ideally, this chairperson is something of an alter ego of the development director. I have been my most successful when my development chairpersons and I shared the same fund-raising vision. In a sense, the best development chairperson is a leader whom a competent development director is able to lead. The development chairperson has clout within the community that the development director is unlikely to possess, while the latter has fund-raising knowledge that is probably outside of the development chairperson’s purview. The partnership between the development chairperson and the development director works best when the professional develops the ideas and then gains the agreement of the volunteer leader, who uses his or her clout to get cooperation from the board and other volunteer campaign leaders.

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Flexible Emails Within Fund Raiser

Flexible Emails Within Fund Raiser

One of the things I receive questions on as I’m hosting training classes is email through FundRaiser. How does the program know that someone can get emails? What can be sent via email? Is there a copy? The convenience of email, not to mention the cost savings, makes it appealing to use. So let’s talk about emailing within FundRaiser.

For each record within FundRaiser you have complete control over the communications preferences. If someone prefers email—and many people do these days—then the customer’s record can be set to email only. Additionally, with each correspondence that is sent, you can choose if it will be sent through the postal mail or via email where appropriate.

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Quick Start Tips for FundRaiser

Quick Start Tips for FundRaiser

So you’ve downloaded an evaluation trial of our software or setup an online trail, and you’ve opened the program. Now what? Or maybe you’ve stepped into a new position and need to get up and running quickly. Whichever the case, here are some tips for getting started quickly with FundRaiser software.

First, if you are working with a trial copy, don’t be afraid to experiment. The sample data is already in the program for you to work with. Feel free to change the data, add gifts, etc. When you are ready to use the program with your data, it’s simple to remove the sample data.

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When is a pledge not a pledge?

When is a pledge not a pledge?

When organizations talk about pledges, often times they have different meanings. For some, a specific payment promise, such as a fixed amount each month for a year (or in perpetuity) constitutes a pledge. Others believe that any promise to pay is a pledge, whether it’s for a certain amount or a certain timeframe. The dictionary definition of the word pledge is simply a promise to give money. (There are other definitions, but for our purposes we’re focusing on the financial one.) The question remains: when is a pledge not a pledge?

When it comes to putting promises to pay into FundRaiser Software, there are a couple of options. The first is to consider it a later promise to pay. This is good when there isn’t a definitive time frame for the money to be paid. In fact, there often may be some uncertainty about the money to be paid.

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Reviewing Your Donor and Gift Codes

Reviewing Your Donor and Gift Codes

Inevitably if you’ve been working with FundRaiser (or any software using codes or tags) for any length of time, duplicate codes begin to happen. Maybe someone put in a code with the year first; maybe someone put the category first, then the year. However it happens, duplicate codes grow in the database and there needs to be a way to manage them.

Luckily within FundRaiser, there’s the ability to review all the codes. You can even print a list of the codes if you’re the type of person who likes paper and pencil for planning. Once you’ve reviewed your codes to determine how you’d like to merge, or maybe even delete some of them, then you’re ready to clean up your database.

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Tornado near FundRaiser office hits close to home

Tornado near FundRaiser office hits close to home
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Last Thursday, people around the FundRaiser office had their eyes glued to the weather radar. A tornado was headed our direction. It hit in the early morning hours of Friday, April 3rd. Although the damage wasn't widespread, many of us were personally connected to someone who was impacted. One of those was the Whetstone Boy's Ranch, a boarding school for at-risk and troubled boys in Mountain View, Missouri. Whetstone is a FundRaiser user. A further connection for us it that Joey Patten, of FundRaiser Technical Support, has been helping with the damage clean-up at the Ranch, along with other members of his church, the Pomona Christian Church. 

Everyone at the Ranch is safe -- boys, staff and animals. The Ranch, however, has been severely damaged. It's a devastating sight, relieved in part by news of the faith and funds being raised to recover from the damage. On their facebook page, Whetstone is reporting rapid fundraising progress. We are so sorry that this has happened, and are looking forward to hearing more happy news as the recovery process continues.

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Tracking Volunteer Information In FundRaiser

Tracking Volunteer Information In FundRaiser

The Volunteers module in FundRaiser Select, and included in Professional, allows your organization to track much more than the names of your volunteers. With the ability to set up projects and teams, you can create work schedules and get detailed information about the work your volunteers accomplish.

The Volunteers module comes built into FundRaiser Professional; it’s an add on for FundRaiser Select. Within this module is the ability to track as little information (Volunteer names and contact information, for example) or as much as you need. When looking at big projects, such as a group for outreach or a specific event, you may want to establish a team or a project. This is easy to do within the module, and it allows you to group various volunteers together and track their hours.

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Useful Donor Information

Useful Donor Information

Dear Kim,

We have 500 donors, of whom 50 give over $1,000 and another 50 give between $500-999. We do a decent job of keeping in touch with these 100 donors, usually talking to them by phone or visiting the top 20 largest donors at least once a year. I keep all the information on these donors and I am retiring, so cleaning out my files and getting ready to pass this information on to the next person. I have pages of stuff on some people, and almost nothing on others. But what should I have? And what should I delete?

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3 Nonprofit Marketing Skills I Learned from Aunt Frances

3 Nonprofit Marketing Skills I Learned from Aunt Frances

Some of you may remember my stories about my wondrous Great Aunt Frances. We grew into close friends over the years I lived a few blocks from her in NYC.

Aunt Frances was fantastic—a warm, loving, down-to-earth lady who’d had many life adventures and was a fantastic cook.

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How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 1

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 1

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and trustees are the most important volunteers of all. The trustees approve an organization’s budget and they must accept personal responsibility for raising called-for contributed income. They are expected to set the pace in giving, recruiting other volunteers, and soliciting major donors.

Too often I have been engaged as a consultant only to have the executive director of the organization or chair of the board of trustees tell me, “Our board doesn’t raise money. You’ll have to look elsewhere for fund-raising leadership.” That’s when I tell them they have to change the makeup of the board. A board must include individuals capable of leading a major fund-raising campaign. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else's responsibility.

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Hitting Your Target: Mass Mailings For Impact

Hitting Your Target: Mass Mailings For Impact

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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Tracking Responses from Your Mailings

Tracking Responses from Your Mailings

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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Communicating in the Shadow of Disaster – Practical Tips for Nonprofits

You haven't seen the power of a cyclone till you've seen the calm at the eye of the storm

FundRaiser: 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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How Often Should We Be Asking?

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.)

In deciding how often to ask a person for a second gift before letting that name go, look at the source of the first gift. For example, if the gift came through a houseparty, ask the hosts to make a note beside people they think probably gave just to be nice. Solicit those people twice at the most. Many of us are on the receiving end of requests from organizations we supported because we wanted to help a friend, and we feel badly when it seems that the organization is spending more money asking us over and over than we gave in the first place.  

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Sales Cycles and Spares

Sales Cycles and Spares

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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Rating and Evaluating Foundations and Corporation for Giving Potential

You create your own opportunities by asking for them

When 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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Leveling Up Your Donors

Leveling Up Your Donors

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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Rating and Evaluating Prospects: Whom do you ask for how much?

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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Dress Up Your Letters With Graphics

Dress Up Your Letters With Graphics

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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