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.

A Nonprofit Marketing Don’t – “Our Organization Needs Your Input”

Give whatever you are oding and whoever you are with the gift of your attention
Flickr - mtsofan

That’s the subject line of this morning’s email from our local JCC, asking for my input on its member survey. 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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Invoicing Sponorships

Invoicing Sponorships

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 Life Cycle of Special Events

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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Launching a Membership Campaign

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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Beyond End of Year Letters

Beyond End of Year Letters

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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What Is In A Household?

What Is In A Household?

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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Going Formal With Salutations

Going Formal With Salutations

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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Membership Campaigns: Moving Members Up The Giving Ladder

Contact lapsed donors as part of your membership program

Read 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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New Year, New Codes

New Year, New Codes

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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The Case for Building a Broad Base of Donors

Build donor relationships with mutual interests

Dear 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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Good News? Great Time to Ask!

Doing worthwhile things gives joy

Here’s my response to a fantastic question raised by one of our colleague nonprofit communicators this week. Eager to hear your thoughts! Q:  Should I include an ask in announcing a big win? Tomorrow we’ll email supporters to celebrate a recent victory. This win has not been a focus in our emails to folks on this list, but is something our organization is responsible for (and supporters will care about).

I want to keep supporters excited about our impact, and motivated to give during our year-end campaign (we’ll email a year-end appeal later this week). It seems easiest to  just send a quick victory email sharing the great news and linking to more detail on the win.  But I wonder if it’s best urges folks to take a Thank you action, e.g. “Thank President Obama for this good thing!” Keep in mind I have to send the year-end email later this week, and can’t rework that content (it’s part of a series).

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3 Resolutions For The New Year

3 Resolutions For The New Year

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and how to improve ourselves in the coming year. While many people are making resolutions about their health or wellness, it is also a good idea to think about how you can better utilize FundRaiser Software within your organization. There may be larger projects, such as implementing a membership or pledge program that you’re thinking about. But here are three, smaller-scale ideas to get you started.

Resolution 1: Maintain your data entry. A database is only as good as the information that’s inside it. Keeping up with your organization’s data entry allows you to utilize the robust features of FundRaiser to the fullest. With regular maintenance, keeping the data entry current isn’t a big chore and can have big payoffs for your organization.

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Three Of My Favorite FundRaiser Training Classes

Three Of My Favorite FundRaiser Training Classes

There’s no doubt that FundRaiser Software is a robust program. As with any program, even if you’ve been using it for a while, there are always new tips and tricks to learn. This is where our wonderful training department can help out.

As part of my training here at FundRaiser support, I attended the training courses (and watched our training videos) that we offer to our customers. While I found each of them informative and helpful in deepening my understanding of the software, I wanted to share with you my three favorite classes.

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Why we believe in working at FundRaiser

FundRaiser staff at company meeting
Joshua Shirley, CFO of FundRaiser with Smudge the office cat
Gene Weinbeck and Joey Patten
Smudge the office cat snoozing at company meeting

We believe that what you and your organization do makes a positive impact in the world.... and that makes us happy in the work we do. That's the main understanding we all recently came away with, when the FundRaiser staff met for a year-end mission/company meeting.

FundRaiser staff, left to right, at company meeting: Larry Weaver, Autumn Shirley, Jonathan Smith, Joshua Shirley, Gene Weinbeck, Joey Patten, Mary Lenker

After watching a TED talk together, the FundRaiser staff began to share why we enjoy coming to work at FundRaiser... which we all do. The upshot was that we enjoy working at FundRaiser for a combination of reasons, top among them being the great working environment and the opportunity to use our skills in the service of people like YOU who are working to make a positive difference in the world. Here's a synopsis of what our staff members had to say about why we continue to like working to support nonprofits through our work at FundRaiser.

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3 Things Support Can Help You With Besides Technical Issues

3 Things Support Can Help You With Besides Technical Issues

Most often when people think about technical support they think about error messages and things that aren’t working. And it’s true that even when I evaluate a program to purchase, I think about support as “problem solving”. However, it’s so much more than that.

Here at FundRaiser, we understand that you may need help beyond something technical. Making sure you can use the software to its advantage in order to help your organization is our number one priority. That’s how I think about my job at support—my job is to help you help your organization. And yes, here in support we chase down the occasional error message, but more often it’s about answering questions, providing mini training classes, and offering help and assistance wherever we can.

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Hiring a Development Director

Gratitude and thankfulness for what you have leads to success

Dear Kim:

I was hired about six months ago as the development director for a small organization (budget=$500,000) which raises most of its money from individuals and fees for service. I was told I could spend $30,000 on direct mail and web redesign for fundraising. Four months ago, I drew up a plan, arranged for list acquisition and created a direct mail package. The Executive Director then said I should discuss the plan with the whole staff as she is trying to promote a sense of team. I did so, and the finance director said we did not have the money to spend in this way (even though it was in the budget). The rest of the staff agreed with her, and so the ED said I had to shelve my plan. I wrote a few proposals and pursued some other strategies, but now the board is mad because the website is static and out of date, and we are not meeting our fundraising goals. The ED said I could spend $15,000 and I drew up a plan, arranged for some lists, got a web design firm to donate their time, and again had to present this to staff. The finance director announced we don’t have $15,000 and the staff agreed I can’t spend it, but they were happy with the free web design. My plans are once again shelved. Is this the normal way to build a team? I am ready to quit.

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Creative Codes

Creative Codes

FundRaiser Software has the ability to track the non-giving aspects of your donors as well as donation information. A great way to do this is to use the category codes features. Each version (Spark, Select, and Professional) of FundRaiser offers unlimited category codes. With an ability to create codes up to eight characters in length, your organization has a nearly unlimited (there’s a limit, but it’s in the billions) to create as many codes as you require.

So in what ways can your organization use codes?

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A Development Director Needs More Than “a Smile and a Shoeshine,” But It’s a Good Start

No matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person

This is the era of high-tech delivery of information in an instant. The Internet is accessible from any telephone line, and lap-top computers let us take the facts and figures—all the facts and figures—to wherever they’re needed. Development professionals must master this technology which lets us massage estate planning scenarios, target solicitation mailings, and develop campaign giving plans. But, we must also remember that, no matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person.

In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s rejection of new technology, when he encounters a voice recorder for the first time, is part of his slow and agonizing deterioration. The only thing he knows—selling—is slipping from his grasp, and he tries to tighten his grip on it by clinging to the past. The times are changing and Willy isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of a lifetime of selling is no longer valid when he declares, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.” Willy is talking about being a salesman and having the proper temperament for the job, but he might just as well have been talking about Development Directors.

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Membership Campaigns: The “How-To”

Give Thanks for Unknown Blessing Already On the Way

You want to introduce a membership campaign, preferably as part of the Annual Fund Campaign. Your objective is an expanded and reliable base of donors who renew their support year after year. Good thinking. Give yourself a pat on the back: An effective membership campaign can be one of your greatest assets and building it requires little more than a dose of common sense and strategic approach.

The Purpose Of a Membership Campaign

Philanthropy-driven, recognition-based, membership campaigns are proven and effective tools used to convert prospects into donors, to increase the size of gift, and to build and strengthen relationships. They are one of the most useful solicitation methods fund-raising managers have.

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Are your donors on the right frequency?

After reading a recent Kim Klein blog, titled Membership vs. Monthly Giving, I wondered whether our users realized that there are multiple choices for giving increments built right into FundRaiser.  And they show up in several places, like Recurring Gift setup, Pledge payment setup, and Membership dues setup, depending on which modules you have, and which ones are active.  Everyone will have the Recurring Gift setup, so let's use that as an example, especially since a recurring gift template can be used for either pledge payments or membership payments, as well as simple frequent givers.

On the Recurring Gifts tab page, you'll see a drop-down code list for "Frequency".  This is where you can choose the normal Monthly or Quarterly or Annual payment periods we're so used to seeing.  But what if some can give more often, or their paychecks come in on a different type of schedule?  Here you'll see the following choices:

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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