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.

My belief is taht communication is the best way to create strong relationshipsDear Kim,

We have been advised to start asking our donors for three to five year pledges.  The consultant advising us says it will save us a lot of time because we do ONE ask and then the payment is spread over five years.  Our executive director likes the idea because she and the Finance Committee will be able to project income more accurately if they know people are bound by a pledge agreement.   I like the idea of saving time and not having to deal with the donors every year—it seems like I will have more time to find new donors.  But someone who heard you speak recently said you were opposed to multiyear pledges.  Can you talk about the pros and cons?

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1343
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When you set out to learn any new software, it’s like learning to dance where the steps seem familiar, and yet new at the same time. As I begin my second week at FundRaiser Software, I find that the dance becomes more familiar and I can really appreciate the nuances of the program.

One of the things that first impressed me about FundRaiser’s software program was its versatility. My background in nonprofits is with small organizations—really small. For a while back in the 90’s, I worked with our local cage bird club to do rescue for aviary birds like finches and canaries. Eventually we educated those in the area about the smaller birds and the local club was able to pick up the work of finding new homes for any birds in need. It was a me-myself-and-I operation, with help from a few friends. Even for a nonprofit as small as we were back then, I think FundRaiser’s membership function would have been very helpful. That would have been so much easier than the Excel spreadsheets I was using to track renewals and to print labels for the newsletter mailings.

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Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it. Dear Kim:

We have an ongoing debate about the use of formal (more traditional) vs. informal salutations. Historically, our default was formal unless we knew the individual(s). My question relates to how this is trending in the non-profit sector. For example, our ED is suggesting that our default be informal, e.g.: Tom and Susan Mitchell…Dear Tom and Susan. Even though we tend to have a younger donor base, it makes me nervous to make that global change.

~The Honorable Charles Alphonse Smithereens, III, (aka Chucky)

Dear Mr. S-3:

The nonprofit sector is so large, with 1.7 million different nonprofits in the United States alone, that there is no one trend. Some are using very formal salutations and some seem to have abandoned salutations altogether for very casual, “Hi, Friend.”

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Tagged in: fundraising letters
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 5335
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Fairness is not an attitude. It's a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.How Do You Pay A Grant Writer?

(Read Part 1 on setting expectations for grant writers)

Few topics generate more heated discussion in non-profit organizations than whether professional grant writers should be paid a percentage of the money raised, receive commission-based compensation, or be paid a performance bonus. Perhaps because it is a practice of giving financial rewards to grant writing professionals contingent upon the achievement of fixed money goals, we can simply refer to it as "contingent-pay." Whatever you want to call it, two things are becoming more and more apparent.

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The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work much first sharpen his tools.Unrealistic Expectations Can Doom The Best To Failure

(Read Part 2 here, on how to pay grant writers)

Some of the most heated discussion in the nonprofit world centers on grant writing. Why? Because so much is riding on it. It is the rare organization that could continue to carry out its mission anywhere near as effectively if its grants dried up, and for many, such an occurrence would sound the death knell.<

Of the three basic sources of money for non-profits—earned income, donations from individuals, and grants—the process of getting a grant is the most puzzling. All but the smallest organizations are likely to have people on staff or use outside counsel who specialize in grant writing. The demand for skilled grant writers, coupled with the mystery that seems to surround successful grant writing, leads to some troubled areas for development professionals and non-profit organizations.

Two questions are central: How do you evaluate the performance of grant writers and how do you pay them? We'll cover the first question in this blog, and the question of pay in the next one.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1938
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Many non-profits began their data management using spreadsheets.  Yours may still use them, but there are many reasons to move away from them and into donor management software, as you may be aware.  In fact, here are a couple of articles that some folks have referenced in telling us why they no longer want to use spreadsheets:  
 
One of the big stumbling blocks to converting to a better system is the old argument: “We would have to re-enter all the information, and no one has time to do that!”  Well, in FundRaiser (even in FundRaiser Basic) there is a file option that allows you to import from other file formats.  Here are some tips and tricks on how to do set up your spreadsheet for optimal importing:  
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Dear Kim:

You are often quoted as saying things like, “Thank before you bank,” and “The thank you note is the most important element in a donor relationship” and other pro-thank you note statements.  But how do you make a thank you note interesting?  And do donors really read them?  And what if I think the gift the donor gave isn’t really what they could afford so I am not that thankful?

~Dubious

Dear Dubious:.

Your letter poses several questions, and I will quickly dispatch the last one first.  You need to change up your attitude toward the gifts that are given to your organization.  Any gift is more than nothing, and donors are making all kinds of choices.  You really don’t know what people can afford and you need to thankful they thought of you.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2668
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Don't be afraid embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.  As I was in the midst of writing this article, my wife entered the room modeling a dress she thought would be perfect for an upcoming special event. She asked my opinion. I looked her up and down, examined the garment, and then suggested that it might be a bit too dressy for the event. When will I ever learn?

It wasn’t the first time she had rejected what I had to say. Nor is she the only one to ever do so. As someone who has been asked by nonprofit organizations to produce campaign feasibility studies, I’m familiar with what often happens when you tell people what they don’t want to hear.

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Tony Poderis's recent blog (July 31st:  How Long Should Donors Have to Fulfill Fundraising Pledges?) proposes that the donor should be allowed to set the time limit for fulfilling any pledge they make.  Some folks might, at first glance, think this will dramatically increase the amount of work necessary to manage the overall pledge campaign, as well as the individual pledges.  With FundRaiser's Pledge Module, available in Select and standard in Professional, this should be of little concern and here is why:

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When one neighbor helps another we strengthen our communitiesDear Kim:

You are well known as an advocate of individual donor fundraising, and many people admire you. However, you have your detractors, one of whom describes you as “the Queen of spending a lot of time to little result.” Others claim that you are simply not realistic and that real money is in foundation grants especially when you compare writing a proposal that yields $50,000 to the amount of time it would take to get that from individuals, unless you know a few really big donors. It does seem like the work of grassroots fundraising is out of proportion to the money raised. Can you comment? (And, please know that most people I talk to really love you and admire you.)

~Wanting to be a fan

Dear Potential Fan:

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1418
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Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approachIn my hands is a slick, well done brochure for a capital campaign. The nonprofit organization that has produced it wants to build a new $6.5 million facility. Dates are given for ground breaking, commencement of construction, building completion, and dedication of the new facility. It tells of several encouraging, pacesetting donations that have already been received. An impressive campaign leadership group is identified. Attractive naming opportunities are listed. Everything in the brochure speaks to a well thought out project.

It’s a great brochure touting a well planned project and campaign. All looks good, except for one thing—one sentence: “Pledged donations may be paid over three years.” Eight words, such a small thing, but those eight words are the seeds for potential disappointment, even failure.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1704
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In a recent blog by Tony Poderis, it is suggested that a myriad of things *should* be tracked in order to cultivate donors and prospects more easily and fully.  It's further suggested that, in order to be truly successful, an organization will build strong relationships with their top 20% of donors, getting them fully involved in the organization's mission.  All of this tracking and relationship-building requires a lot of detailed information about people, and storing it in a manner that can be readily accessed may appear daunting.  Let me "undaunt" that appearance with FundRaiser.

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in Trainers Blog 1716
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Our doubts are traitors and make us loose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempDear Kim:.

I was wondering what tips you have for engaging all levels of staff members in fundraising? I am being pushed to create a culture of fundraising within the organization, and while I’ve had moderate success engaging the department heads in major donor communication, I’m struggling a bit on how to engage the rest of the staff. Our structure is: one executive director, 5 department heads, and 7 other staff under the department heads..

~Heads in gear, tails slow to follow.

Dear Slow Tails:

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1574
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The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the daily details of lifeFund-raising has many engaging and inspiring sayings. Three that give insight into donor cultivation are:

  • People give to people.
  • You don't raise funds; you raise friends.
  • Fund-raising can be summed up in just three words - relationships, relationships, relationships.

At its heart, donor cultivation is about an organization's staff and leadership developing relationships with those capable of giving support and making them friends of the organization.

I define donor cultivation as an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

I can't stress enough how important this definition is - how important it is to the future of an organization's fund-raising efforts. Every successful fund-raising operation cultivates its donors - builds relationships with them. The most successful do it constantly and systematically.

Let's parse this 48-word statement and examine its key components. Again, the definition, this time with its key components in bold type:

Donor cultivation is an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1989
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Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start. Dear Kim:

Our organization is in the middle of finalizing our fundraising plan for the coming fiscal year. Is there any general rule about what percentage of our unrestricted funds should come from foundation grants?

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Just the other day, I got a call here at the training office with a question about how to get out a list of Tribute Notification names (it's a Tributes module kind of thing).  Since there is no facility for doing that within FundRaiser's reports or groupings, I suggested they call tech support and get an SQL script written that will do that.  An SQL script is a program-code-like statement that can be used to tell the program to do things outside it's normal role.  The user was surprised that we could do that sort of thing, but it's just a part of the service you can expect from your FundRaiser "AMP".

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Pam Lippitt and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan in Israel June 2013
Pam Lippitt of MIBB and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan in Israel, June 2013

The Michigan Israel Business Bridge (MIBB) facilitates business and investment opportunities between Michigan and Israel for their mutual economic benefit.

Pam Lippitt has used FundRaiser reports to help her dramatically increase the membership of MIBB.  As it turned out, when she first looked at the report section of FundRaiser, she didn’t find what she needed for her membership renewal efforts, so she called FundRaiser Technical Support for help.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1853
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Principal Fund-Raising Myth: It's common knowledge that corporations and foundations give most of the money to non-profit organizations

Principal Fund-Raising Truth:  You go where money you think you can get is to be found in the greatest quantities and most of the time that means you look to the individual donor

No fund-raising campaign should ever be started until you have identifiTrust men and they will be true to you: treat them greatly and they will show themselves greatnessed the sources from which you will draw contributions. Sources here does not refer to specific potential donors, but to the six categories of donors who contribute money to non-profit organizations. They are:

  • Trustees Of The Organization
  • Individuals
  • Corporations
  • Private Foundations
  • Community Foundations
  • Government

Your plan for a fund-raising campaign should target each source appropriate for that campaign and set a goal for contributions to be achieved from that source. Those goals are determined by rating and evaluating the potential donors that comprise each source.

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Summer is almost upon us, officially, although many of us have been experiencing summer-like weather already, and there are some great things about summer that need to be pointed out from time to time.  I was talking with a friend the other day and the conversation somehow wound around to how I've always been a bit envious of those who don't wear prescription glasses, and I'm looking forward to cataract surgery that will also correct my distance vision.  This means I'll be able to buy cheap sunglasses for the first time in my life.  I'll have options, choices, and decisions to be made regarding the size, style, color, and so on, that I've never had before, since I've been wearing prescriptions since I was 9 or 10.  What an epiphany!  Where is that rack of $1.00 sunglasses??  I can't wait!

 

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in Trainers Blog 1942
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West Plains Square with people attending the Old Time Music Festival

Crowds gather for the Old Time Music Festival in the West Plains Court House Square. The FundRaiser office is also located in a loft on the West Plains Square.

West Plains, Missouri is buzzing this week, in preparation for the  Old Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival. It's pretty near impossible to live here and not get excited about it. West Plains is also the home of FundRaiser Software.

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