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 my family had that conversation this weekend. The one that usually happens sometime at the start of November. My mother asked me, “so what do you want for Christmas?”. There’s a good chance similar conversations, centered around any number of the winter holidays, are happening in your donors’ households too.

I’m also hearing from a lot of organizations that are working to send out their holiday appeal letters.

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Joey Patten, with family
Jessica, 2 month old Emmett, and Joey Patten. Joey Patten is the newest member of the FundRaiser Tech Team

If you've called FundRaiser Technical Support recently, you may have heard a new voice on the line helping you. We are happy to introduce Mary Lenker and Joey Patten who have just joined the FundRaiser Support Team. Both have extensive experience in tech support and customer service.

Joey Patten comes to FundRaiser after working in the Navy as the Administrative Assistant for the commander of a submarine squadron. His job was to do computer work and interface with IT. He joined the FundRaiser staff recently after moving back to West Plains, his home town. He loves working with computers and got started when he was 6 years old. He likes working in the friendly ambiance of the FundRaiser office.

Outside of work Joey enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, being outside, and, being with his son, Emmett.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1599
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The economy is on the rebound, or so most of the news I've heard says, even though we individuals may not be feeling the positive effects as strongly as we'd like.  In light of the rebound, I'm re-posting a blog I wrote a while back, thinking that it might be time for some of you to think about revisiting projects or campaigns you've had on hold.

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There’s nothing more reassuring to a computer user than to have a good backup of data. This is no less true when it comes to your FundRaiser data. As an organization, there’s a good bet that you keep a large amount of information about your donors. To know that you can restore it in the sad event of a computer failure, is good news indeed.

FundRaiser makes it easy to do backups, by putting the command in an easy to locate place. Under the FILE menu in FundRaiser, choose CREATE A BACKUP. To complete your backup hit the “backup” button. The process will run and once it’s finished, you can choose Exit. Your backup has completed.

However, you may have questions about backups and the process. One of the most common is: where do you want to place your backup?

FundRaiser conveniently places backups in a default location. (For clients using FundRaiser Hosted, always accept the default location. To receive a copy of the backup, give our technical support team a call and we’ll gladly send you a copy of the files.) Since the restore screen automatically goes to the location of the last backup, you don’t have to worry about where you saved your backup.

It is a good idea to backup before doing a major operation such as an import or export. Regular backups can also keep data safe in the event of a computer failure. Set a schedule within your organization and stick to it.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a backup of your FundRaiser data. Keeping your backups current will save you, and your organization, a lot of time and trouble. Plus, the peace of mind is priceless.

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In a recently (Oct. 3, 2014) posted blog by Kim Klein, the question of how to greet donors and prospects in letters and emails is addressed.  While the article seems to favor erring on the side of formality, when in doubt, it also recognizes that there are times to be informal, and even quite casual, during correspondence.

In FundRaiser the word processing is built into the program, allowing access to all fields of data for merging into letters as needed.  This enables you to write "form" letters that have the personal look and feel that used to be possible only through individually crafted letters.  The way you greet people in a letter can be personalized for each name record in FundRaiser, as well.

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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 1378
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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 5411
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2534
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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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Tagged in: grants
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1968
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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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Tagged in: fundraising letters
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2727
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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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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 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 1755
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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 1596
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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 2014
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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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