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.

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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1596
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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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in Trainers Blog 1898
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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 Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1769
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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 1838
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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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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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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 1909
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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 2036
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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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Josh and Jonathan

Josh Shirley (left) and Jonathan Smith.

Happy Father's Day to the fathers at FundRaiser. Their role as fathers is an important influence on who they are, on the job as well as off.

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Tagged in: Company culture
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2682
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Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

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in Trainers Blog 1775
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You don't need to see the whole staircase just to take the first stepDear Ms. Klein:

I am the treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society at my local High School. My goal is to raise approximately $20,000 in order to have all our club members fly to Costa Rica. We plan to volunteer at an orphanage there where we will teach the children English and organize activities for them. The problem is, however, that I have no idea where to start. I know a project of this scale requires more than a bake sale, but what? I understand that you are probably more used to dealing with things of a larger scale, but do you have any tips for the penniless high school student?

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Thanking donors is a private act. It is between the donor and the organization.  Recognizing donors is public, and because it is public you need to be absolutely sure you adhere to a donor’s wishes when you do it.

Obviously, you don’t publicly recognize a donor who has requested anonymity. But just how publicly does the donor want to be recognized? Does he wants his name ballyhooed from one end of town to the other, or would she prefer a discrete listing in the annual report?

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2082
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With Memorial Day just around the corner, it might be a good time to mention a couple of ways you can keep track of memorial gifts in FundRaiser.  We call them "Tribute" gifts, and they can be in memory of departed loved ones, or in honor of living individuals, or even in celebration of some life event or other.

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One of the best ways to cultivate a relationship with a donor and strengthen that donor’s loyalty to an organization is to foster the donor’s connection with key staff. Obviously, executive directors and other very senior staff are naturals for this. But there are other approaches.

For one thing, you can introduce donors to staff members with whom they share interests. Another possibility is to invite donors to lunch with senior program staff. The donors get to hear the inside scoop on what the organization is doing, and staff develops an appreciation for the donors. That’s a win/win situation in my book.

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Tagged in: donor loyalty
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1703
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In a recent blog here by Kim Klein, follow-up was stressed as an important element in asking people to volunteer their help.  It's as true in fundraising as in any other aspect of volunteerism (or life itself, for that matter) that communication is critical in fostering a strong, respectful, and meaningful relationship.  So use what FundRaiser provides to keep abreast of what's happening with your individual requests of volunteers, and be prepared to communicate often and openly.  Here are a couple of features that I've talked about in the past, that can be very helpful in accomplishing your goals:

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in Trainers Blog 2074
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