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.

The Annual Resolution Parade

This time of year, most of us "resolve" to make changes: in our lives; in our work habits; in our approach to life in general, etc. And many of those resolutions fall by the wayside as the year develops, either because they seem too difficult, or they weren't that important, or (fill in the blank with your last unfulfilled resolution reason). I'd like to suggest a resolution that will help you all through 2017, and will almost certainly repay your efforts many times over: learn how to better use your FundRaiser software to do what needs doing for your organization. While learning the program doesn't sound nearly so important as changing lifestyle choices, or gaining virtues, or shedding bad habits, it can, for your non-profit organization, be the catalyst for many changes, like donor retention, increased donations, better communications, and less effort expended for all of it.

Which type of training do you prefer?

FundRaiser offers several different training formats, to fit your individual and organizational efforts, from self-help using the program's built-in Help manual and training videos on our website, to scheduled live webinars, to on-site training at your facilities, and you always have the option to call or email the training office, or tech support, for help. Each method of learning has it's pros and cons, of course, but the choices are available to you, and in this blog I'll try to give you some tips on how to approach them. And at the end of this, I'll let you know how all this can benefit you at the end of the year.

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If you are going to use last year's letter, it is good to review the letter in FundRaiser’s Word Processor, if the letter was used in FundRaiser previously. One of the common problems we see in Tech Support regarding Tax Summary letters is when people would like to use the letter from last year, and it isn't showing the right gift amounts. That’s easily solved. 

With the letter open in FundRaiser, click on the Gift List or Gift Total Function code and make sure that the date range is in the right year. You can also remove the merge function for the total giving or gift list and reenter it, and that will allow you the opportunity to reenter the date range. 

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One of the most frustrating experiences as a nonprofit is to send out a carefully crafted appeal letter only to have several envelopes be returned as unable to be delivered by the post office. Not only have you spent postage and used paper and time to send the letters, but your message won’t reach your donors. How do you prevent this from happening?

NCOA, or National Change of Address, is a United States Post Office program designed to prevent non-deliverable mail. The USPS maintains a database of all permanent address changes within the past three years by people who have completed change of address cards. When you export your database and use a USPS licensed processor, they will run your donors’ addresses through this program and provide you with information such as a changed address, the complete ZIP+4 zip code, which helps with mail processing, and which addresses are not valid without any further information. When you merge the received data back into your database, it will be updated and your donors coded appropriately to help you better manage your mailings.

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It's time to produce Tax Summary letters (also called End of Year letters) again. They are usually sent in January after the last donation for the year is in. To help you breeze through this process, here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users.

Step One

First, start by deciding how you want to list the donations in your letter. Two merge functions found in the FundRaiser word processor are used specifically for this type of letter.

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Our Mission:  FundRaiser Software proudly stands for Integrity, Approachability, Responsiveness, and Excellence in service and product.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the time to step back and reflect on why I am so committed to my work at FundRaiser. With my husband and FundRaiser co-owner, Joshua Shirley, I spent the weekend quietly reviewing where we are in relation to the FundRaiser. In the process, I reread the FundRaiser mission, thinking that with all the recent changes, perhaps we needed to update it. I was delighted to feel how fresh and alive this mission is for me. I thought, "This is why we do it—we do this because it means something to us to be working with the people we work with. We chose a career that helps us help the people that help. It allows us to support those who do that. We help helpers."

I'm aware that I only have so much energy and time, and that how I spend my life matters. The same is true for you, our customers. Your life matters and so does what you do with it. People who work at nonprofits take this to heart in a special way, which is why we love supporting you. I think our work will become even more important in the coming years. Nonprofits will need to step up and become more stable, and I am even more glad to be a part of this. We have always focused on helping as much as we can, and I can see how much the work of helping where it is needed is falling on the shoulders of the nonprofit sector. 

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What is an End of Year letter? Usually it is one of two things:

  • a letter which contains a summary of all donations that a donor has made to your organization in the past year. This is sent in January, to help donors with their taxes.
  • an appeal letter which is sent in November and December to solicit donations.

This article will go more in depth about tax summary letters. You might be surprised at the return you get from this simple and helpful correspondence.

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Groupings are a useful way to work with a large number of donor records, such as printing a report or sending correspondence. However, depending on your criteria, you may not need to create a grouping. When you click Customize on the report preview screen, you are brought to a new window with four tabs, and one of these says “Advanced”. On both reports and correspondence, you can use the Advanced tab to set the criteria you wish to use in running the report. (For example, people who gave in the last twelve months or gave over a certain dollar amount.)

For correspondence, using the Advanced tab is helpful for year-end letters. Instead of creating a grouping, you can use the Advanced tab to limit your letters to individuals who gave during the calendar year.

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Raymond, on left, enjoys watermelon with Josh Shirley, right, at the FundRaiser staff party

Raymond started working in FundRaiser Technical Support in a smooth transition when former FundRaiser Support Technician Lee Johnson moved to another job. Lee asked Raymond if he might be interested in working at FundRaiser.

Raymond followed up on the suggestion and both he and FundRaiser staff felt it was a great fit. “I like it here. It’s a good place,” says Raymond. “I’m cheerful, and I try to have a positive influence. It’s great to work in a place like FundRaiser that values happiness, too, and wants people to be happy at work while they are helping others.”

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Tamara Lovan is the newest FundRaiser Support Technician. You may hear her voice and enjoy her pleasant, easy-going style of helping people use their software now if you call in to FundRaiser Technical Support.

Tamara Lovan

She is enthusiastic about joining the FundRaiser staff and working in an area where her personal interest lies. Her computer involvement in the past has been with coding related to website and game development, and computer art, such as animation and 3D modeling. The graphic images in this blog post, including the header are Tamara's work. “I enjoy the educational aspect of it all.”

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Why Do You Need To Raise Money?

How your organization raises and spends money is knowledge a successful fund-raiser must also have at his or her fingertips. You need to know and understand your organization’s budget so that you can delineate the cost of operation and how the money to cover that cost is to be generated. Nearly all non-profits are, by their nature, limited in their capacity to increase earned revenues, and many are unable to produce any earned income because they serve groups that cannot afford to pay.

The inability to produce enough earned income to cover the cost of doing business is why non-profit organizations must be fund-raisers. However, understanding your organization’s capacity to produce earned income, knowing where such income comes or could come from, and maximizing it, are essential to developing a successful fund-raising campaign. If your prospective donors believe you could be producing more earned income, they will be far less likely to give of their limited philanthropic resources.

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Who Cares Enough about Our Organization to Give Us Money?

Remember the TV detective Kojak, played by the late Telly Savalas, who was always asking, “Who loves ya, baby?” Well, the question fund-raisers need to ask of their organizations is the same, although it is more likely to be phrased, Who cares about us and why?

Let’s go back to the mission statement for a moment. If an organization’s mission statement is truly in sync with what the organization is doing, it provides a way to help identify who cares about it and why. Or put another way, it explains who benefits from the existence of the organization.

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You start the process of becoming a fund-raiser for an organization when you first become involved with the organization. That’s when you begin to acquire knowledge about an organization, and acquisition of knowledge is the first step in preparing to raise money. To sell any product, it is important to know just what the product is and what it does. It makes no difference whether you are a waitress explaining the intricacies of the specials of the day, a computer salesperson pitching the new improved model, or a solicitor in a fund-raising campaign.

If you are the person running a campaign, you must make sure your solicitors have access to information about what the organization is, what it does, and why money is needed in the furtherance of what goals. If you are the person asking for the money, think about how you would go about making your request without that information. Yes, you will on occasion find people who will give because you ask rather than give to the cause, but that is the exception and –this can’t be said often enough—you cannot rely on the exception to support your organization.

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FundRaiser Software provides many tools for managing event participation and donation. Users of FundRaiser Pro have access to the Campaigns and Events Module, which will track participation, donations, sponsorships, and provides detailed reporting. If you’re interested in the Campaigns and Events Module, you’re encouraged to sign up for the next training class.

However, even without the Campaigns and Events Module, you can keep track of campaign participation several ways. The Motivation Code records what motivated someone to give, and that’s usually because they attended an event or received a mailer. Using a unique motivation code will allow you to run reports as well as create groupings based off of event donations.

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As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I tried my own hand this year at fundraising for an organization I support. From creating my first fundraising campaign, to doing a little extra donor outreach with FundRaiser to reach our campaign goal, I enjoyed the experience and look forward to more. 

One of the very satisfying things was not just reaching the fundraising goal, but also an additional and important side benefit that I had not foreseen:  Based in part on the work our fundraising committee did, we had a wonderful turn out for the event in spite of some challenges that hit just before the event took place. Here's what happened...

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Dear Kim:

I was recently hired by a community health center as the Fundraising Manager to implement the first-ever Annual Campaign. Our organization is over 30 years old and thriving, but it has been funded primarily by patient fees and grants until now. We are working on developing our business identity, including re-designing our logo/tagline and creating publicity materials to use for the campaign. Do you have suggestions of key elements to include as part of an information packet for cultivating donors? My plan is to get samples from other community agencies in healthcare, as well as organizations that are guided by the same values in their work even if different in scope, including policy/advocacy organizations, universities, and environmental groups. We are working on developing content, working off of the Case for Support, but I don’t know the best practice for deciding what to include and how to present it.

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As most of you know, in FundRaiser there are a multitude of ways and places in which to store this data. The one complaint I've heard about this is that it can be difficult to remember where you've put each different type of information. Is it in the Name Details? or Preferences? or Spare Fields? And why should I have to jump all over the place to see the information that is important to MY tasks in this organization, anyway?

Enter the "Custom Page" concept. Have you noticed the Custom Page tab (normally found to the left of the Master List tab) in FundRaiser? If it doesn't exist, you probably have Spark. If you have Select or Professional, it may have been moved to the right of the Master list (Options | Change Tab Order). The Custom Page is, at first, a blank space just waiting for you to design your perfect information layout. What information about donors do you want at your fingertips? Where is that data normally kept? You can "mirror" that field (or table) of information on the Custom Page. You can have, for instance, not only the donor name, phones, email, age, and so forth, but also the table showing their entire Giving History, or the table showing all of their Category Codes, or any specific Preference settings that are important, or... whatever you wish.

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Different people and organizations will have different backup needs. To set up a schedule that works for you, consider the following questions

  • How much data loss would you consider 'allowable loss"- fairly simple to recreate
  • How often do you enter data?
  • How much of your data would be difficult or impossible to recreate?

These questions will give you the answer for how often you need to back up.  If your computer crashes and you lose all your data, how recent was your last back up? Does it cover the data which would be difficult or impossible to recreate? If you enter a lot of information regularly, you may want to back up weekly. 

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Many non-profit organizations serve individuals who pay very little or who are unable to pay anything in the way of fees for the services they receive. They generally are in no position to give even the smallest donation to their organizations’ annual fund. In all instances those client/user groups are grateful for the good being done for them and their families. They quite often ask if they can do anything within their power and means to show appreciation to their service organizations since they have no money to give to them. Leaders of those non-profits want to know how best they can respond when at the times the people whom they serve say, “I know you need money and I want to help. Is there anything I can do?”

I have found many such individuals were able to solicit small donations from their immediate family members, other relatives, friends, co-workers, and from other sources personal to them. They responded well to plans presented to them by their organizations’ development officers and trustees. Perhaps your organization can do the same by employing a model of such a program I have used a number of times with success.

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Dear Kim,

How many times do you ask someone for a meeting to discuss a major gift? We are in a small, quiet major gifts campaign. Solicitors have gotten an initial interest when talking with prospects when they have invited them to an event which they cannot attend but say they are interested in our mission. Then the solicitors get into a lot of voice mail and phone tag when trying to set up a meeting or extend an invitation to another event. Do you get to a point where you just give up–and if so, when is that? Or do you come right out and ask them if they want you to stop bugging them? Or do you try to connect with them indefinitely? This has been going on for 4-5 months in some cases.

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Moving donors up the giving ladder is one of the prime reasons to keep a donor database. Here are some tips for 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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