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.

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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You know that there are strong reasons to send thank you letters to all donors, regardless of the size of the gifts.  I want to give you some ways to help evaluate small gift donors, in order to see if you can increase giving rates and/or amounts.

1.  Use Groupings to identify "small" gift donors

It's true that some people will give multiple gifts, of varying amounts, and in order to insure that you are looking at "small" gift donors only, you'll need to create a grouping. You'll want to base the grouping on gift size, of course, but just how can you get those who have given ONLY small gifts? Well, first, when you start the grouping criteria, choose the Common Pattern of "All Donors" (date range optional). Then, to isolate it to just those who have only small gifts, click the "Finish Criteria" button, use the "AND" separator, and start a new criteria line. In this line, choose the Gifts tab, and select an "Amount Given" range (in Details tab) of a dollar more than your "small" gift limit (i.e., $21 if you consider $20 or less a small gift) through "blank", and select "Any Single Gift". This sounds counter-intuitive, since it's asking for anyone who has given a $21.00 or greater gift, but hold on. Click the "Finish Criteria" button again, and, this time, apply the "NOT" qualifier to the line.  Now your criteria should read (more of less):  select everyone who is a donor AND who has NOT given a gift of $21 or more. This eliminates both non-donors and those who have given gifts over $20. Now you can use this grouping with various reports.

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Going back and cultivating your database will give you additional opportunities to reach out. Run periodic reports to find your lapsed donors, for example people who haven’t donated in the last 6 months. Use those reports for additional donor outreach.

Both the Donor and the Donation Report are good to use. For instance, you might want to usee

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Campaigns are generally recorded in FundRaiser through the Motivation code, which is a gift code. The Motivation Code tells what motivated the donor to give to your organization. These codes usually correspond to the campaign that an organization is running when the donation is made.

In FundRaiser Professional there are some additional gift code options- Period and Miscellaneous. These are good ways to get more detail on a campaign. Period codes are usually used when you do multiple mailings are done on the same campaign. For instance, if you do 4 mailings on a campaign, the Period Code shows which season each of the mailings was sent it, and allows you to see the differences in response according to the time period.

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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.

Database programs are for storing and using information, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much information as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts. It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

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In June, I tried my hand at my first fundraising campaign. I started with a basic mailing to loyal donors. You can read about my beginning efforts in my blog post here.   

After I sent the letters out, I didn’t have to wait long before our first donations came in. Loyal donors replied rapidly, and it was great fun to open the envelopes and see their notes and checks. 

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Monday is Happiness Happens Day, and FundRaiser has a long tradition of celebrating the day, established by the company founders. In anticipation of the day, staff spent a little time contemplating happiness - what makes them happy on the job, off the job... and their favorite recommendations for increasing your level of happiness. Here's their list in honor of the day of... 

 
FundRaiser staff, left to right: Autumn Shirley, Jonathan Smith, Joshua Shirley, Sasha Daucus, & Lee Johnson. Photo by Mary Lenker. 

10 Ways to Find, Enjoy or Spread a Little Happiness:

  1. Writing a thank you note
  2. Doing a Random Act of Kindness, like paying for the hamburger of the person in the car behind you at the drive-through window. 
  3. Going out to a rock, or other safe, beautiful place, and meditating.
  4. Exercising
  5. Taking a  walk and keeping an eye out for the things that are really interesting to you, even just little details.  
  6. Calling a friend and noticing the things you most like and admire about them. 
  7. Hanging out with kitties 
  8. Have a good honest talk with someone about what it really going on with you.  
  9. Getting some fresh air
  10. Taking some time off, even if it feels like you have a lot to do! 

What Makes Us Happy on the Job

On the job, staff find enjoyment in the pleasure of working with people we admire and appreciate; and we find enjoyment in the challenges of the job. "I love the people I work with and like helping people do good works," says Jonathan Smith, support technician. His teammate, Lee Johnson loves the opportunity to solve problems.

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Don’t be afraid to compose your fundraising letters in the FundRaiser word processor. It has many of the same features, such as bold, italics, or bullet points, as other word processing programs like Microsoft Word.

Using it will make letter merging easier than if you write your letter in another program and paste it into the FundRaiser word processor. This is  because there is often hidden code in other word processors that will affect how your letter will look. This is especially true with bullet points and paragraph formatting. When you write letters directly in the FundRaiser word processor, they will appear true to the formatting that you apply.

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My family is big on writing letters, and I think there’s no more powerful form of written communication than a letter in the mail. It shows that someone took the time to write, print, sign, and mail a letter. The organization (or the individual) cared enough to use a stamp and make sure the letter got to the carrier or the post office. It’s a personal way to communicate.

FundRaiser has many features for helping you with this fine mode of communication. One feature that I'd like to highlight here is that of being able to mark letters active or inactive as necessary. This comes in very handy for events which occur on a regular basis. How does this work?

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Memorial giving reminder on flap of reply envelope
Example of reply envelope text. This is the First Witness reply envelope, and the text is on the back under the flap. It has generated much of their memorial gift donations.

Memorial giving feels good. A donor is able to give to an organization they or a loved one values, and at the same time express a positive connection to someone important to them. Because of the all-around 'feel good' of memorial giving, organizations who successfully promote this kind of donation reap the benefits not only of the gifts, but also the extra good feelings associated with the gifts.

Letting your donors know that they can give to your organization in honor of someone can be very simple and straightforward. Becky Lindberg of First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center and a FundRaiser Select user says, "it is such an easy painless way to keep people connected to your program."

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 Dear Kim,

I am new to development and I have heard several contradictory things about the kinds of acknowledgements I should be sending to donors. Someone said we are required by law to send a thank you for every gift and someone else said you have to subtract the value of anything you send to the donor. Then someone else said that you only have to thank people who give over $250 and someone else said you are not allowed to thank people unless they request it and on and on. I know you say, “Thank before you bank” but that doesn’t sound like a law as much as a good habit.

~Help!  

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This month is the celebration of independence for the USA, and it seems appropriate to try revolutionizing your thinking about creating targeted mailings using FundRaiser. This is done by creating segments of your database, or Groupings, and, hopefully, turn an otherwise onerous task into one that gives you more freedom and choice. Groupings help you to pull out a sampling of people (or organizations) from your full database in order to treat them as a separate group. Why would you even want to do that? Well, the most common answer is to “target” an audience with a specific message from your organization, whether for an appeal letter, an invitation to an event, or a special “thank you” newsletter at the end of a particularly successful campaign.

By becoming  comfortable with creating Groupings, this will become an enjoyable task. And I’m going to give you some hints to ease you into creating exactly the groups of records you need. There is a trick to it all and it doesn’t even involve the software. Here it is, in a nutshell:

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in Trainers Blog 2009
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At FundRaiser Software, staff members are experts in helping nonprofit organizations use our software. We have learned a lot about the how-to's of fundraising from our customers... but very few of us do it ourselves. For me, over the years, I've become eager to try my own hand at it. Yesterday, my wish came true as I mailed out my own first fundraising campaign. The experience was both fun and humbling, giving me a new and deeper appreciation of the work that our customers do daily! 

Let me say at the start, that the organization I volunteer for has done well for more than 35 years tracking donors by spreadsheet and memory. It's understandable that when I suggested using a FundRaiser program they were wary. This year, however, the other volunteers at the organization agreed to let me have a go at it... as long as I was the one working with FundRaiser.   

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