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.

read part 1 Preparing for the ASK

The Opening: How It’s Handled Will Determine Its Outcome

The first meeting should not take place in a public space such as a restaurant with its distractions and interruptions. Solicitors should begin by talking with prospects about professional and personal interests, mutual friends and acquaintances, places and times where their lives may have crossed. However, solicitors should not forget why they are there. Quickly, but naturally, discussion of the campaign should be worked into the conversation. Solicitors should mention their own personal involvement and commitment to the organization as a way of explaining why it is of such great value to the community. They must convey how important the current fund-raising campaign is to the organization’s future. When appropriate, a tour of the organization’s facilities and the opportunity to meet others involved with the organization should be offered. Finally, solicitors should ask prospects to consider supporting the organization by making a pledge in the suggested amount.

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Generally, the first step in asking prospects to make a donation is to send them a letter. This is true no matter the type of campaign or potential size of gift. In the small-gifts division of an annual campaign the letter may be the only step, although I would recommend having it followed up by a telephone call, if at all possible. Even in door-to-door solicitations, a letter should be sent first announcing the date of, reason for, and, in most cases, the suggested amount of the request. In the case of larger gifts, the letter announces that a solicitor will be calling for an appointment. We refer to this kind of letter as the proposal letter because it proposes that the prospect become a donor to an organization.

Proposal letters are usually signed either by the solicitor or by the campaign chair. In the case of the latter, the status and power of the chair are lent to what is essentially a request of the prospect to meet with a solicitor. If signed by the chair, you can also be sure the letters all went out by a specific time. This also forces solicitors to act by the time the letter says they will be calling for an appointment. However, not every solicitor will be able to make the initial calls in the same time frame. One or more solicitors may be out of town when the letter hits. Consequently, there is less likelihood of being in error as to when solicitors will be calling if the timing of proposal letters is left in the hands of the solicitors.

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We’re pleased to announce that Lee Johnson joined the FundRaiser technical support staff this month. He brings to the staff a strong background in computer service and repair, and recent training in programming and web development. He has worked at a local computer service shop in West Plains for the past 8 years since moving from California to West Plains, Missouri and just graduated with a degree in computer science from Missouri State University. He started his computer training in California, where he was born. His long-term goal is to be working in programming full time. His real love is programming in Sql database, which is the basis for FundRaiser, so we are pleased to have him on board.

This month, Lee is getting up to speed on the ins-and-outs of FundRaiser, taking training classes and going in-depth with the program.  You’ll begin to hear his pleasant easy going voice answering technical calls soon. 

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Dear Kim,

I am the executive director of a small environmental justice organization focused on organizing a community to stand up to a large and highly polluting CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.) We have recently had some victories but need to keep pushing. One of our board members comes from quite a wealthy family and he has been very generous himself plus raised a lot of money from family and friends. But recently we needed an extra $10,000 very quickly so I went to him and he said he couldn’t give anything right now. I didn’t say anything but I was really upset. The man has more money than all of us put together! I need to get him to change his mind. How can I do that?

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Acting on the Findings and Recommendations

Once a donor survey has been completed and you’ve received a report of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, you’re ready to start the toughest part of the process. Now, you have to listen and pay attention and act. You have a wonderful opportunity to benefit greatly from what your donors told you about the pleasure and satisfaction they derive from their support to your organization, as well as to be alerted to their concerns and cares. You work as best you can to “fix” the things that need fixing, according to what the donors told you. And you need to continue and to enhance the cultivation practices which are the most desired and satisfying to your donors. This will surely help in great measure to maximize your chances for their giving to continue, and it will provide opportunities for even larger gifts in the future.

What if the Donor Survey Tells You What You Don’t Want to Hear?

Make sure that you take the time to go over every aspect of the donor survey. Don’t skip over negative things that on first reading seem minor. It is folly to take the time to conduct a donor survey, spend the money on it, and then risk alienating people important to the organization by ignoring the survey’s recommendations. An organization that ignores some or all of a donor survey’s findings is making a mistake that can damage the organization.

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What Do You Know About Your Donors
and What Do They Know About Your Organization?

If we’re going to ask people for money, it sure helps if they think highly of both our organization and its mission.

  • Do they see our mission as vital and valid?
  • Are we perceived as being successful at carrying out that mission?
  • Has our organization earned and maintained trust and respect?
  • Have we been efficient stewards of donations and resources?
  • Has any controversy been associated with us?
  • Have questions about any of our leaders arisen?
  • Do people believe we are the right organization to address what we declare in our Mission Statement?
  • Do they know enough about us to have formed any deeply held opinions?

Learn About Your Donors

Methods to learn the opinions and impressions donors have of your organization can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet.

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Now that January is coming to a close and end of year letters have been printed and mailed, it’s time to think about other ways in which you can prepare for the upcoming year. Performing some general maintenance tasks will help keep your FundRaiser running smoothly and your donor management process easy.

First, think about the letters you send. With the change in the calendar, you can update the accomplishments or perhaps highlight special stories from the previous year that would resonate with your donors. Updating the letters with new codes will help staff and volunteers alike use the correct letter. And don’t forget to mark your old letters inactive to keep them from being repeated.

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Larry Weaver at his retirement part
 Larry Weaver, at his FundRaiser retirement party in December 2014. 

It is with sadness we report the death on January 13, 2016 of Larry Weaver, long-time employee and friend at Fundraiser.

Many of you have have “known” Larry for years, as he helped all of our FundRaiser users in his roles as Technical Support expert, and in later years, the “star” of our Training videos and live classes. Larry was the first employee hired by founder Gene Weinbeck, and remained, through the ups and downs of the company and his own move from Missouri to Arizona, a staunch friend and supporter of FundRaiser’s mission.

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Dear Kim,

I am about to take the plunge. For years I’ve listened to many fundraisers stress the importance of segmenting your donor lists. For a variety of reasons including laziness, being too busy, and poor software, I have not yet done this.

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For organizations with annual events or campaigns, there are many ways to track the donations that come in each year. From fund and motivation codes to more general category codes, there are a multitude of ways to make sure you know exactly how and why your donors gave to your organization.

Keeping your coding system understandable plays a big role in the effective use of your donor management software. Therefore, when it comes to your annual events, think about using one main code and append then year to it. For example, a gala would be GALA14, GALA15, and so on. This way you would know that all codes that start with “GALA” would be for your annual event. (Or whatever prefix you choose to use for your event.)

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Now is the time to start thinking about what information you need for your End of Year letters for tax season.  Start with a few simple decisions and complete your data entry for 2015 in order for the process to go smoothly. Questions to answer are

  • Will you send out letters to all donors, just to donors who will be required by the IRS to have written proof of their donations, or skip sending them altogether?
  • Do you want to include a fundraising appeal with the tax summary letter? 

What is a tax summary letter?

Tax Summary letters, often called End of Year letters, give donors information on what they have donated to your organization that year. These statements differ from the holiday appeal, in that they are sent after the holidays. Their primary intention is to give information to the donor for taxes; however it is not uncommon to combine them with another appeal.

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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 2016, 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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To build on the blogs recently posted about greetings and letters, I wanted to share a bit about FundRaiser’s word processing capabilities. FundRaiser Software comes with several pre-loaded letter templates. These templates have places for you to list your organization’s accomplishments and goals. So, it’s always good to review the letter templates before sending your first mailing.

When you open FundRaiser Software, you’ll notice a menu item marked Communications. Here you’ll find everything you need to send letters as well as update them. The Letter Templates menu option allows you to see all your letter templates, review their content, and even determine if you want to make them active or not. (We’ll talk more about active/inactive letters next week.) If you see a letter you need to personalize, for example a “Thank you” letter that has a place marked to put in accomplishments for your organization, then click on Edit Letter to go straight to the built-in word processor.

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How a Christian Radion Station Got Back On Track by Responding Quickly to Listener LettersAbout 15 years ago, key members of CrossTalk ministry took a step back from their work, and realized they weren’t getting where they wanted to go. “We had a lag of four to six weeks in responding to people who contacted us. When we got around to contacting them they were irritated and didn’t care anymore. We were failing,” says Caleb Weiss, Development Director.

Caleb knew that donor management software could help, but theirs was more of a liability. “We had some kind of membership tracking software at that time. It took more work to use than it saved. We were also using several Excel spreadsheets. We needed a software product that would help us do our job without having to put so much into it.”

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Dear Kim,

I am the director of a very small nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to adoptive families. We are considering starting a membership program. I really don’t know where to start. Levels? Benefits? Any suggestions?

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Recently, I was asked again what a non-profit organization should do about announcing that a fund-raising campaign is racing toward its goal at a record-setting pace. It’s a question asked more often than one might think.

If you’ve got a positive story to tell, especially one of community support, you tell it, right? The reality is that I have known many campaign leaders who have wanted to downplay their success during the campaign. Some have even wanted to under announce results. Why?

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BRING Recycling is adding #WorkUpstream – an online campaign starting on #GivingTuesday , December 1st – to their traditional end-of-year fundraising strategy. The social media portion of the campaign targets new donors from their Facebook and Twitter followers, says Ephraim Payne, Development and Communications Director at BRING.

New donors attracted through social media outreach will be added to the FundRaiser database as contacts, allowing for regular follow-up. “It allows us to reach them in a more focused way than we can through Facebook or Twitter,” says Ephraim. “We’ll be able to include them in our donor appreciation and cultivation communications.”

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Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) started their #GivingTuesday efforts 2 years ago, and those efforts have paid off big. The first year they brought in $65,000. Last year, their second year, they brought in $87,000. “This year we are hoping for $100,000,” says Steven Waldman, Executive Director of the Society of St. Andrew. Many of the donations they receive from #GivingTuesday come in from their website. The online giving will be handled by the FundRaiser Donor Portal this year.

Steven believes that SoSA’s success with their #GivingTuesday campaign is due primarily to “keeping things simple. We make a clear connection to the GivingTuesday message and we make it easy for donors to give to us.” 

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Thanking donors seems like something so basic that we shouldn’t even have to talk about it. But more mistakes, with more devastating results for donor loyalty, are made in the thanking of donors than anyplace else. So, let’s go over six rules for saying “thank you” that are absolutely essential.

  1. Thank a donor immediately. Send out a thank-you note for a gift no later than the day after the gift is received. Nothing is more important than a prompt thank-you.
  2. Be humble. Don’t act as if or communicate the thought that you were expecting the gift as something that was the donor’s responsibility to do.
  3. Praise the donor’s generosity. Do not stint. Let the donor know how important the gift is.
  4. Praise your donor’s leadership. Anyone who gives is a leader and should be treated as such, and call attention to the fact that their gift will influence others to give.
  5. Thank donors for past support. When you receive today’s gift remind the donor how appreciative you are of past support, but do not talk about future support. Do not say thanks out of one side of your mouth and hint at future requests out of the other.
  6. And finally, never let a hint of disappointment show. Never, ever show a lack of gratitude for a gift, whatever its size.

There are two things that must be remembered about saying thanks. Donors expect it, and they deserve it.

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Calvin Bader of WJIE loves the FundRaiser custom page. In the WJIE case study, he mentions how much simpler their online fundraising drives have been as a result. This article will help familiarize you with it’s intended design and purpose.

First of all, let me point out that, originally, the Custom Page was created in order to allow you to put all of the data fields YOU consider important to view at a single glance on a single page. This, as Calvin points out, prevents you from having to switch from tab to tab looking for the information you consider pertinent. Calvin has taken it a step further, by using it as a single page into which WJIE volunteers can INPUT information, rather than simply viewing it, but this can have certain difficulties, as I will explain....

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