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.


Track Campaigns more easily 

All the FundRaiser programs can help you track your campaign activity.  FundRaiser Professional has a special "Campaign Management" component to help do it even more completely, but any version will allow you to do the following tips. Any of these tips will help you gather together donors and/or donations specific to any of your campaigns. 

1.  Code those gifts !!!

Most campaigns are made up of fundraising events.  Some are physical gatherings, like walkathons, parties, etc., to encourage immediate donations. Some are awareness events, such as mailings, advertising, and so forth, which will bring donations over a period of time.  In any of those cases, when gifts are received and recorded, it just makes sense to use the Motivation Code to indicate why that person gave at that event.  Normally it will be a code that reflects the event during which they were asked to give, whether a mailing or a gathering.  If you do this consistently, you'll be able to create Groupings, based on donations made to these codes during a particular period of time.  Groupings can be used with almost all reports, so you can focus on a particular event, or on all the events within a campaign.

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Dear Kim:

I am the first development director for a full-service humane society that has been operating for 125 years, and I have been on the job less than a year. We have a $1. 5 million budget ($500,000 coming from a county contract). We have always operated in the black, but unfortunately, not much analysis and goal setting have ever been done. There is no strategic plan in place, and we are heading into a capital campaign to build a new shelter and have many needs on the horizon. To top it off, the Executive Director is also new, and we are both working fast and furiously to evaluate as much as we can and to get a plan in place. I have been working on an overall development plan and the article, “Creating a Budget for Fundraising” is very helpful. However, do you know if there are specific percentages or guidelines as to how much the development office should raise in relation to the overall budget? For instance, when I worked in fundraising at an independent school, I raised 6-7 percent of the total budget. That was fairly average at that time. Because there has been little tracking and overall analysis, I realize that we are going to need to look at each direct mail piece, each special event to create budgets and to determine overall purpose. Any help you can give is appreciated!

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Campaign Assessment and Review

The campaign is finished. The thank-yous have been said and the money counted. However, before closing the book on a campaign for good, you should take one last look at it. The days immediately following a campaign are the time to analyze what went wrong and what went right, which fixes worked and which didn’t.

You should assess and review every fund-raising campaign, and you should make a record of what you find.

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Tracking Gifts and Collecting the Money

(read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Receiving and recording gifts is simple to do, but very often poorly done. When donors make a gift or a pledge, solicitors notify their team captain and forward the pledge card or check to the organization’s development office that day. If the deal is struck in the evening, they do it first thing the next morning. The timing and process is where the first mistakes are made. The timing is do it immediately. The process is send the paperwork to the development office. There is no need for checks and pledge cards to go anyplace other than to the organization. These are official documents and should be collected in one central location as soon as they are signed. No solicitor should ever hold a check or pledge card while waiting for others to come in. Stamps and envelopes are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the bad will created by a lost or slowly processed check or pledge card.

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Mid-Course Corrections and Problem Solving

(read part 1 here)

We track progress in a fund-raising campaign in order to identify problems in time to take corrective actions so that the goal stays within reach. If at any point in the campaign it begins to look as if the ability to achieve the goal is slipping away, then those managing the campaign must stop and take stock of the situation.

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How do you keep a fund-raising campaign on track? By being well organized, constantly monitoring progress, and informing all campaign participants of that progress. The very reason for the pyramidal structure of a campaign committee is to simplify management. In the best of circumstances, the pyramid is constructed so that no person supervises more than five people. (To maintain this limit is why we sometimes add campaign and divisional co-chairs.)

The campaign pyramid

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 In Tony's blog post, Financial vs. Development, he discusses two different possibilities on pledges-- are they a firm commitment, or are they more a promise to make a contribution in the future. This might seem like semantics, but when it comes to financial tracking, you would want to handle them differently. Here's an article from previous FundRaiser lead trainer, Larry Weaver, that helps you decide how you might want to handle these two different situations. 

1.  Divide and Conquer:  Pledge or Promise?

First, it's good to know whether your pledges are better tracked through FundRaiser's Pledge Module (optional in Select, included in Professional) or not.  That will depend on the make-up of the pledge itself.  

If a person (or organization) promises to give you a particular gift in the future, and will be giving it to you in one payment, then you don't need to use the Pledge Module, necessarily.  The determining factor, in this case, might be whether you need to track promised payments as "accounts receivable" for accounting purposes.  If so, you'll probably want to use the Pledge Module, as it makes it easier to do.  If not, then you may just need to use the Gift Type Code "Later - Promise to Pay", to record a pledged amount.  

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Dear Kim:  

A small family foundation run by a friend of our board chair promised us $10,000 at the beginning of the year and they have not yet paid it. Our board chair was recently told by her friend that the foundation probably wasn’t going to be able to pay because the market had wiped out a lot of their assets, but I can’t understand why they didn’t pay sooner.

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Mixing Oil and Water and Making it Work in a Non-Profit Organization 

The receiving and the handling of donations made to non-profit organizations are simple to do, but very often poorly done. When that happens, a vital block is taken out of the foundation we strive to build in an effort to ensure donor loyalty for future gifts. Lost or misplaced checks and other communications from donors, late and erroneous recording of gift/pledge dates and amounts, delayed and otherwise neglected acknowledgments, spelling errors of donors’ names, etc., all lead to lost or upset donors. 

We can all agree that this critically important process must be done right. And it starts with the very first check or pledge from a donor when it arrives in the mail room. But in many non-profit organizations, there is a sharply divided opinion regarding just where those checks, pledges, and other donor communications should go next in order to ensure that all goes right with the receiving, posting, acknowledging, reporting, and banking process of donations. 

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In Kim Klein's article on stopping a subtle decline in donations, she mentions the importance knowing your donor retention and attrition rates. You can figure donor retention (how many you have kept) and atttrition (how many you lost) easily using Fundraiser. 

Both are calculated by taking all the donors you had in the previous calendar year and comparing which of those donors gave in the most current complete calendar year. In other words, which of the people who gave in 2014 also gave in 2015? Expressing that number as a percentage of loss gives you your attrition rate; expressed as a percentage of renewal gives you your retention rate.

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Dear Kim,

I am writing to you as a donor. I give away 10% of my income every year and support about 25 organizations with donations in the $20-$50 range with a few at $100. I live on social security but I don’t have many expenses so I can do this. But I read recently that gifts of $20 and $25 aren’t that useful to organizations because it costs so much to process them. The article said to make fewer gifts of higher amounts. I like giving to a lot of organizations but I don’t want to waste their time (or my money.) You are in fundraising so what do you think?

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Our Clubhouse.org has a dedication to improving the lives of cancer survivors that inspires me. They keep up a very active schedule of fundraising to pay for the services they offer to cancer survivors and their families. They started small, using FundRaiser Basic, and over the years have built momentum so that they now are running several events at once. Staying organized is a challenge, and they have done it by skillful use of special campaign management features in FundRaiser Software.

Using the Campaign Management Console is straightforward, and in doing so, Gilda’s Club of Western PA is able to easily view campaign ROI, and make adjustments as needed to their campaigns. Debra Markovich, Executive Assistant at Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania uses FundRaiser Professional on a daily basis and explains how they stay organized while running several simulaneous events:

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ORGANIZATIONS THAT WANT TO GROW and thrive in this century need to be clear about three things:

1. Givers give. In the United States, 70 percent of the adult population makes regular donations to nonprofits. Many thousands more give money in much more informal ways such as helping homeless people asking for money on the street, buying raffle tickets and products from schoolchildren, and giving money to friends and relatives in need. More people give away money than vote, than volunteer, or than attend any house of worship. These people are going to give to your organization, or they will give to another one.

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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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