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.

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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in About us 1340
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1469
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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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Tagged in: Codes event management
in Tech Blog 2087
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 3535
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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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Tagged in: word processor
in Tech Blog 2203
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1182
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1726
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1691
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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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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1610
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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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Tagged in: custom page
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1419
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Dear Kim,

I am the director of a membership nonprofit and our board is thinking about changing us to a non-member organization to help us refocus our efforts to serve our clientele, clean up organizationally and become more streamlined and efficient. Would this be a mistake and how tough is it to do this? What is the real question we should be asking ourselves to help determine whether we should be a non-member or member nonprofit?
—Members Only

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1. Standard exclusions for print mailings

Whenever you create a Grouping intended for the sole purpose of sending out printed correspondence (letters, labels, envelopes), it's a good idea to use multiple lines of criteria in the Grouping, with the first line consisting of things you DON'T want, and subsequent lines for things you DO want. It makes no sense, for instance, to include in a mailing Grouping anyone who doesn't have a complete mailing address, since they'll never receive it. It makes less sense, perhaps, to include those records marked as "Deceased". And you *may* want to exclude those who are marked as "Inactive", as well. In this case, then, you could start the first line of criteria using the Common Patterns | Exclude section and mark "Inactive" and "Deceased", and then use the Finish Criteria button to save that line. Then you would need to use the AND separator to start a new line of criteria and go to the Donor | Geo 2 section and select "Has An Incomplete Primary Address". I know, we don't want incomplete addresses, so once you click the "Finish Criteria" button for this line, you'll use the NOT button (to the right of the criteria display), which will change it to say "does not have an incomplete address". If you are okay with this method, then you'll just click the AND button again to start a third line, and use this line for any other criteria, such as donation information, or something else. This will make certain that, no matter what other criteria you use to select people for the mailing, you'll have no "dead" mail (pun intended) costing you resources while doing no good. Consider using this scheme for each mailing Grouping.

2. Easily track mass mailings

An easy way to keep track of all the non-thank-you-letter mass mailing correspondence you do will also revolve around Groupings. Normally you don't mail to everyone in your database at any one time, but, rather, target records for mailings by creating Groupings. So, since you will normally have a Grouping in place, take an extra step or two and use the Groupings menu choice of "Assign Category Code to All" while you have the Grouping open. Then, create a Category Code that reflects the mailing you are doing. You don't need to create the Category Code first, but can do it "on the fly". So, say I'm doing an Appeal Letter in October of 2013. I might call the Category Code "October 2013 Appeal Letter", with a code of "AL1310" (no quotes for either, by the way). When I assign this code to all the records in the Grouping I've created for this mailing, I remove any doubt as to who received the mailing, and I have an easy one-code identifier for them. This means that, even though the Grouping may be lost, destroyed, or changed over time, I will always have a means of pulling together the records of those who received my October appeal letter. It only takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish, and can be quite useful in the future. One other suggestion: once you've mass-assigned a code, consider marking the code as no longer active (Windows | Codes menu), so that no one will accidentally assign it to anyone else.

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Like many development directors, Raelene Pullen of Figge Art Museum has a small staff and limited budget, so she needs to use resources wisely. On first arriving at her new job, she turned to the donor database in place at the Figge for information on how to do that … and found that the data she needed wasn’t there. “The previous development team didn’t use the software in a very dynamic way. I’d have a question and refer to the software. The answers weren’t there. So I had to ask myself why that was. Is this software not good? The software can only return information based on what was input,” says Raelene about her first experiences with the donor database.

Instead of giving up on FundRaiser, she sat down to figure out what information she needed and if FundRaiser could do the job. She went through each of the technical trainings offered by FundRaiser Training and spoke to FundRaiser Technical Support.  When properly implemented, FundRaiser was able to provide almost all she needed. “Since then, we’ve revitalized and revamped the coding and campaign management processes. Now we are able to benchmark and track the differences in response for appeals, museum events, gifts, and engagement and have data over a number of years.”

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Tagged in: ROI support training
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 960
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Dear Kim,

I am the board chair of a small organization in a very rural (1,000 pop) town. We are not on the tourist track and, if we were to face the truth, we would admit that in 20 years our town probably won’t exist. Our organization helps seniors stay in their homes, which in our case are sometimes quite scattered over a large area. We have some government funding and a couple of events plus about 50 regular donors and two dozen really wonderful volunteers. I say all this because I have read your stuff and really find it useful, except for the advice to move people off the board who don’t help with fundraising. We have several board members who won’t help with fundraising but are active volunteers and actually good board members otherwise. They are very firm in this conviction. (They all make their own gifts.) We just don’t have the population that would allow us to find other board members but I don’t like the feeling we have now which is that some people help with fundraising and others don’t. I want everyone to feel they are part of fundraising. Any suggestions? 

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2843
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In last week's blog post, I discussed the general donor management issues for working with tribute donations. Here, I will go into more of the specifics of working with these gifts in FundRaiser.

The general flow of tribute gifts can be explained better, perhaps, with an example. Let’s say that a prominent citizen of the community has passed away, and that the family has requested that donations be directed to your organization. You might first enter that citizen’s name as an honoree in the Windows | Tributes section, along with the family member to whom notification should be sent. It is good to prepare this ahead, because you may receive many donations and you will want to respond promptly.

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in Tech Blog 1321
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Tribute Gifts are in a class by themselves when it comes to fundraising. They can require a bit more management than "general" gifts, but they can also offer you the opportunity to acquire new donors that might otherwise not be involved with your organization. They also offer existing donors the opportunity to show their respects by giving to a cause they already deem worthy.

Tributes can be made for people or pets, a fact to which many animal-oriented nonprofits will attest. Tributes to the living are the "in honor of" kinds of gifts, while tributes to the deceased are the "in memory of" gifts. "In honor" of gifts may be motivated by an event such as a wedding, anniversary, birthday, graduation, or other important moment for congratulations.

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in Tech Blog 2021
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Nonprofits who make it easy for donors to give gifts in memory or honor of someone, increase both donations and positive feelings towards their organization... especially when the follow-up on your part is handled well. Joan Young, a volunteer at Kairos Dwelling, who are FundSelect users, says that the key to managing tributes is understanding that two different letters are usually sent: the normal acknowledgment letter to the donor, and then an additional letter, called the notification letter, that goes to the family member of the memorialized person. Tracking both of these letters requires some attention.

The American Animal Hospital Association Foundation receives 800 or more memorial gifts a month."Veterinary practices will have a client who has a pet that passes away. The vet then makes a memorial donation to the program in memory of the animal," explains Tamara Fox. She says to deal with this volume of tributes, "being organized helps."

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