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.

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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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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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 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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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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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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Dear Kim,

Would it be tacky to add to our mailing list names of people from whom we have received tribute donations — in particular, the families of people for whom we receive “in memoriam” donations? In my eagerness to enlarge our donor base, I’m wondering if I’m wandering into the realm of bad taste? What do you think?
—All alone with my memory gifts

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Does your nonprofit make it easy for donors to give donations as a special gift? Not only are these kinds of donations good fundraising, they also create positive feelings towards your organization. "More and more people are catching on– giving gifts in honor of holidays, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries," says Becky Lindberg of First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center. For the non profit organization, "it is such an easy painless way to keep people connected to your program," adds Lindberg.

With very simple techniques to get people thinking about making a memorial donation, you can simultaneously

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Dear Kim,

I sit on the advisory committee of a regional program whose mission is to fight racism and educate the public about celebrating diversity. They are hoping to increase their coffers by starting a membership program. I agreed to do some research into:

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In part 1 - Raelene Pullen, Development Director at the Figge Art Museum, shares how she is successfully uses FundRaiser Professional to engaged more donors and increasing donations.

FundRaiser Professional is important in evaluating ROI (Return On Investment) of the events organized by Raelene Pullen. “After an event, we are interested to see the relationship between donations received by the Museum and the donor’s attendance at recent events. How do the donations that come in from those prospects compare to the ones that come from people who haven’t attended? This makes visible the impact of the event and that way of cultivating these relationships,"says Raelene.

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Figge Art Museum is on the move, and so are their donors-- moving up the giving ladder! Raelene Pullen, Development Director at Figge Art Museum, is very deliberate about the steps she takes to communicate with donors and encourage them to become more involved in the museum. Her fundraising softwareFundRaiser Professional  is crucial to the process. 

Figge Art Museum

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Membership programs may have many practical benefits, but the biggest benefit to an organization is their potential to increase donor loyalty. Someone who sees herself as a member of an organization will generally feel more ownership and involvement in an organization than someone who sees herself just as a donor, even if the member never has any more concrete involvement than simply giving money.

In addition, enrolling a donor as a member gives a concrete reason for sporadic donors to become regular donors, at least once a year when their membership renewal comes due.

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A lucky thing about a job that feels valuable is knowing that going to work means more than just getting a paycheck. That feeling gives a sense of deep satisfaction, of real happiness. The downside is that sometimes work may start to feel not just valuable but also a little serious.

The founders of FundRaiser, Gene and Marcy Weinbeck, were aware of that and came up with a company tradition to help. At least once a month, the company has a three-day holiday weekend. In August, when the US has no official holiday, we picked our own-- Happiness Happens Day.

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Read Part 1 here

Most schools find that building strong relationships with parents, alumni, and the close relatives of students and alumni, is an excellent way to increase donor loyalty and donations.

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