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.

An Open Letter from FundRaiser CEO, Autumn Shirley: Why We Do It

An Open Letter from FundRaiser CEO, Autumn Shirley: Why We Do It
Our Mission:  FundRaiser Software proudly stands for Integrity, Approachability, Responsiveness, and Excellence in service and product.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the time to step back and reflect on why I am so committed to my work at FundRaiser. With my husband and FundRaiser co-owner, Joshua Shirley, I spent the weekend quietly reviewing where we are in relation to the FundRaiser. In the process, I reread the FundRaiser mission, thinking that with all the recent changes, perhaps we needed to update it. I was delighted to feel how fresh and alive this mission is for me. I thought, "This is why we do it—we do this because it means something to us to be working with the people we work with. We chose a career that helps us help the people that help. It allows us to support those who do that. We help helpers."

I'm aware that I only have so much energy and time, and that how I spend my life matters. The same is true for you, our customers. Your life matters and so does what you do with it. People who work at nonprofits take this to heart in a special way, which is why we love supporting you. I think our work will become even more important in the coming years. Nonprofits will need to step up and become more stable, and I am even more glad to be a part of this. We have always focused on helping as much as we can, and I can see how much the work of helping where it is needed is falling on the shoulders of the nonprofit sector. 

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In Remembrance of Larry Weaver, the voice of FundRaiser Technical Support

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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Case Study: What to Do When You Inherit Fundraising Software from your Predecessor, Figge pt 3

Case Study: What to Do When You Inherit Fundraising Software from your Predecessor, Figge pt 3

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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Even Donor Management Improves with a Break

Even Donor Management Improves with a Break

This Sunday is the first day of summer, bringing with it good memories of relaxed easy days.

Taking a break from work is something that the founders of FundRaiser, Gene and Marcy Weinbeck, wove into the culture of our company. Although hard-work is highly valued here, every month the office is closed one day to honor a holiday. When there isn’t a ‘common’ holiday, we find one. Marcy Weinbeck is the one who established the FundRaiser holiday custom. She says it came about this way:

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3 Resolutions For The New Year

3 Resolutions For The New Year

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and how to improve ourselves in the coming year. While many people are making resolutions about their health or wellness, it is also a good idea to think about how you can better utilize FundRaiser Software within your organization. There may be larger projects, such as implementing a membership or pledge program that you’re thinking about. But here are three, smaller-scale ideas to get you started.

Resolution 1: Maintain your data entry. A database is only as good as the information that’s inside it. Keeping up with your organization’s data entry allows you to utilize the robust features of FundRaiser to the fullest. With regular maintenance, keeping the data entry current isn’t a big chore and can have big payoffs for your organization.

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Three Of My Favorite FundRaiser Training Classes

Three Of My Favorite FundRaiser Training Classes

There’s no doubt that FundRaiser Software is a robust program. As with any program, even if you’ve been using it for a while, there are always new tips and tricks to learn. This is where our wonderful training department can help out.

As part of my training here at FundRaiser support, I attended the training courses (and watched our training videos) that we offer to our customers. While I found each of them informative and helpful in deepening my understanding of the software, I wanted to share with you my three favorite classes.

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Why we believe in working at FundRaiser

FundRaiser staff at company meeting
Joshua Shirley, CFO of FundRaiser with Smudge the office cat
Gene Weinbeck and Joey Patten
Smudge the office cat snoozing at company meeting

We believe that what you and your organization do makes a positive impact in the world.... and that makes us happy in the work we do. That's the main understanding we all recently came away with, when the FundRaiser staff met for a year-end mission/company meeting.

FundRaiser staff, left to right, at company meeting: Larry Weaver, Autumn Shirley, Jonathan Smith, Joshua Shirley, Gene Weinbeck, Joey Patten, Mary Lenker

After watching a TED talk together, the FundRaiser staff began to share why we enjoy coming to work at FundRaiser... which we all do. The upshot was that we enjoy working at FundRaiser for a combination of reasons, top among them being the great working environment and the opportunity to use our skills in the service of people like YOU who are working to make a positive difference in the world. Here's a synopsis of what our staff members had to say about why we continue to like working to support nonprofits through our work at FundRaiser.

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Importing from Spreadsheets to FundRaiser

Many non-profits began their data management using spreadsheets.  Yours may still use them, but there are many reasons to move away from them and into donor management software, as you may be aware.  In fact, here are a couple of articles that some folks have referenced in telling us why they no longer want to use spreadsheets:  
 
One of the big stumbling blocks to converting to a better system is the old argument: “We would have to re-enter all the information, and no one has time to do that!”  Well, in FundRaiser (even in FundRaiser Basic) there is a file option that allows you to import from other file formats.  Here are some tips and tricks on how to do set up your spreadsheet for optimal importing:  
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Importing into FundRaiser ... The Right Way!

The Face wants you to know.

Hi Everybody! The name is Nick and if you've called for FundRaiser Tech Support in the last year or so you've probably talked to me, and if not, then what's stopping you?Anyway, today I would like to talk about the best way to import data into FundRaiser and the mythically obscure .CSV file ... scary. Now, you may or may not be asking yourself. "Awesome Nick, how do I create a .CSV without summoning potentially evil spirits?"

Well, first things first, open up your spreadsheet in Excel. Most of the time it will be saved as an Excel Workbook or some other file useless to FundRaiser. Now, go to "Save As" this will open the "Save As" window. On the bottom of the "Save As" window you will see a drop menu that says "Save As type." Now this part is crucial, click on the drop down menu.

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3-Step approach to Training in FundRaiser


In this week's blog by Kim Klein, the focus is on laying out an effective strategy for raising money, based on your organization needs and resources.  I'd like to give you a few steps on how to lay out an effective training strategy for learning FundRaiser software.

First, take the Overview class, whether it's a "live" webinar or a "canned" video on our website.  This gives a good overall layout of the program, going through many of the menu choices, most of the tabbed pages of the data area, and explains what data goes where, and why.  One of the other important things it does is to give you a sense of what other training classes you will want, to complete your specific goals.

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Learning about your donor database is good for your health

donor database achievements boost staff morale
Hawksbill Crag, Arkansasphoto by Jonathan Smith of FundRaiser

When you think about the things that you are proud of achieving in your organization last year, what do they include? Take a moment to ponder before you read on.

After the start of the New Year, one of the things I enjoyed most was hearing from some of our customers about the things they were proud of having achieved in 2012. That got me thinking how good it feels to achieve something and to hear how people you care about have done so, too. Then I started wondering what staff members here at FundRaiser are proud of achieving.The answers cover a lot of territory. Two things they have in common though; every achievement required learning new things; and people felt good about whatever they had done.  Feeling good ('subjective well-being') has been substantially linked to better health, so it stands to reason that when you learn something new, or want to generally strengthen the health and morale at your organization, a powerful way to achieve that is to give yourself and staff the opportunity to stretch and learn.

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Turn your New Year’s resolutions into End of Year benefits with FundRaiser training option

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 2013, and will almost certainly repay your efforts manyfold:  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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Welcome to Nick Haring, the new support technician at FundRaiser.

Nick Haring, support technician at FundRaiser Software

Nick Haring is the new fellow at the end of the FundRaiser Tech Support line. In addition to Jonathan Smith, Nick is here to answer your questions about using the FundRaiser programs. Nick is replacing Sherry Willis whose own home business, Half-Pint Homesteads, has taken off and needs her full time. We are sorry to see her go, and happy to have someone like Nick join the FundRaiser staff. Right now, he's responding mostly to emails involving simple queries. "I’ll be on the phones soon!" he says.Nick studied Computer Science and Mass Communications at Missouri Southern State in Joplin, Missouri. After losing his home in the Joplin tornado in 2011, he moved back to West Plains, Missouri, to be closer to family.

After his move, he was happy to discover that FundRaiser Software was looking for someone like him as a support technician. Because of his ability with computers he is at home with technical questions; and with his interest in communications, he has an easy and pleasant way of sharing information. Look for his blog posts coming up as he settles in at FundRaiser.

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The Language of Color

The view from the FundRaiser office balconyThe Ozarks have put on a truly breathtaking show this Fall.  I have never seen colors so vivid.  The trees stand boldly clad in crimson and gold.  Ruby vines twine around trunks and gently swing from branches like expensive jewelry.  Even when clouds darken the sky, the colors continue to glow as if lit from within.

Color is such an important part of our lives.  Naming colors is one of the first things we learn as children.  Since color is a near universal language, stemming from somewhere deep in our primeval history, we can use color to communicate many things without words.  Red usually means stop or danger, yellow inspires caution or attention, and green suggests going ahead.  Like most people, I suspect, I don’t even have to think about these impressions, they are just there.

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Looking Ahead

The brilliant colors of Fall are beginning to blaze here in the Ozarks.  I see crimPiawacket helps himself to his son blushed sumacs nestled among the stalwart green of the oaks.  Oaks are the last trees to change color, calmly keeping their glossy green raiment as a lovely backdrop to the riotous colors of less sedate trees.  Acorns and walnuts rain down and the grass grows with spring-like abandon.

All of this color and abundance tends to make me forget we are heading into the cold, drab days of winter.  Days when all is quiet and still and where growth happens unseen below fallen leaves and brown grasses.  I always long to take some green with me into winter and this year I am determined to do so.  I have spent the last month designing a hydroponic system for growing wheat grass.  The idea was to be able to feed the few critters I want to add to our home without having to depend on outside hay.  I accomplished this, but since I am currently “critterless” with the exeption of a few cats, I am now considering using it to grow salad greens all winter.  What can be better that eating a fresh picked salad as I watch the snow fall outside? 

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Treatment for database growing pains and head banging


When you decide to move into a more advanced FundRaiser program, it usually means that your organization is in a time of positive change: your organization is growing and having enough success that you can no longer make due with the limitations of your previous software. You make the jump to a more powerful program, open it up and then try to get as comfortable as you used to be with the old software.

I had that kind of positive confusion on my mind when I went over to the FundRaiser Tech Support department and asked Jonathan what would be his ‘best advice’ for organizations who were having 'software growing pains.' He had some great suggestions, but overall it boiled down to this simple piece of advice:

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Attack of the Killer Strawberries


Currently, I am using on a particular list of keywords to optimize the whole website, and I thought it would make sense to use that list for the blog, but after a session with our marketing analytics company (HubSpot), I realize that may not be the best approach to the website. It may make more sense to develop a separate list of keywords for the blog For example, I had been operating under the idea that using two or three keywords in an article would generate the best results, but our HubSpot consultant said they generally focus on one keyword per article.

I have a lovely south facing window next to my desk at the FundRaiser office. Early this spring I replaced the sinuous vines that had been growing on the windowsill next to my desk. They had been slyly trailing beneath my desk, giving me the impression that they were ready to wrap around my feet and drag me under the moment I wasn’t paying attention.

I decided that sweet, innocent strawberry plants would be a lovely replacement. After all, there could be nothing sinister about the fresh green, rounded leaves and delicate white blossoms with their cheery yellow centers. The vines went into the compost pile and five small strawberry plants took their place in fresh new soil. The plants seemed very happy in their new home and the June bearing variety quickly produced blooms followed by small tart berries. Then the runners spouted.  It began with a single, innocent shoot. Now the longest one is relentlessly reaching for me across the top of my desk.  Time to find the pruning shears.... A coding scheme in your donor management software can be very much like these vines.

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Trust - Keeping Donor Information Private


My morning cup of tea on the back deck was especially nice today. A cool breeze swirled though the leaves of the trees and brought the first spicy hint of autumn to my nose. Grass, newly green from recent rains, has quickly pushed dangling seed heads toward the sky.  Crickets piped their sad tunes from the hedge. Even the placid doves seem livelier with the advent of cooler weather.

While I sat, a steaming cup of mint tea cradled in my hands, I watched a small grey rabbit dine on a patch of clover left uncut by the corner of the house. His ears flicked back and forth and his bright black eyes scanned his surroundings as he daintily pulled velvet green leaves from their stems. One can hardly blame him; a rabbit, being the natural prey of pretty much anything with pointed teeth, must always be ready to run.  The slightest hint of trouble will send him bounding away.Donors can be very much like rabbits when it comes to their information with nearly as many “virtual predators” as a rabbit has physical ones.

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Timing It Right


Mother Nature is mistress of the art of timing. When left to her own devices, everything happens when it should.  Seeds sprout when the soil warms enough to nurture them properly.  Delicate green leaves unfurl when the days are long and warm enough to feed the tree.  Blooms burst forth just in time for the bees and other insects to pollinate them, while birds hatch their hungry families to feed on this bounty.

I, on the other, do not have Mother Nature’s patience.  I am always trying to bend the rules.  I want those super early tomatoes, flowers in the winter, and cucumbers in December.  These preferences have nothing to do with what is best, just what I want.  The funny thing is that when I do get my way with these things they are often less than satisfactory.  Those early tomatoes are small and bitter from lack of sun; the flowers quickly marred by insects, and the cucumbers bland and tasteless.  Truly timing is everything.Just as with gardening, timing is vital when creating your FundRaiser backups. 

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Make It Count


For those of you who haven’t spent much time on the phone with me while unraveling one of the many mysteries FundRaiser may present us, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I cook most everything from scratch, make cheese, and sew some of my own clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I like electricity and indoor plumbing as much as the next girl, but I feel strongly that technology should be a helper, not the sole reason for doing something.

 

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