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.

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Don’t be afraid to compose your fundraising letters in the FundRaiser word processor. It has many of the same features, such as bold, italics, or bullet points, as other word processing programs like Microsoft Word.

Using it will make letter merging easier than if you write your letter in another program and paste it into the FundRaiser word processor. This is  because there is often hidden code in other word processors that will affect how your letter will look. This is especially true with bullet points and paragraph formatting. When you write letters directly in the FundRaiser word processor, they will appear true to the formatting that you apply.

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My family is big on writing letters, and I think there’s no more powerful form of written communication than a letter in the mail. It shows that someone took the time to write, print, sign, and mail a letter. The organization (or the individual) cared enough to use a stamp and make sure the letter got to the carrier or the post office. It’s a personal way to communicate.

FundRaiser has many features for helping you with this fine mode of communication. One feature that I'd like to highlight here is that of being able to mark letters active or inactive as necessary. This comes in very handy for events which occur on a regular basis. How does this work?

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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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When someone makes their first online donation to your organization, do you automatically add their name to your email contact list? This is a "Best Practice, for most organizations. Here's why:

First, consider that the reasons for an opt-in or a double opt-in on an email list:

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When many people think about alternate addresses, second homes or vacation homes come to mind. And FundRaiser Software has the capability to not just hold unlimited alternate addresses, but also code them based on the type of address. Depending on the choices selected (date range or specific code) FundRaiser will then send to the alternate address instead of the main address on the record.

However, alternate addresses are great for more than just vacation, offices, or secondary homes. Here are some additional uses for alternate addresses.

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One of the things I receive questions on as I’m hosting training classes is email through FundRaiser. How does the program know that someone can get emails? What can be sent via email? Is there a copy? The convenience of email, not to mention the cost savings, makes it appealing to use. So let’s talk about emailing within FundRaiser.

For each record within FundRaiser you have complete control over the communications preferences. If someone prefers email—and many people do these days—then the customer’s record can be set to email only. Additionally, with each correspondence that is sent, you can choose if it will be sent through the postal mail or via email where appropriate.

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When your organization needs to send out communications, the mass mailings feature within FundRaiser provides a quick and easy way to do so. Simply choose the letter, select who receives it, and then print and send. In times of disaster or when funds are needed urgently, the Mass Mailings feature provides a way for you to communicate with your donors, even through email.

What sort of letters can be sent out through Mass Mailings? Anything you can create. As long as you can format the template, it can be sent. Mass mailings also works for mailing labels and envelopes, which means labeling postcards just became a lot easier.

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Sending a mailing, whether it is a postcard or an appeals letter, doesn’t end the communication with the donor or prospective donor. Hopefully a reply is received with a donation, and you will want to track this to better understand the effectiveness of your campaigns. Within FundRaiser Professional there are two ways to monitor and track this information.

The Campaigns and Events module makes tracking mailings, as well as other events within a campaign, easy. Include people who receive appeals letters sent through Mass Mailings as participants and then attribute gifts received to the letter. Reports found within the module will enable you to see the response you received as well as the cost and the return on investment.

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Bold, bright graphics catch your donor’s eye and make him or her want to read the correspondence. Putting your logo on the letter provides additional organization recognition. No matter your reason for wanting to include graphics in your letter, you want to make sure that your images enhance your message.

FundRaiser Software allows you to dress up your letter with a photograph or other special image. Your picture needs to be in a recognized image format (such as .bmp, .jpg, .png, or .gif). If your computer reads the picture as an image then there’s a good chance it’s already in a supported format.

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