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.

Get Some Simple Answers to your FundRaiser Technical Questions

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Recently I learned a new phrase, "Cuddle Puddle." I learned it after discovering three new kittens near the office. It was early, and I saw a movement in the grass.... then a little kitten head popped up above the grass and practically waved a paw at me.  The meow clinched it. It sounded beseeching to me. I was sure it said, "We don't know what to do! Someone just dumped us! This is so confusing!"

There were three of them. When I went to scoop them up, they were easy to catch. These kittens were still trying to figure out why they were sitting out in the hot sun with no food or water around. I feel so much gratitude that when I saw them, I knew that there was someone to help take care of them... Ozark Regional Cats, a local nonprofit started by staff members at FundRaiser Software to address the issue of feral cats in downtown. Soon these three little ones (bellies now full) were "cuddle puddled" in my lap. What could have been a quiet and unpublished tragedy for three small kittens was now inexorably heading  towards a happy ending.  

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Using FundRaiser to Increase Mission Impact

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I’ve worked at FundRaiser for many years now, and for all of that time I’ve been deeply inspired by the work our customers do. Committed to a wide range of missions, the nonprofits using FundRaiser actively make a difference in our world. 

Given that sense of admiration, of course I decided to try my own hand at the fundraising part of nonprofit work. What I’ve learned is that each time I use FundRaiser to help raise funds for an organization I care about, I succeed. I also learn something new about the whole process of fundraising, and I get better for next time. That all adds up to more funds to help achieve what I’d like to see happen in the world. An example, in the first year of using FundRaiser, I learned the value of some very basic donor management practices:

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Increase Donor Loyalty with a Membership Program

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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 order to create a strong membership program, there are  four basic questions you need to be think through in order for things to run smoothly. Knowing the answers will get a new membership program off to a strong start; or help clear up problems in one that is already established. Either way-- whether you are new to membership management or needing to strengthen one you already have, knowing the answers to these questions creates a solid foundation:

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5 ways your donor management software can help create a thriving membership organization

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Key to a thriving membership organization, is giving each member the sense that they are your most important. How can you do that, when members have different reasons for joining and different preferences for how you communicate with them? Your donor database can be your closest ally. With it, you can tune in to what it is that motivates a person to be a member, and record special preferences. That will help you to give each member the sense that you have them specifically in mind when you communicate with them, even as your membership continues to grow.

1. Make each member feel like they are your most important member

In a donor database, each donor/member has a record where you can enter information that is specific to that member. These specifics can be as basic as name and contact information, however to truly personalize your communications you need to go well beyond that. By recording information on what is important to a particular member about your organization, you can tailor your messages to speak to those interests. If you know what brought a member to your organization to begin with, what events each person participates in, and what friends, business associates or relatives of a particular member also belong to your organization, you are well on your way to understanding how to best connect with a particular member. 

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Do you know the difference between the 2 types of nonprofit membership programs?

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Membership initiatives can be a powerful way for your organization to increase donor loyalty and the size of gifts... but what do you actually mean when you say 'membership'? In fact, two very different types of outreach efforts are both called 'memberships' and they are managed in very different ways. Different staff skills are needed for each, as well as different donor database features. Understanding the differences between the two main types of membership will help you create a thriving outreach effort.

The two main types of memberships are...Benefit-driven memberships where donors give more money to receive greater benefits. Often these are used during membership drives. Often, there are several membership 'levels', with higher donations amounts bringing more valuable benefits/premiums/privileges.Recognition-driven memberships where donors give money and receive recognition, such as a wall plaque, engraved brick, or even a named building. These are also called 'philanthropic memberships'. They are a development tool, used to convert  prospects into donors and to increase the size of gifts.These also often are offered in levels, with greater donation amounts offering greater recognition.How donor management differs between the two types of memberships

In a nutshell, donor management of benefit-driven memberships depends on keeping track of lots of different pieces of data, and following up in a timely manner on those bits of data. It is in fact, very much like accounting. Donor management of recognition-driven memberships relies on the tools that help you build relationships. It relies more on the people-side of development work.

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Case study: Making members feel like they are the only one in your database

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This case study from the files of FundRaiser demonstrates how effective a membership program can be to increase donor loyalty. Original published in 2008. 

Indian River Land Trust, where Melanie Jones works as the Membership and Events Coordinator, is a completely membership-based organization. Instead of donor drives, they have membership drives. For Jones, "the most important aspect of my job is knowing my members and making them feel like they are the only member in our database." FundRaiser Select helps her to accomplish that. "With FundRaiser, we can be as specific as we want with each donor entry. We can record the information that lets us know the interests of each member."

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Come Rain, Shine or Nor'easter, American Rescue Workers Offer Crucial Assistance

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It’s been a tough winter in eastern United States. Happily, there are nonprofits who help keep people safe. American Rescue Workers in Williamsport, Pennsylvania is one, providing emergency assistance in the way of food, shelter, counseling, and more. 

Their mission is to give spiritual and material aid to those in need. New development director Valerie Fessler is busy fundraising in the community as well as working behind the scenes to build an even stronger program.

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Speak Your Truth & Create Space for Others to Speak Theirs, Too

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February is full of passion and power with Black History Month, Valentines' Day, and Presidents' Day. One thing that both true love and true leadership have in common is that they thrive on truth and integrity... yet it can take real courage to live these virtues and to support others to have them as well.

A free society is dedicated to each person being given the right to Speak Their Truth. Even with this legal right, it can be dangerous to speak a minority opinion, as the stories told in Black History Month testify. One of the most important roles nonprofits play now in our society is acting as truth speakers for vulnerable populations.

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Back-up Your Database... and other important files

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It's a little boring to talk about... but it's not boring at all when something happens to your database records. It can happen in a moment... as I discovered when I accidentally dropped my external back-up drive last Friday. "No problem," I thought. "It was a short fall onto carpeting... and it's a well-built drive. Haven't I knocked it around a little before?" 

My drive experienced the event differently. When I plugged it in (so as to access all of the photos that I use in my work) it made little grunting sounds and disappeared from the computer explorer memory. If you've been there yourself, you  know what I did next... a series of restarts, re-plug-ins, and re-trys all gave me the same result. Yes, it was true, about 10 years worth of raw and edited photos were no longer accessible. 

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Art-Based Non-Profits Bring Hope to Disaster Recovery Work

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As the recovery continues from the Spring 2017 floods in southern Missouri, non-profits are involved in helping on every level. One key way in my home town of Doniphan, Missouri, has been through the work of two art-focused non-profits-- Radical Joy for Hard Times and the Riverside Art Guild. They have both stepped forward to focus attention on hope. Their projects have taken almost no resources at a time when resources are even more scarce than usual.

It all happened in an almost coincidental way. A project to paint a mural in honor of Earth Day was already scheduled when the rain started to fall at the end of April last year. Due to the weather, the Earth Day mural painting was postponed. The rain continued into May and by the time it stopped, the Southern Ozarks were looking at a daunting and long-term flood recovery

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Learning from experience makes you richer, wiser, & more hopeful

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In this space between the end of the Christmas holidays and the New Year, there's an opportunity to contemplate what has been and what we hope will be. It's a rare person who feels that everything has come to pass that you hoped for... (and if you are one of those people and this is one of those years, Congratulations!)

More often what we experience in the flow of life is a rich mix of events that can be difficult to categorize; whatever they have been, they have given us the opportunity to learn. Looking for what we've learned not only helps build on success, but also can take some of the pain out of events that have not gone as hoped. It lets us turn judgments of 'good vs. bad' or 'success vs. failure' into a much richer experience, an experience that contributes to the total forward momentum and appreciation of life.

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Case Study: Parkesburg Point Surges to Success with #GivingTuesday Crowdfunding Campaign

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Parkesburg Point is going for it this year for #GivingTuesday. Although it isn’t even Tuesday yet, they have already succeeded at reaching their goal. Now they are moving with confidence into their total year-end fundraising. “We were involved with GivingTuesday last year, but didn’t have an effective strategy in place,” says Debbie Shupp, development director for The POINT. “We really wanted a strategic approach this year and Sarah has successfully done that. Sarah created a full strategy and social media campaign.” Parkesburg Point offers extensive services to youth in the area with the help of volunteers, many drawn from local churches. They are FundRaiser Select users. 

Sarah Daniels, the new grants and communications manager who joined The POINT in May, says that the most important aspects of this success were:

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Case Study: Local CASA 'Eclipse Child Abuse' Campaign Succeeds

Case Study: Local CASA 'Eclipse Child Abuse' Campaign Succeeds
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  Although the total Eclipse in August is a thing of the past, funds and volunteers that the 37th Judicial CASA group raised are even now fueling forward  progress. The group exceeded their campaign goal by $5,000 raising a total of $25,000. Perhaps equally important is that a large amount of the money was raised from  new major donors who have a higher likelihood of becoming repeat donors. 

The "Eclipse Child Abuse campaign" had two parts:

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Case Study: Interest in the Total Eclipse Boosts CASA Major Donor Campaign

Case Study:  Interest in the Total Eclipse Boosts CASA Major Donor Campaign
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For this month's total eclipse, Missouri is one of the prime viewing spots. Local media are in love with the eclipse, and one nonprofit group is using that to boost their fundraising campaign. The 37th Judicial CASA, who are FundRaiser Select users, have created an entire campaign around the eclipse, called Eclipse Child Abuse with Child Advocacy.

The campaign has three efforts tied to it:

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What We Plan To Do Today to Celebrate Happiness Happens Day

What We Plan To Do Today to Celebrate Happiness Happens Day

Every year for more than 2 decades, FundRaiser staff get a day off at the beginning of August to celebrate Happiness Happens Day. In the tradition of the founders of FundRaiser, Gene and Marcy Weinbeck, at least once a month, the company has a three-day holiday weekend. In August, when the US has no official holiday, Happiness Happens Day creates that 3-day weekend. The week before Happiness Happens Day, it was fun to speculate about what each one of us might do to celebrate. Here's what we intend... 

Autumn Shirley, CEO- I'm going to visit Crystal Bridges Art Museum. I was there last month and I want to go again. I loved the Chihuly Glass Exhibit. 

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Fundraising Project as a Resilient Recovery Response to Local Disaster

Fundraising Project as a Resilient Recovery Response to Local Disaster

Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks, part 3

Since experiencing the massive flooding in Southern Missouri, I've run into the concept of 'resilience' linked to disaster recovery. It's a great concept. It easily applies to good recovery on the part of  any individual or organization that experiences stress, especially stress that is game-changing. I'd guess that many if not most of the organizations that FundRaiser works with can relate directly to the concept of resilience at this time of great change in our society.In the case of Autumn Shirley, CEO of FundRaiser, fundraising has been a part of her resilient response to the extraordinary experience she and her husband Joshua Shirley, who is CFO of FundRaiser, and other members of the Shirley family went through. Their dramatic story was publicized widely when they survived the flood that unexpectedly forced them to the roof of their river house. 

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Three Key Lessons I Learned About Volunteering When Disaster Struck

Three Key Lessons I Learned About Volunteering When Disaster Struck

Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks, part 2

I usually report about nonprofit activity from the sidelines, but earlier this month massive flooding hit the area where I live. Over a period of 2 weeks, I experienced what it is like to live in a community affected by out-of-control weather.  Due to the efforts of compassionate and resourceful people in my community, a relief effort began immediately. I was fortunate to experience only minor direct effects from the flooding and so was free to volunteer. Now, three weeks later, I've learned many precious lessons about the blessings offered by rolling up your sleeves to volunteer where you can. I know that many of our FundRaiser customers are the front line in making this possible for people all over the world. Here are some key experiences things I learned that I'm grateful for: 

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Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks

Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks

The water has swept on from the floods that raged through this region less than 2 weeks ago. It took with it all that it had the power to carry away. It left behind not just confusion and debris, but also an opportunity for communities to rise higher than the water ever did, and they are doing so. All members of the FundRaiser staff were touched directly by the impact of the floods which spread over the entire region where the FundRaiser office is located. Each responded with energy and courage as matched their situation, and all have been left with a deeper understanding for customers involved in disaster relief.  

Tamara Lovan of Technical Support went right to work volunteering. "Heading to Carmichael Field to assist with sorting flood debris starting at noon. This evening we will be helping gather donations at the Civic Center," she wrote us after being one of the first to track down where the volunteers were gathering. 

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Spring Brings New Growth- Facebook flash sales and more

Spring Brings New Growth- Facebook flash sales and more

With Spring, the Ozarks come truly alive. It's one of the most gorgeous places on Earth, with lots of rain, vibrant green grass, and sweet tiny flowers. It's impossible to remain untouched by all the beauty and growth, and we have been touched! As the first shrubs began blooming a few weeks ago, Autumn Shirley, CEO of FundRaiser and I sat down and brainstormed ideas to make our Facebook page more of a resource for you. We came up with some great ideas-- some brand new and a few tweaks to old standards.

Brand new are the weekly Facebook-only Flash Sales, which include things like discounts on modules, donor portal set up, NCOA processing, training credits, additional user licenses and more. These are only available on Facebook, so be sure to check our page each week to stay in the know.

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FundRaiser Founder Reflects on the New FundRaiser Leadership

FundRaiser Founder Reflects on the New FundRaiser Leadership

"What does it feel like to watch FundRaiser move into a new phase?" I asked FundRaiser founder Gene Weinbeck, who retired last year after a gradual turn over of leadership to Autumn and Joshua Shirley. He stopped by the FundRaiser office  last week to join in the fun of celebrating birthdays for several staff members who, like himself, were born in January. 

After a thoughtful pause, he shared these reflections on the past, present and future of FundRaiser... 

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