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.

Short Take: Spare Fields for Follow Up

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A common question that I am asked is whether there a good way to track follow up within FundRaiser other than through the notes tab. You may want this when, as in the case of the American Rescue Workers highlight, you have donors that don’t make any commitments as concrete as a pledge or recurring gifts, but who do send in major gifts at least once a year.

Utilizing spare fields within FundRaiser to track this information is perfect. Spare fields are configurable fields within FundRaiser that you can customize to track the additional information that’s important to your organization and your donors.  FundRaiser Spark has 3 spare fields; FundRaiser Select has 5 of them; Professional has unlimited spare fields.

In FundRaiser Select and Spark, you’ll find the spare fields at the bottom of the Codes page. FundRaiser Professional has its own dedicated Spare Fields page.

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Short Take: Coding In-Kind and Monetary Gifts

Short Take: Coding In-Kind and Monetary Gifts
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When inputting donations into your database, it’s important to differentiate in-kind gifts (which are usually goods, services, or time) from the financial gifts you receive. You get help doing this through the GIFT MODE code, which allows you to indicate the way the gift was received by your organization. With that code, you’ll notice that there are four default modes in the program: cash, check, charge, and in-kind.

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Short Take: Coding Is Key To Good Capital Campaigns

Short Take: Coding Is Key To Good Capital Campaigns

In a capital campaign it's important to know how much money you raised and from which donors. You can do this by coding the gifts. Within FundRaiser there are several places you can code your capital campaign donations.

The MOTIVATION CODE is what motivated a donor to give. Most often this is a specific campaign, and this is a great place to create a specific code to use with these gifts. If you are using our Campaigns Management Module available in FundRaiser Professional, you can set specific codes for each event of the campaign, as well as the overall campaign.

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Preventing Code Creep to Keep Reports Accurate

Preventing Code Creep to Keep Reports Accurate

When several different people are entering codes into FundRaiser, ‘code creep’ can occur. Code Creep is where several different codes are used to designate the same type of gift. This creates complications when you want to get the data out of FundRaiser for a report. Because codes are the main way that you get data out of FundRaiser, keeping codes consistent will ensure that your reports accurately reflect all the data you have entered into FundRaiser on a particular topic.   

To prevent code creep, make sure that everyone who is entering codes understands your conventions. Basic training on using FundRaiser and on your coding conventions is important. Also the program settings allow you to limit certain people’s use of the program to only the areas that are needed for the job they are doing. The Administrator can do this by going to Options > User Set Up to  

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Short Take: Reusing Last Year's Tax Summary Letter

Short Take: Reusing Last Year's Tax Summary Letter

If you are going to use last year's letter, it is good to review the letter in FundRaiser’s Word Processor, if the letter was used in FundRaiser previously. One of the common problems we see in Tech Support regarding Tax Summary letters is when people would like to use the letter from last year, and it isn't showing the right gift amounts. That’s easily solved. 

With the letter open in FundRaiser, click on the Gift List or Gift Total Function code and make sure that the date range is in the right year. You can also remove the merge function for the total giving or gift list and reenter it, and that will allow you the opportunity to reenter the date range. 

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Explore FundRaiser's Custom Page

Explore FundRaiser's Custom Page

As most of you know, in FundRaiser there are a multitude of ways and places in which to store this data. The one complaint I've heard about this is that it can be difficult to remember where you've put each different type of information. Is it in the Name Details? or Preferences? or Spare Fields? And why should I have to jump all over the place to see the information that is important to MY tasks in this organization, anyway?

Enter the "Custom Page" concept. Have you noticed the Custom Page tab (normally found to the left of the Master List tab) in FundRaiser? If it doesn't exist, you probably have Spark. If you have Select or Professional, it may have been moved to the right of the Master list (Options | Change Tab Order). The Custom Page is, at first, a blank space just waiting for you to design your perfect information layout. What information about donors do you want at your fingertips? Where is that data normally kept? You can "mirror" that field (or table) of information on the Custom Page. You can have, for instance, not only the donor name, phones, email, age, and so forth, but also the table showing their entire Giving History, or the table showing all of their Category Codes, or any specific Preference settings that are important, or... whatever you wish.

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Gift Codes Help Record Details of Campaigns

Gift Codes Help Record Details of Campaigns

Campaigns are generally recorded in FundRaiser through the Motivation code, which is a gift code. The Motivation Code tells what motivated the donor to give to your organization. These codes usually correspond to the campaign that an organization is running when the donation is made.

In FundRaiser Professional there are some additional gift code options- Period and Miscellaneous. These are good ways to get more detail on a campaign. Period codes are usually used when you do multiple mailings are done on the same campaign. For instance, if you do 4 mailings on a campaign, the Period Code shows which season each of the mailings was sent it, and allows you to see the differences in response according to the time period.

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First Steps To Starting Donor Management

First Steps To Starting Donor Management

Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

Database programs are for storing and using information, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much information as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts. It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

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3 Donor Management Tips to Improve Your FundRaising Campaign Reporting

3 Donor Management Tips to Improve Your FundRaising Campaign Reporting
Track Campaigns more easily 

All the FundRaiser programs can help you track your campaign activity.  FundRaiser Professional has a special "Campaign Management" component to help do it even more completely, but any version will allow you to do the following tips. Any of these tips will help you gather together donors and/or donations specific to any of your campaigns. 

1.  Code those gifts !!!

Most campaigns are made up of fundraising events.  Some are physical gatherings, like walkathons, parties, etc., to encourage immediate donations. Some are awareness events, such as mailings, advertising, and so forth, which will bring donations over a period of time.  In any of those cases, when gifts are received and recorded, it just makes sense to use the Motivation Code to indicate why that person gave at that event.  Normally it will be a code that reflects the event during which they were asked to give, whether a mailing or a gathering.  If you do this consistently, you'll be able to create Groupings, based on donations made to these codes during a particular period of time.  Groupings can be used with almost all reports, so you can focus on a particular event, or on all the events within a campaign.

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Beyond End of Year Letters

Beyond End of Year Letters

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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New Year, New Codes

New Year, New Codes

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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3 Dead-On Grouping Tricks to Treat You Right

3 Dead-On Grouping Tricks to Treat You Right
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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Connecting With Category Codes

Connecting With Category Codes

An important aspect of fundraising is making connections with your prospective donors on a deeper level. It is one thing to connect with someone over a shared concern over animal welfare, for example, but reaching them with a story about a rescued cat or one who needs funds for an expensive surgery creates an immediate connection, one that you can tailor to the person’s interests through category codes.

Within FundRaiser category codes are designed to document and segment the non-giving aspects of your donors’ lives. Using category codes can help you create a more meaningful relationship. Document what activities your donors like, for example, and you could entice them to an event that seems tailor made for them.

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Reviewing Your Donor and Gift Codes

Reviewing Your Donor and Gift Codes

Inevitably if you’ve been working with FundRaiser (or any software using codes or tags) for any length of time, duplicate codes begin to happen. Maybe someone put in a code with the year first; maybe someone put the category first, then the year. However it happens, duplicate codes grow in the database and there needs to be a way to manage them.

Luckily within FundRaiser, there’s the ability to review all the codes. You can even print a list of the codes if you’re the type of person who likes paper and pencil for planning. Once you’ve reviewed your codes to determine how you’d like to merge, or maybe even delete some of them, then you’re ready to clean up your database.

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How Often Should We Be Asking?

The most essential factor is persistence-- the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by discouragement that must inevitably  come.

Dear Kim, How often should you try to get someone who gave your organization money once to give again? ~Persistence and Pestering: Where is the Line? Dear Persistence, The sad fact that has to be taken into account when building a donor program is that most people who give once will not give again. The percentage of people who give a second gift varies from 25-40%. (This is called your “conversion rate” and is an important metric to track.)

In deciding how often to ask a person for a second gift before letting that name go, look at the source of the first gift. For example, if the gift came through a houseparty, ask the hosts to make a note beside people they think probably gave just to be nice. Solicit those people twice at the most. Many of us are on the receiving end of requests from organizations we supported because we wanted to help a friend, and we feel badly when it seems that the organization is spending more money asking us over and over than we gave in the first place.  

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New Year, New Codes

New Year, New Codes

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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Creative Codes

Creative Codes

FundRaiser Software has the ability to track the non-giving aspects of your donors as well as donation information. A great way to do this is to use the category codes features. Each version (Spark, Select, and Professional) of FundRaiser offers unlimited category codes. With an ability to create codes up to eight characters in length, your organization has a nearly unlimited (there’s a limit, but it’s in the billions) to create as many codes as you require.

So in what ways can your organization use codes?

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Tracking the Elusive Donor/Prospect


In a recent blog by Tony Poderis, it is suggested that a myriad of things *should* be tracked in order to cultivate donors and prospects more easily and fully.  It's further suggested that, in order to be truly successful, an organization will build strong relationships with their top 20% of donors, getting them fully involved in the organization's mission.  All of this tracking and relationship-building requires a lot of detailed information about people, and storing it in a manner that can be readily accessed may appear daunting.  Let me "undaunt" that appearance with FundRaiser.

Category Codes are the most flexible way to record non-giving aspects of peoples' lives, as I've said numerous times in my blogs over the years, yet some users are still reluctant to utilize them as fully as possible.  Maybe they feel the list of codes gets a bit unwieldy, too long, to specific, etc.  Or perhaps they don't see the immediate need of tracking so many aspects of a person's life.  Hopefully, Tony's blog will give you a better grasp of why this is so necessary.  And I've got a couple of suggestions that will make it easier to use a multiplicity of Category Codes.  

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Donor Management Simplified!


Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

Database programs are for storing and using informaiton, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much informaiton as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts.  It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

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Knowing Where Your Data Are (Stored)


In this weeks' blog by Tony Poderis, entitled "Going Where Your Donors Are", there is a hint of the types of extra information your may want to keep on your major donors.  In past blogs, I have tried to help explain some of the ways you can keep, and retrieve, various information about your donors, but it might be helpful to give you a more well-defined view.  Please keep in mind:  there is no single answer.  These are just my suggestions.

Keep general information in the fields provided, so much as possible.  The idea is to minimize the amount and type of data stared in "odd" locations, so that it is less likely to be overlooked when needed.  

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