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.

Three Independence Day Reflections

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1. Independence, good or bad?

Nearly every citizen of the U.S., I believe, would agree that national independence from foreign powers is a good thing, and we celebrate our country's independence from Great Britain every year on July 4th.  But not all forms of independence are necessarily good, I think.  Let me elaborate.  When I was young, I was instilled with the idea that self-independence is a good thing, so far as providing for one's own needs, food, shelter, clothing, etc.  Hard work, I was told, was the key for obtaining that independence.  Looking back, I think that was a bit naive on my parents' part, but it certainly got me out of the house earlier than I might otherwise have left.  Few of us truly want to be independent in all respects, and most of us need some forms of interdependence to thrive and live full lives.  Successful marriage, rearing children, meaningful employment, team sports, all require interdependence to one degree or another.  And learning how to use donor management software as powerful and versatile as FundRaiser products requires a bit of interdependence as well.  So consider that trying to be too independent when learning the ins and outs of FundRaiser is not a good thing, and is probably a bit self-defeating, in that you will take longer to perform the tasks that you need to perform without a proper grounding in the use of the software.  Allow yourself the luxury of interdependence with our staff and other users in order to more quickly and efficiently reach your fundraising goals.  You'll see that, while not a bad thing in itself, striving for independence in all things may be a bit misguided.

2.  Independent interdependence

It's not really an oxymoron.  There are several avenues for learning FundRaiser software that allow you to be independent to a great degree:  training videos online; online FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions); the Help Contents HOW-TO section in your software; the blog archives on our website for learning about many aspects of how the software helps with specific fundraising tasks.  These avenues of learning allow you to view the information at your leisure, on your timetable, without being dependent on someone else's scheduling or priorities.  Someone else, of course, expended the effort to create or make available the information on the website, so there is a level of dependence on those folks (mostly our staff here at FundRaiser), but it's kept at arm's length, so to speak, through the media in which it's presented.

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Giving Friends and Allies a Chance to be Donors

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Dear Kim:

We are a 19-year-old organization of mothers in poverty fighting for the lives of mothers and children who are on the front line in the escalating war on the poor. Our budget has generally been around $52,000—just enough to cover two staff salaries, printing, postage, volunteer stipends, and office utilities and phones. We combine grant writing, subscriptions sales, fundraising events and private donations from quarterly fundraising letters to support our work. Several years ago, we lost our major funder and we have had difficulty getting smaller grants for our work in the last three years since welfare deform lost its “sexy” topical appeal. To survive with our reduced budget of less than $20,000, we have only one part-time paid staff person, our website was disconnected, and we did not replace our copy machine when it died. Consequently, we are accomplishing less work, so it is even more difficult to get grants. We do not want to quit at a time when single-mother families in poverty are suffering nightmares unimagined ten years ago: millions of US single moms forced to quit college; 37 percent increase in infant deaths in cities like Milwaukee; hundreds of thousands of moms and children homeless every year; tens of thousands of moms living with zero income after reaching unrealistic welfare time limits; tough competition for awful jobs paying even less than before, and so on.

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Short Take: Variations on LYBUNT/SYBUNT

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As we move into the second half of the year, it’s a good time to start thinking about donors who have given last year, or even some year, but not yet this year. Built into the FundRaiser reports are options for LYBUNT (Last Year But Not This Year) and SYBUNT (Some Year But Not This Year). These are both great tools to determine donors who have given during your last calendar (or reporting year if it’s different) year, but not this one, and begin to extend your outreach to those individuals.

However, did you know that in our groupings options, we offer even more variations on the traditional LYBUNT/SYBUNT criteria?

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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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Inviting LYBUNTS to Renew Support

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Dear Kim:

What is a Lie-Bunt?  I have some pro bono consulting from this high powered direct mail and social media person and she told me we have a lot of lie-bunts we should be asking.  I already feel stupid around her and don’t want to ask her what she means.  Do you have any idea? 

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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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How FundRaiser Helps You Track Awareness Day FundRaising

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Nearly every day on the calendar, and certainly every month, has an Awareness Day attached to it. For example, did you know that not only is May Zombie Awareness month, but also Fibromyalgia and CF/ME Awareness month? Depending on the work your nonprofit does, awareness days, such as those related to families, children, or certain illnesses, can be excellent fundraising opportunities.

Not only is it important for organizations to use awareness days in their fundraising, but also to be able to track where those donors and gifts come from. FundRaiser Software will allow you to do so.

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Keeping Track of Memorial Giving in FundRaiser

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With Memorial Day just around the corner, it might be a good time to mention a couple of ways you can keep track of memorial gifts in FundRaiser.  We call them "Tribute" gifts, and they can be in memory of departed loved ones, or in honor of living individuals, or even in celebration of some life event or other.

For FundRaiser Professional users, there is a built-in module, appropriately called "Tributes" to handle the recording and subsequent correspondence for these types of gifts.  In FundRaiser Select, the Tributes module is available as an "add-on" module for a modest price.  But even in Spark, which has no specific facility for tribute tracking, one can devise some practices to follow and report on tribute giving.  Let's see how they work.

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When can we ask monthly donors for special one-time gifts (and to upgrade)?

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Dear Kim,

Our organization has been having discussions about whether and how we can approach monthly donors, particularly those who are already giving $100+ per month, to discuss an extra single gift or an increased monthly gift. When speaking with high-end monthly donors about a special gift, some have responded strongly that, “I have done the math in my budgeting and this is the most I am able to donate. It pisses me off when charities ask for more,” while others have responded by making very large single gifts, and increasing their monthly gifts voluntarily. We are looking to develop a protocol about this so our development team has some guidance. Do you have any advice?

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Short Take: Get Reminded

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When you create a “tickle” or reminder in Fundraiser Software, it will show up on the Task List when the program opens if it is due, or overdue. However, with the release of 5.20, we have an even more visible way of being reminded. Now, when a tickle is due, a reminder will show in the upper right-hand corner of the program until the reminder is marked completed.

When you click on the reminder button, the task list will open and show you how many reminders you have outstanding.

Screenshot of task list reminder window
task list window 

 

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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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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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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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Short take: Tracking Tickets With Campaign Management

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Within FundRaiser Professional, the Campaign Management module makes it easy to track responses and response rates to your campaigns and events. But did you know it can also track ticket sales? For an event, such as a raffle or a banquet where there isn’t assigned seating and you want to track how many paid versus complimentary tickets are sold, our Campaign Management module is a big help.

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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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Small, local groups struggling to keep donors

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Dear Kim,

I work in an arts program that serves very poor public schools in a very poor state. Without us, 2nd -5th graders in public schools in our area would have NO arts program at all. We have no government funding and little foundation funding. We have built a base of donors and we squeeze every nickel. This year I am so discouraged by the number of donors who have said they are cutting back their giving so they can give to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. For the record, I totally support those organizations and what they do, but how can I keep our donors? What we do is still important.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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