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.

Using Merge Fields for a Special Touch in Letters

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What happens when saying thank you isn’t enough? Your donors love to receive acknowledgement of your gifts, and these letters often include the phrase (or something similar) “thank you for your generous donation”. And yet, there are times, especially in the case of major donors, when you want to say more. How do you handle it?

On every gift within FundRaiser, there’s a “Letter Notes for Merging” field. This field is designed for you to type additional notes which can be inserted into a letter, such as the thank you letter. In this way, you can type a personalized note that will appear on the letter and customize it for each gift.

You’ll find the “Letter Notes for Merging” field on the notes tab of the gift. This field differs from the “in house” notes, which will remain within the program and cannot be merged into a letter. The field provides unlimited space for you to type a personalized note, and while this isn’t designed to replace the thank you letter, it can certainly provide a way to share appreciation. I wrote about this field when I recently talked about auction gifts.

However, there may be times when you want to put an additional post script or personalized note in your appeal, end of year, or other correspondence. For example, if someone had been a volunteer at an event last year and you wanted to invite them back or even provide a welcome message when sending out a first appeal or welcome kit if someone signs up at an event, this field would provide a place to do so.

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New Organization? Creating Your First Thank You Letter

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When you’re new to using donor management software, one of the things you will do is create your first thank you letter. Even if you’ve been using the software for a while, you’ll probably create new letters, so a lot of what we’ll cover will apply to long-time users of the software as well. One of the biggest tasks of writing a thank you letter is deciding what to say. You want to strike a balance between conveying your organization’s mission and thanking the donor, while being personable, yet professional.

Within our software we provide a template to get you started. While we call this our “Generic Thank You Letter”, there certainly will be nothing generic about it once you’ve followed our lead. We provide the template, including automatically adding in merge fields for the gifts and the donor’s address. And more importantly, we provide pointers to give you an idea of what to write.

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Handling Holiday Auction Gifts

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Auctions are a popular part of holiday fundraising and festivities. People are often looking for gifts and a charitable donation while they’re marking off items on their holiday list creates a great way to raise funds and provide value to your donors. Auctions also provide a way for local businesses to promote themselves and do good in the local community. Once the auction is over, how do you enter in the money raised from the auction?

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Thank Your Donors With Pictures

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When creating your thank you letters, telling your donors about your mission helps to convey the appreciation you have for their gift, as well as the good work their gift will do. Showing them with a picture or two will provide a powerful reminder of the transformative nature of your organization’s work.

When including a picture in your correspondence, you want to choose one that conveys your mission and the work you do. Too many pictures will clutter the letter. A single picture in a thank you letter will provide a visual reminder to your donor and help them see that their donation has gone toward a good cause. I’ve seen this work very well in animal rescue or children’s organizations, where the picture completes a very personal thank you. For example, a picture of a cat and a message that, “Fluffy thanks you for your donation to keep her purring with good food and care.” will help bring home the thought that the donation went directly toward the organization’s mission.

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Making the Most of Donor Preferences

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As part of donor management, being able to mark your donors as inactive or deceased, or even making note of mailing preferences (email vs. paper mail, for example), plays an important role. Not only can good preference management save your organization money by moving more of your donors to email, but it can also ensure that you’re contacting the donors when and how they wish to be reached. Within FundRaiser Software, our preferences tab places all of this information in one handy location, as you can see in the following screenshot:

The Preferences Tabbed Page is broken down into four sections. The first involves mailings and gifts, with an option for excluding from general mailings (newsletters and appeal letters), sending end of year letters if that’s not done automatically by your organization, as well as not sending thank you letters (for frequent donors), and the ability to completely block the addition of gifts to a record (for deceased donors).

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3 Ways To Target Your Giving Tuesday Donors

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As we draw closer to Giving Tuesday, you may be thinking about how to make highly targeted appeals to your donors based on information like their giving history or other factors. Luckily, FundRaiser software makes it easy for you to select groups of donors and then send them correspondence based on your selections. Let’s look at three different ways you can target your Giving Tuesday prospective donors.

Based on past giving

A motivation code tracks what motivated your donors to give a specific gift. This could be an appeal letter, a campaign, an event, or the fact that they gave to Giving Tuesday last year. Perhaps you want to reach out to donors who haven’t yet given this year or ones who have lapsed. Use your criteria to target your communication directly to these donors.

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Three Tips for Managing Your FundRaiser Codes

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When you’ve used a database for any length of time it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of codes you have. The power of codes is that they’re what the system uses to show you data. Too many, and you won’t know what information you can obtain or how you’ve coded your donors to get it. Just like we do “spring cleaning” at home, it’s a good idea once or twice a year, usually spring and fall, to do a review of the codes in your database. These three tips can help.

1.  Use the Code Listing Report (Reports > Code Listing) to see what you have

When running this report, check the box that says “show inactive codes” so you can see every code in your system. Then review the report to see what codes can be marked as inactive (or hidden) so that you don’t see them during day-to-day data input or if you have duplicate codes which need to be merged.

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Short take: Making Event Participants into Regular Donors

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 Your event was a smashing success and you raised a lot of money. After entering the participants into FundRaser, you might be wondering what the next steps are. How do you convert them to prospective, and hopefully future, donors?

First, make sure you’ve coded them as having been a participant at the event. This could be using the motivation code from their gift or ticket purchase to attend or even just a category code. If you have FundRaiser Professional, our Campaign Management Module is a great way to keep track of complex events and their participants.

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3 Ways of Tracking the Elusive Donor/Prospect

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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 few suggestions that will make it easier to use a multiplicity of Category Codes.  

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Short Take: Tracking Commemorative Donations, Part 2: Period & Misc. Codes

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In the first blog about commemorative donations, I talked about how to use notes to document elements of the gifts such as inscriptions or even the specific reason for the gift. If your organization uses FundRaiser Professional, you have two additional tools at your disposal: Period and Miscellaneous codes.

These additional codes can be found on the “Edit Other” tab of your gift entry, right next to the information where you would note any non-tax deductible portions of the gift. FundRaiser doesn’t provide any sample codes for these two items, because they’re designed to be customized to meet the organization’s individual needs.

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Short Take: Tracking Commemorative Donations Part 1: Notes & Inscriptions

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Often when organizations undertake a building or other special project, they sell “bricks” with inscriptions as a way to quickly raise funds. These bricks or stones can also be inscribed with the names of major donors. Organizations need a way to not just recognize these donations, but also note the inscription if provided at the time of the donation or if they need to obtain it later.

While we often recommend codes such as a motivation or purpose code to mark such gifts, when it comes to inscriptions, you may need additional space. It’s also quite possible that your organization has set a specific motivation code, of which the bricks will be a part, so there’s a need to further designate those gifts. One way to do this is through the Gift Notes field in FundRaiser. When entering in the gift a specific phrase such as “BRICK” or “INSCRIPTION” could be placed in the notes field.

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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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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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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
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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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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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Short take: non-traditional uses for the alternate address field

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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. Alternate addresses also have a few additional uses:

  1. Store old addresses
    When a donor updates an address, keep the old one on file so you don't lose it. Copy the current address to the alternate address space. It will be marked inactive, so you can keep the address on file just in case it's needed.
  2. Send mail to a power of attorney or another location permanently
    There may be times that you need to send correspondence to someone else, such as a power of attorney or even a family foundation's address. Using the alternate address field you can keep the donor's original address on file, while sending correspondence to another location.
  3. Keep an alternate address "just in case"
    For donors without a certain time for their vacation or summer home, or who may want some correspondence sent to a business address, but not all of it, then using the alternate address field is the perfect way to keep track of this information. Keeping the addresses coded correctly will ensure mail goes to the appropriate places.

If you have any questions about working with FundRaiser to manage your addresses: 

  • Sign up for the live FundRaiser Overview webinar. You can see the complete webinar schedule on the training calendar for the current month.  
  • Contact support at 800-543-4131 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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5 Ways to Manage Address Changes for a Donors on the Move with your FundRaiser Database

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What percentage of your donors can you afford to lose?

According to the US Census Bureau, over 11.2% of the population will move during the year, and while this figure is at an all time low, it still represents a significant number of changes that will, most likely, occur in your donor database as well.  If you rely on your donors to inform you of their address changes, you will no doubt lose contact with many of them. There are a few ways to take positive action on your own to keep in touch and retain donors who move without notice, however. These include:  3 features available in FundRaiser Spark, Select, and Professional; 1 additional feature available in Select and Professional; and 1 other feature exclusive to Professional.

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Short take: Importing Your #GivingTuesday Gifts

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If you are receiving gifts for #GivingTuesday (or any other occasion) in another system, you’ll most likely be entering them into FundRaiser. (If you haven’t inquired about our Donor Portal, which can put gifts directly into your FundRaiser database, now is a great time to do so.) Instead of entering your gifts one-by-one, you can import them.

To import your gifts, save your file of exported gifts into a CSV (comma separated values) format. Most programs export into CSV files automatically. Then, go to File > Import and follow the prompts to match up the fields and import the gifts.

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