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.

Moving up the Donor Management Ladder

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I've been thrilled with my explorations as a volunteer fundraiser for a small all-volunteer nonprofit that I support. Four years ago, I moved donor information from Excel spreadsheets into FundRaiser's simplest program, FundRaiser Basic.  At that time, I had no hands-on experience raising money, and I was eager to try out some of the things I'd learned from talking to customers in my work at FundRaiser. 

As it turned out, success was relatively easy. Yes, it's true what 'they' say: sending thank you letters, following up with donors who gave last year but not this year, and making sure that donors don't fall through the cracks does result in more stable incoming donations. I've learned lots of good lessons in fundraising and what's more I've really enjoyed the work. Now, on our 5th year using FundRaiser Software, the organization is more financial stable than ever before, all funded by grassroots giving-- loyal donors who believe in our work and aren't likely to move on as a grant or foundation often does. 

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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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Our Heartfelt Thanks As We Roll into the New Year

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As we roll over into the New Year, there is no doubt that the past year was an eventful one – in fact, I learned a new term tio describe my experience: news fatigue. In case you haven’t experienced this, yourself, news fatigue occurs when you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up. According to Pew Research, nearly seven in ten Americans claimed to have it in 2018– and that was in July!

So, in light of that, I’m going to make this New Year message short and sweet. With this New Year, I would like to send out a heartfelt thanks to all of you, our FundRaiser Family. You make it possible for us to continue to work in this space, and we are proud to be able to support your efforts. Every day, we are privileged to be in direct contact with the very best of the workforce – the helpers, the volunteers, the recruiters, the fundraisers, the directors, the organizers. All of you, who are dedicating your time and careers to nonprofit work are shining examples of how to be the change in the world, and we are proud and grateful to be of service to you. Thank you for continuing to do the work that you do, and thank you for continuing to allow us to be a part of that, as well. Joshua and I and the whole FundRaiser Team wish you all a very happy happy New Year, too.  We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2019!

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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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Gift Thank Yous Are the Heart of Appreciation

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Dear Kim,As a new fundraiser for a mental health provider, I would like to know the etiquette and proper mode of thanking someone for either an in-kind gift or a monetary donation. It is bad form to send a pre-printed card to acknowledge the gift? I am referring to monetary gifts under $100. ~Ms. Manners, Jr.

Dear Junior Ms.,

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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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Spice Up Your Thank You Notes With What Interests You

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Dear Kim:You are often quoted as saying things like, “Thank before you bank,” and “The thank you note is the most important element in a donor relationship” and other pro-thank you note statements.  But how do you make a thank you note interesting?  And do donors really read them?  And what if I think the gift the donor gave isn’t really what they could afford so I am not that thankful? ~Dubious Dear Dubious:.

Your letter poses several questions, and I will quickly dispatch the last one first.  You need to change up your attitude toward the gifts that are given to your organization.  Any gift is more than nothing, and donors are making all kinds of choices.  You really don’t know what people can afford and you need to thankful they thought of you.

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Exciting Developments on the Horizon for a FundRaiser Software

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With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas and the end of the year right around the corner, now is a great time for both reflection and forward thinking. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ways that I am grateful for FundRaiser Software and the huge FundRaiser Family that comes with it – I’ve been here for more than fifteen years and have had the great honor to work with some of the most amazing co-workers and customers during this time. I’ve seen the company, the software, and the customers grow and change so much over the years that it’s hard to believe that we had such humble beginnings!

When I began working here, we did not have a central office and were one of the pioneers of the remote workforce movement. I worked from a home office with a (very touchy) satellite internet connection and used our FundRaiser DOS program to keep track of leads, customers, and notes. We had just released our first Windows version and were working to convert customers from DOS to Windows, as well as onboard new customers. We didn’t have much competition back then, either – we were one of about three vendors creating donor management software at that time.

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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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Meta Peace Team Comes Back For Great Support

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Melody Arnst, Administrative Assistant at Meta Peace Team, says her specialty is diving in and figuring out how to make things work better, primarily in the office. “That’s why I am working in the database. Things need to work and be streamlined there,” says Melody.

First thing as she started working at Meta Peace, she found herself untangling database issues. Meta Peace, FundRaiser Software users, had decided to give another donor database a try. “We attempted to move to Network for Good. It was a frustrating experience. As the process unfolded, I thought, ‘maybe we shouldn’t have done this,’ " says Melody.

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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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Keeping it Simple on #GivingTuesday Can Work for You

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You can create a #GivingTuesday campaign that brings in donations and increases the visibility of your nonprofit, even if you don’t have much time. Cindy Hassil, Development Director of Ijams Nature Center, quickly created a campaign even in the midst of other year-end fundraising plans last year that did just that. Using resources she adapted from the Giving Tuesday website and some new and existing photos of the nature center, she created a personalized effort that raised awareness and brought in additional funds and new donors.

“The Giving Tuesday website has almost everything you’ll need to create your own campaign, from various logos and images to sample news releases and a planning calendar,” Cindy said. “We used our website, weekly e-newsletter, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to let people know about our campaign, and used graphics I created in Publisher by adding the Giving Tuesday heart image and several hashtags to photos. You don’t have to have graphic design software; you could use PowerPoint or just keep it simple by using hashtags with your own photos and the images you download from the Giving Tuesday website.”

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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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Program News - A Better Looking FundRaiser

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Interested in knowing more about what the future holds for your software?

It's no secret that, while FundRaiser is a very robust program, the interface is, frankly, outdated. As a small privately-owned company, we have had to choose how to allocate our resources very carefully and we have put other development projects ahead of updating the interface. Fortunately, that is changing now and we are pleased to offer you an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming release.

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Are you ready for Giving Tuesday? Let us help with free hosting

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Giving Tuesday is just 2 months away, on November 27 and it is not too soon to start preparing for it. This year, we  want to give you some extra help by creating an online donations page that is integrated with FundRaiser. Our Donor Portal can play a key role in the success of your Giving Tuesday campaign.

Your custom Donor Portal page for online donations will 

• look & feel like your website• accept online donations using Authorize.net• seamlessly stream donor and donation records directly to FundRaiser

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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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7 key components for donor cultivation you should be tracking

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Fund-raising has many engaging and inspiring sayings. Three that give insight into donor cultivation are:

People give to people.You don't raise funds; you raise friends.Fund-raising can be summed up in just three words - relationships, relationships, relationships.

At its heart, donor cultivation is about an organization's staff and leadership developing relationships with those capable of giving support and making them friends of the organization. I define donor cultivation as an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor. I can't stress enough how important this definition is - how important it is to the future of an organization's fund-raising efforts. Every successful fund-raising operation cultivates its donors - builds relationships with them. The most successful do it constantly and systematically. Let's parse this 48-word statement and examine its key components. Again, the definition, this time with its key components in bold type: Donor cultivation is an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

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Ideas for an Arts Advocacy organization looking to diversify funding sources

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Dear Kim,

I work for a small statewide arts advocacy organization, and by small I mean in staff size rather than geographic size. We receive funding from our state agency and membership but realize the need to diversify our funding sources. We are finding it difficult to approach foundations and corporations for funding because we are statewide and we do advocacy. Any advice on how to solve this problem?

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Solicitor Codes & Reports: Not Just For Major Donors

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When it comes to solicitors, most organizations think of them as something only major donors have, and if the organization works primarily in smaller dollar donations, then they might not use solicitors. However, solicitors are an excellent idea if you like to track your donors’ influencers. Our solicitor code and report will make it easy.

The Donor Solicitor Code can be found on both the Codes tab as well as the Name Details > Misc. tab and is traditionally thought of as a way to show which volunteer or board member is assigned to solicit, or encourage, donations from that particular donor. Because most organizations don’t have someone working with each and every donor, the donor solicitor code is often used only for major donors.

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