Alumni tracking in FundRaiser Software
by Larry Weaver
First, let’s be clear that FundRaiser is not, by design, for alumni tracking, but rather for managing donors and prospective donors, and so you won’t find specific fields for “Class Year” or “Graduation Year”, unless they’ve been created as Spare Fields. FundRaiser is designed for tracking people and their gifts, though, and that’s all alumni are, really, is people.
So what’s different or unique about tracking alumni, specifically? Each of you will have variations, of course, but for me, a few alumni-specific facts come to mind:
- Is a name record an alumnus?
- Or related to an alumnus?
- Or a current student?
- What year did/will they graduate?
- What was their major interest as a student?
- What is their continuing interest as an alumnus?
- Category code(s) to indicate graduation year
- User-defined Inclusion (a logical Yes/No checkbox) preference setting
- A Spare Field for the graduation year (4-digit numeric field, perhaps)
Linking family members
If you have two alumni in the same family, whether siblings or partners, parents and children, then you’ll probably want to maintain separate name records for each, so that they can be tracked individually. These records can currently be linked through common account numbers (each record having the same account number), and this will help in creating Household records later on. The new Households feature (coming soon) will help in tracking individuals while being able to view combined giving for the household. Any records with matching account numbers will, at your request, be “combined” under a single Household record, allowing individual giving for any household member, as well as being able to see at a glance what other records comprise the household.
Interests are best tracked using Category Codes, since you can create unlimited codes, practically speaking, and you can assign as many codes to a single name record as needed. Most codes in FundRaiser have a 6-character limit for the code, but they can be numbers or letters or the underscore, which means any one of 37 characters in any of 6 positions. If you do the math (37 to the sixth power), that’s a whopping 2,565,726,409 possible combinations. The point I’m making is that you will most likely never run out of code combinations to use, so you can categorize people in as many different ways as needed. Then use these codes to pull people together into meaningful “Groupings” when doing targeted appeal letters, invitations to events, etc.
When tracking giving, whether from alumni or others, it’s important to utilize the coding features of FundRaiser, to denote why the donation was made (Motivation code), and, in the case of designated or restricted funds, how that donation is to be used (Purpose code). This allows you to keep track of those who have given for specific reasons, or to specific parts of your missions, so that you can tap into their interests for future appeal letters and events.
When is a gift worth more than its face value?Another aspect of giving that was mentioned in the lead article is “memorial” giving. These gifts, given in honor of a person or their achievements, or in memory of a loved one or prominent alumnus, can be more valuable than simply their face value, when handled properly. You’ll want to thank folks for their gifts, of course, but you’ll also want to acknowledge those gifts to the person being honored, or to someone close to the person being memorialized, such as the surviving spouse or next of kin. The easiest way to keep track of these gifts is through the Tributes Module (a standard feature of Professional, and an available add-on in Select), which helps automate the whole process, from recording to reporting.
In summary, tracking alumni is not significantly different from tracking any other donor. Just stay focused on what it is about those particular people that you will need to know in order to use that information to your advantage when asking for donations, and record it in a way that makes it easy to pull people into various groupings for targeted appeals. The additional information you may store on alumni gives you different ways to view your donors, and having personal and family relationships easily associated with alumni can be very helpful. Professional gives you some extra tools, but Select can be used to your advantage as well, especially with the soon-to-be-released new feature: Households. By the way, you can get a sneak peak at Households on our website, at "Households Coming Fall 2010 ".
Larry Weaver leads online training for FundRaiser Select and Pro. In his free time Larry enjoys music, motorcycles and being a grandfather.
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