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.

Transitioning from FundRaiser Basic to Spark: Donor Codes

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FundRaiser Basic offers three codes for donor records: a category code, a source code, and newsletter preferences. These three codes provide an excellent foundation for transitioning into FundRaiser Spark or even Select or Professional. Let’s look at each of the codes.

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What's A Volunteer Team

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Within your organization there may be times when you prefer to schedule teams of volunteers rather than individuals. Perhaps there are two or three people who enjoy performing certain duties at your events or who you know work well together. In this case, creating a volunteer team allows you to efficiently schedule them at the same time, as well as ensure that you have the required number of volunteers.

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Track Thank You Letter Effectiveness

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Have you ever thought about tracking the repeat donors from the thank you letters they receive? Do you include an ask or a reply coupon in the thank you letters to solicit additional donations?

It’s not a common thing to do, and yet, by generating another ask, you may be surprised by how many people will donate again. How would you track responses to thank you letters?

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The Value of a Salutation

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As many of the letters being sent transition from paper to digital and even email is being replaced by text messages and push notifications on apps, it’s important to think about whether we still have a place for formal salutations. While politeness and courtesy will never go out of style, too often when we call someone Mr. or Ms., such titles are eschewed for the person’s first name. When appealing to donors, what salutation should you use?

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Effectively Track Online Donations

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FundRaiser Software customers are already used to our Donation, Deposit, and Donor Reports for tracking donations. But for those who also use our Donor Portal it’s important to see what donations came in strictly through online means. The Online Donation report provides the same functionality as these other reports; however, it defaults to showing only gifts that came directly through the Donor Portal.

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Can FundRaiser Track Volunteers?

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Many organizations separate volunteer management from donor management, which means that often two separate systems are involved. Volunteer Coordinators often rely on spreadsheets or personalized databases to track who is actively volunteering, when they work, scheduling, and even tracking availability, skills, or work preferences. Grouping these volunteers into teams or crews becomes problematic, because it is often a manual process. Since many volunteers also financially support an organization, wouldn’t it make sense to have them both in the same database?

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The Power of Volunteer Reports

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When it comes to keeping track of your volunteers there are several important pieces of information it’s helpful to know at a glance. Who are your volunteers? When did they work? How many hours your volunteers have worked and how much have they saved your organization over the course of a year?

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Are your gift codes aligned with your Gift Acceptance Policy?

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When an organization creates a Gift Acceptance Policy (GAP) it outlines the types of gifts that it will, and won’t, accept. This policy is often written down and stored in a company handbook or provided internally for volunteers and employees to use. And yet, when a gift gets entered into FundRaiser, are you able to follow up on it through reporting to see how certain gifts are contributing to your organization’s bottom line?

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3 Things To Do When Your Campaign Stalls

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It’s never easy, or fun, when a campaign stalls. Running out of momentum halfway through a five-year campaign, for example, may leave you with what seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb to get going again. And there’s the impact to your organization, especially if you’re fundraising for a major project.

There are usually four reasons why campaigns stall. The first is a lack of prospects. Not having very many major donors, or a lack of donor cultivation (Did you know it can take 18 to 24 months to fully cultivate a major donor?) may leave your organization with a small amount of people from which to initially draw. The second main reason is a lack of infrastructure, such as a donor database, volunteer training, and methods of cultivating your donors. Good news! If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re using FundRaiser Software, which puts you one step ahead and can help you with the first two reasons. The third reason is a lack of planning, including a campaign feasibility study. And finally, the last reason may be timing, which often is outside of our control such as an economic downturn happening in the middle of a long-term campaign.

Generally campaigns stall due to a combination of factors. So what can you do when that happens?

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Measuring Campaign Progress

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I think every organization wonders how their campaign is doing, and not just in a direct monetary sense, but also in terms of momentum. Are you gaining more new donors? Have things leveled off a bit? Are you progressing?

When the donations stop coming in for a long-term campaign, it’s easy to notice a stall. Running a Donation Report ordered by Date of Gift, will show you the cutoff point. Depending on how long ago that was, the report can help you guide your future strategy.

But what if donations don’t stop completely?

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Creating Value with Non-Ask Events

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Most of the time organizations offer donors reciprocated value. They send thank you notes in response to donations, preprinted labels in the hopes of receiving a donation, tickets when purchased, or other tangible things received either in response to or in anticipation of a donation. This isn’t bad, but it’s very reactive. It assumes the organization has a quid pro quo relationship with its donors.

To start thinking proactively, it’s important to work on non-reciprocated value. This is something that you can offer to your donors for free without asking for a donation or any other consideration. When it holds real value for them, it becomes memorable.

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We've Updated Our Training Schedule

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Beginning in May, you’ll notice some of the classes that we have on our training schedule will have new names. In addition, you’ll find the class schedule has been reorganized to allow you to complete our three core classes in the same weeks. We’ve made these changes in the hopes of streamlining your training experience as well as providing more descriptive names for the classes.

So what’s changed?

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Ways To Keep In Touch With Your Donors

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In previous blogs we’ve spoken about reaching out to donors and how many times and how often you should contact them. However, it’s important to think about ways to keep in touch. With so many communications options available to your organization, start thinking about moving beyond mailed letters or even emails into different ways to reach out.

One of the important things to keep in mind is that with today’s busy lifestyles, it’s vital to meet your donors where they are. This may mean moving to virtual communication or even using letters (or cards/postcards) sent through the mail for a special touch. Though social media outreach can have pitfalls and requires tending, it is a viable way to communicate with potential donors as well as your existing ones and with the ability for people to share your posts, they can go quickly viral and bring new people to your cause as well.

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How Often Should You Communicate with Donors?

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When your organization receives a gift, you send a thank you letter. Perhaps the donor has requested to be subscribed to your newsletter, which is sent maybe once a quarter. Other than that, do you reach out to your donors? Are you afraid you’re talking to them too much?

It’s a fine balance between too much outreach and not enough. On one hand, you don’t want your donors to forget about you, and it happens in even those with the best of intentions. People’s lives are busy. In the hustle and bustle of juggling jobs and family along with everything else, something as simple as sending a check slips through the cracks.

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Two Ways to Entice Lapsed Donors With Your Letters

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Now that the busy holiday giving season, as well as end of the year tax letters are completed, it’s time to look at ways to bring donors back who perhaps missed out on giving during the past year (or longer). Even if your organization doesn’t consider a donor lapsed until they haven’t given for a much longer time frame than 12 months, it doesn’t hurt to put some enticements into your letters to bring these donors back.

Once you’ve identified your lapsed donors, it’s time to contact them. A primary reason why organizations may not reach out to lapsed donors is an uncertainty about what to say. There are two things that you can do to help entice these donors to return to your organization.

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Identifying Lapsed Donors

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The goal of a nonprofit organization is to acquire and keep a stable, and growing, donor base. Preferably these donors give often, at least once a year, if not quarterly, or even monthly. And yet, in the day to day operations of the organization, it’s easy to lose track of the donors who simply have stopped giving.

Donors stop connecting with your organization for many reasons, but probably the two largest are either due to financial circumstances changing or it simply slipped their mind. In our busy lives, “out of sight, out of mind” happens all too often, and not just with the causes we want to support. Before we can reconnect with our donors we need to identify who has lapsed.

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Looking Deeper Into the Donor Period Comparison Report

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The Donor Period Comparison Report (available on FundRaiser Select and Professional) provides a powerful way to receive an overview of your donors’ giving over several set time periods. From monthly to quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly, this report allows you to see a list of all your donors (or just a selection) and the totals of their giving for each period. In one glance you can chart trends, view donors who haven’t given and even see percentage and dollar amounts of the increase or decrease in giving.

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Using Reports To Set Fund Raising Goals

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With the start of a new year, there’s a good chance that you’re already well into strategic planning for 2019. No doubt you have a list of goals to achieve such as a certain number or percentage increase in new donors, more consistent donor acquisition, and an increase in total giving or perhaps getting your major donors to increase their giving by a certain percent. No matter your goal, FundRaiser Software has reports which will help you track and reach these goals. 

Increasing the Overall Number of Donors and Prospects

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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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