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.

3 Tips for Appeal Letters

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We’re into the end of the year giving season when many organizations are sending out appeal letters. This is a busy time for many nonprofits between Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, and then Christmas and last minute donations before the New Year rolls around. Yet, it’s important to give as much thought, if not more, to the appeal letters you send during this time of year. Your donors will most likely receive more of them and each one has to stand out.

Here are three tips to get you started.

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New Training Schedule Updates

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As part of my goal to bring you the most flexible training options available, as well as to revamp our training program, we’ve made some significant changes to our training classes. All classes, as always, are available through our Customer Portal on demand. However, if you’d like to take an in-person webinar class, our schedule has changed with the goal of bringing you a more personalized training flow.

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Getting The Most Out of the Software

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When I lead tours or teach classes, one of the most common refrains I hear from organizations is that they feel as if FundRaiser Software can do so much more than they’re currently using it for and they’re not sure how to tap into that potential. They’re not alone. So the question becomes, how can you utilize the software to its potential?

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Transitioning from FundRaiser Basic to Spark: Gift Codes

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One of the improved features when moving from FundRaiser Basic to Spark is increased coding and options for your gifts. In FundRaiser Basic, along with the amount and date given, there is a checkbox to send a thank you letter, as well as a field for the notes. The “source” code acts as a way to document what drove the gift, for example an appeal letter or an event.

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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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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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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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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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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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Managing Tribute Gifts in FundRaiser Software, part 2

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Managing Tribute Gifts with FundRaiser Software, part 1In last week's blog post, I discussed the general donor management issues for working with tribute donations. Here, I will go into more of the specifics of working with these gifts in FundRaiser.

The general flow of tribute gifts can be explained better, perhaps, with an example. Let’s say that a prominent citizen of the community has passed away, and that the family has requested that donations be directed to your organization. You might first enter that citizen’s name as an honoree in the Windows | Tributes section, along with the family member to whom notification should be sent. It is good to prepare this ahead, because you may receive many donations and you will want to respond promptly.

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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 FundRaiser Reports to Support Your Capital Campaign

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When looking if your organization has what it takes to succeed with a capital campaign, FundRaiser reports can help. As a rule of thumb, fully one third of your goal will be met by only 10 to 15 donors, and that the next third will be met by another 75 to 100 donors.  While you may have a good idea if you have that kind of commitment from a large enough pool of donors and who those top donors are, it would be asking a bit much that you also, off the top of your head, know who those next hundred top donors might be.  So here are a few ideas that can help:

1.  Use the Donor List Report in Amount Order

The Donor List report can be set up to list donors in order of their giving amounts, with the largest donors always at the top of the list.  You can limit the range of gifts in many ways, to consider only monetary gifts, for instance, or to look at just a certain time period in the recent past.  And, when you are previewing the report, you can choose to print only the first few pages (or whatever number you need) to get the top 115 or so donor names, based on your selection criteria.

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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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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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