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.

Automate to Increase Dollars Per Hour of Effort


This week's Kim Klein blog shows how some small organizations may falsely assume that "major" donors are their best target demographic when considering time vs return.  Statistically, individuals give more than foundations or corporations, and there are many more "small" donors contributing to non-profits than there are "major" donors.  Let's look at how FundRaiser's built-in word processing and automation of thank-you letters can whittle down time spent while increasing returns from the vast majority of donors.

First, let's make the assumption that an "average" donor will give about $20.00 per donation.  Let's also assume that thanking the donor is not only polite, but necessary for any future donations from that donor.  

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3-Step approach to Training in FundRaiser


In this week's blog by Kim Klein, the focus is on laying out an effective strategy for raising money, based on your organization needs and resources.  I'd like to give you a few steps on how to lay out an effective training strategy for learning FundRaiser software.

First, take the Overview class, whether it's a "live" webinar or a "canned" video on our website.  This gives a good overall layout of the program, going through many of the menu choices, most of the tabbed pages of the data area, and explains what data goes where, and why.  One of the other important things it does is to give you a sense of what other training classes you will want, to complete your specific goals.

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25 years, and still learning


Before I get too far, let me say that I'm making a departure from the usual blog material.  Normally I'm asked to write about FundRaiser features to complement another blog from either Kim Klein or Tony Poderis, and that was the case this week, as well.  But I decided to write something totally different, sparked by our granddaughter's return to Arizona (where the training office is located) from the east coast area.  She flew in, but had several boxes of "stuff" shipped, including her computer, which was, in her words, "so slow I think it died".  In 25+ years working with personal computers, I don't remember having seen such a slow machine.  It took at least 5 minutes to boot up, and usually several boots before it successfully opened Windows to the desktop.

 

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Custom Page: Explained

Kim Klein's blog on Donor Research this month is all about collecting information about donors.  As most of you know, in FundRaiser there are a multitude of ways and places in which to store this data.  The one complaint I've heard about this is that it can be difficult to remember where you've put each different type of information.  Is it in the Name Details? or Preferences? or Spare Fields?  And why should I have to jump all over the place to see the information that is important to MY tasks in this organization, anyway?

Enter the "Custom Page" concept.  Have you noticed the Custom Page tab (normally found to the left of the Master List tab) in FundRaiser?  If it doesn't exist, you probably have Spark.  If you have Select or Professional, it may have been moved to the right of the Master list (Options | Change Tab Order).  The Custom Page is, at first, a blank space just waiting for you to design your perfect information layout.  What information about donors do you want at your fingertips?  Where is that data normally kept?  You can "mirror" that field (or table) of information on the Custom Page.  You can have, for instance, not only the donor name, phones, email, age, and so forth, but also the table showing their entire Giving History, or the table shoing all of their Category Codes, or any specific Preference settings that are important, or...  whatever you wish.

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Knowing Where Your Data Are (Stored)


In this weeks' blog by Tony Poderis, entitled "Going Where Your Donors Are", there is a hint of the types of extra information your may want to keep on your major donors.  In past blogs, I have tried to help explain some of the ways you can keep, and retrieve, various information about your donors, but it might be helpful to give you a more well-defined view.  Please keep in mind:  there is no single answer.  These are just my suggestions.

Keep general information in the fields provided, so much as possible.  The idea is to minimize the amount and type of data stared in "odd" locations, so that it is less likely to be overlooked when needed.  

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Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Mo


How to pick your invitation list

In this week's Tony Poderis blog, the focus is inviiting donors to events that they might not "normally" be invited to attend.  Any time we are faced with selecting a portion of our donor database, we should be thinking "Groupings".  And any time we think "Groupings", we should take a few moments to consider what criteria will be used for the group of names we have in mind.  One simple, yet effective, method of consideration is to write a concise, but complete, sentence describing who it is that we are trying to target.

Any data can be used

Since we can use virtually any information that is stored in our records, we don't really need to focus on the data to make our "selection sentence".  It may be as simple as:  "I want all the people who have given in the past six months".  But be aware that a simple statement may not be complete.  What if a donor has died since they last gave?  What if a donor has no address, no phone, and no email on record?  What if they have been designated as someone who NEVER wants to receive any solicitations from you?  So maybe the original statement might become more like:  "I want all live donors who gave in the past six months, so long as we can contact them and they haven't opted out of such contact".  Not so concise, but more specific, and more likely to give you the results you want.

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Clues on Using Que(ue)s


In this week's Kim Klein blog, several steps are suggested on how one might encourage donors to continue their support when the founder leaves the organization.  One of the first is to "make a list" of people to personally contact with the news that you (the founder) are leaving.  Another is to send a letter "to all your donors and funders" to welcome in the new person who is to take your place.  While it's easy to create a grouping of all donors and funders, it may not be so easy to create a grouping of those who "would assume they would hear it from you".

Unless you've coded them in some way unique to this idea (and why would you have?), then you'll probably need to pick them out of your database one by one.  You could, of course, give them each a common code as you finde each record and then be able to group them together in the future, but you'll most likely never need that particular mix of donors grouped together again.  So why not use the Que?

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ROI tips for Spark and Select


In Sasha's blog this week, Julie, at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, explains how they use FundRaiser Professional's Campaign Management section to keep track of return on investment (ROI) for various events, as well as keeping track of responses to mailings, like newsletters.  But what if you don't have Professional?  Can you work around that limitation to get a better picture of ROI and similar characteristics of your campaigns?  Well, the answer is "yes", you can, but it may take a bit more creative thought and planning on your part.  Here are a few tips to help:

1.  ROI is a simple math problem... honestly

So, how simple is it?  Well, it's just a matter of taking the expenses involved in a fund raising effort (whether a mailing, physical event, or advertising, etc.) and subtracting them from the donations derived from that effort.  Even with Campaign Management, you need to know the total expenses in order to "plug in" that amount to the event page.  In other words, then, ROI = Income, less Expenses:   ROI = I - E

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3 Tips for Capital Campaign Reports


This week's guest blog, by Tony Poderis, suggest that, in a capital campaign, fully one third of your goal should 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 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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3 New Tips for Pledge Management


1.  Remind yourself to send Reminders

In Sasha's recent blog on Pledge Management, BRING Recycling's FundRaiser user mentions several points in passing that could use some emphasis.  One such point is tracking reminders.  While it's easy to set up FundRaiser to send reminder letters to all those whose payments are coming due, or to send overdue letters to those whose payments are past due, it's not always so easy to remember to tell FundRaiser to carry out the plan.  Very little is fully automated in FundRaiser, simply to prevent things from happening that you may not be ready to handle.  Everything is "semi-automatic", in that you set up the chain of events ahead of time, but still have to "push start", or "yell 'GO!'" to get things moving.  So setting up a Staff Tickle (Windows | Staff Tickle) as a nudge to get you moving is a great idea.  You don't need a new reminder each month, since you can simply change the DO date once you've completed this month's reminder letters.  And you can have separate tickles for reminders, overdues, or long overdue letters, too.

2.  Overdue notices as secondary reminders

Most people associate overdue notices with those nasty reminders one might get if they've missed paying a utility bill at some time.  Often those types of notices are quite aggressive and downright antagonizing, using verbiage that only the most callous of bill collectors might use.  This is not, of course, the way we want to treat our donors, and therefore is not the way we want to use our overdue notices.  Since you create these letter templates in FundRaiser's word processor, you can have them say pretty much anything you want.  They can include the last payment date/amount, for instance, or the total that was pledged and how much has been paid to date.  And you'll certainly want to remind the pledger of what has been done so far and has yet to be done to complete the task for which the money is being collected.  All this can be done in a light, non-demanding, inclusive tone, since you want them as a part of your team, no just for their next payment.  Better to build relationships based on mutually shared goals than to concentrate on a single payment.

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4 Steps to help convert Inkind to Monetary


In Kim Klein's recent blog, she mentions some very specific steps in winning over Inkind donors to become Monetary donors.  FundRaiser can help with these steps, and here's how:

1.  "Thank the donor for whatever they gave you".  You thank you letter can include the Gift Merge Notes field, which is where you should put a description of the goods or services donated.

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LYBUNT? SYBUNT? OMG LOL


What's in an Acronym?

In Kim Klein's blog article this month, she explains what the term LYBUNT means, which is a good thing, but there is another that is used in FundRaiser we need to know, too:  SYBUNT.  SYBUNT is similar to LYBUNT, but reaches further into a lapsed donor's past.  A SYBUNT has given "Some Year But Not This".  You can find both of these terms scattered throughout FundRaiser:  in the "WHO" section of reports and mass mailings (in the "MasterFile" dropdown), the "Common Patterns" section of creating a Grouping, and elsewhere.  They are just easier ways to describe certain donor situations.

Precisely, Generally Speaking

Once you know the definitions, you may run into another situation due to the business world view that there are two distinct types of years:  calendar and fiscal (which FundRaiser calls "Reporting" year).  FundRaiser's Reporting year is, by default, set to the calendar year, but can be changed to coincide with the fiscal year your organization uses for accounting purposes.  It's changed in the Options, General, Printing menu, and requires that you set the beginning month of the yearly period you want to consider for your Reporting year.  Be aware that, if you make a change here, you will need to run the Rebuild Statistics Page Data utility (in the Utilities menu) in order to make certain all the yearly totals reflect your reporting year, and that people are able to be put properly in their LYBUNT and SYBUNT places.

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3 Tips for Good Pledge Tracking


 1.  Divide and Conquer:  Pledge or Promise?

First, it's good to know whether your pledges are better tracked through FundRaiser's Pledge Module (optional in Select, included in Professional) or not.  That will depend on the make-up of the pledge itself.  If a person (or organization) promises to give you a particular gift in the future, and will be giving it to you in one payment, then you don't need to use the Pledge Module, necessarily.  The determining factor, in this case, might be whether you need to track promised payments as "accounts receivable" for accounting purposes.  If so, you'll probably want to use the Pledge Module, as it makes it easier to do.  If not, then you may just need to use the Gift Type Code "Later - Promise to Pay", to record a pledged amount.  

If you set payment deadlines, as in Kim Klein's example (see her blog entry here), then you may want to set the Gift Date as the promised date (rather than the date the pledge was made), so that you'll later be able to Group together anyone with a gift/pledge due during a particular time period.  Another reason to use the Pledge Module would be for pledges that adhere to the usual FundRaiser definition of a pledge:  A promise to pay a certain amount of money in increments over a given period of time.  This complicates things by necessitating a payment schedule, recording of individual payments, keeping track of balance due, etc., which the Pledge Module is designed to do.

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3 Dead-On Grouping Tricks to Treat you right


1.  Standard exclusions for print mailings

Whenever you create a Grouping intended for the sole purpose of sending out printed correspondence (letters, labels, envelopes), it's a good idea to use multiple lines of criteria in the Grouping, with the first line consisting of things you DON'T want, and subsequent lines for things you DO want.  It makes no sense, for instance, to include in a mailing Grouping anyone who doesn't have a complete mailing address, since they'll never receive it.  It makes less sense, perhaps, to include those records marked as "Deceased".  And you *may* want to exclude those who are marked as "Inactive", as well.  In this case, then, you could start the first line of criteria using the Common Patterns | Exclude section and mark "Inactive" and "Deceased", and then use the Finish Criteria button to save that line.  Then you would need to use the AND separator to start a new line of criteria and go to the Donor | Geo 2 section and select "Has An Incomplete Primary Address".  I know, we don't want incomplete addresses, so once you click the "Finish Criteria" button for this line, you'll use the NOT button (to the right of the criteria display), which will change it to say "does not have an incomplete address".  If you are okay with this method, then you'll just click the AND button again to start a third line, and use this line for any other criteria, such as donation information, or something else.  This will make certain that, no matter what other criteria you use to select people for the mailing, you'll have no "dead" mail (pun intended) costing you resources while doing no good.  Consider using this scheme for each mailing Grouping.

2.  Easily track mass mailings

An easy way to keep track of all the non-thank-you-letter mass mailing correspondence you do will also revolve around Groupings.  Normally you don't mail to everyone in your database at any one time, but, rather, target records for mailings by creating Groupings.  So, since you will normally have a Grouping in place, take an extra step or two and use the Groupings menu choice of "Assign Category Code to All" while you have the Grouping open.  Then, create a Category Code that reflects the mailing you are doing.  You don't need to create the Category Code first, but can do it "on the fly".  So, say I'm doing an Appeal Letter in October of 2013.  I might call the Category Code "October 2013 Appeal Letter", with a code of "AL1310" (no quotes for either, by the way).  When I assign this code to all the records in the Grouping I've created for this mailing, I remove any doubt as to who received the mailing, and I have an easy one-code identifier for them.  This means that, even though the Grouping may be lost, destroyed, or changed over time, I will always have a means of pulling together the records of those who received my October appeal letter.  It only takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish, and can be quite useful in the future.  One other suggestion:  once you've mass-assigned a code, consider marking the code as no longer active (Windows | Codes menu), so that no one will accidentally assign it to anyone else.

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3 Tips for Exporting Data to Spreadsheets


Why Export Data to Other Programs??

You know, from my point of view, "why" is a question I don't always feel inclined (or capable) to answer.  Sometimes the best answer to "why" is simply "because".  Why export?  Because I want to export.  It's a valid reason, and so it behooves us at FundRaiser to make it as easy as possible to perform the task, even though it's a relatively little-used task when compared to most features of the program.  We don't need to know "why" you want to export, but YOU need to know HOW to export, and here are some tips to get the job accomplished in the best possible way for your purposes.

1.  Export or Print to File??  Choosing the right method.

Under the File menu, the "Export" option enables you to send data to various file formats that can be easily read by other programs.  The ASCII/dBase option gives you several choices, but the most common for spreadsheets is the CSV (Comma-Separated-Values) file format.  Exporting, however, has some limitations, in that you can only export fields that are available in the "Field Selection" list.  You may have noticed that only "statistical" gift data can be exported, rather than individual gift information.  So, when you need to export that type of information, the best bet is to use the "Print to Excel" option found in almost all reports (like the donation/deposit reports).  While this option will not be as "clean" as exporting to a CSV and then opening the resulting file in a spreadsheet, it WILL allow you to bring those multiple gifts into play.  So, the first step to exporting is to decide the level of detail you need, and either choose to Export (less detail) or Print to Excel, using a report (more detail, but more cleanup needed in the resulting Excel/spreadsheet file).

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6 Ways to Customize FundRaiser Software


Although custom-written software can be next to impossible to maintain, support, and upgrade over the long term, it's nice to have a few features that you can "mold" to suit your organization's particular needs.  Here are a few that are found (as noted) in FundRaiser Spark, Select, and/or Professional:

1.  Spare Fields

Found in all three versions, Spare Fields are created in the Options section, and are used to hold information that a) needs to be isolated, b) has no other designated field, and c) will commonly be available for all name records.  Spares can hold text, numbers, dates, or consist of a logical yes/no checkbox, or even a dropdown containing codes of your own making.  Isolating data in spare fields allows it to be more easily merged into correspondence, exported to other programs, and (in Select/Pro) used as columns in User-Defined Reports.

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3 Ways to Better Campaign Reporting


Track Campaigns easier, even without FundRaiser Professional

This week I'll give you some tips on how to track your campaign activity.  They will work with any version of FundRaiser.  You don't need FundRaiser Professional's "Campaign Management" component to do it.  Any of these tips will help you gather together donors and/or donations specific to any of your campaigns.

 

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3 ways to Do More - with Less Work using FundRaiser


1.  Plan your work - Work your plan

One of the biggest time savers, no matter the task, is to have a plan of attack, and to stick to that plan.  While you may have to make adjustments when circumstances warrant, having a basic plan for inputting data and outputting results will give you consistently better results than a slapdash approach.  In FundRaiser, the normal flow is to 1) enter gifts, 2) check your entries, usually by running the Automated Correspondence for Gift Thank You's report, and, finally, 3) print (or email) your gift thank you letters.  The job of recording a gift isn't complete until all three steps are complete.

2.  Avoid "double work" traps

I've mentioned in other blogs that it's easy to do more than necessary when entering data, by coding people with giving-related attributes, for instance, or storing the same information in multiple ways.  If you have a plan (see #1 above), it should include what codes you want to use for people, and what codes you want to use for gifts.  Understanding the various codes in FundRaiser, and how they relate to creating Groupings and Reports, is fundamental in having a smooth working relationship with the software.  Don't try to record every little detail, unless that detail is critical to understanding your donors or their giving, or unless that detail gives you another avenue for requesting future contributions or participation.

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3 Tips for Donor Database Code Usage

1. People codes vs. Gift codes

The most important code usage tip (in my opinion) is to make certain that the assignment or attribute fits.  In FundRaiser there are codes that attach to name records (what I call "people" codes), and codes that attach to gift records (hence "gift" codes).  For the most effective assignment of codes, think of codes as "unique identifiers" that attach to either a person or a gift.  In other words, does the code have to do with the person, defining that person in some way?  Or does it have to do more with a gift, defining the gift in some way?  An example of people codes are the Category codes in FundRaiser.  Category codes, unlimited in the number that can be created and/or assigned, give us information about people such as life situations (parents, grandparents, students, seniors, occupation, hobbies, interests, relationship to our organization or another, etc.).  Gift codes, on the other hand, tell us about the gift, such as why the gift was given (Motivation code), or how that money is to be spent (Purpose code, for describing restricted/designated use gifts).  Make a list of all the things you need to know about a gift.  Make a separate list of all the things you need/want to know about your people.  Keep the lists handy, and, when in doubt, refer to them when wanting to assign a code.

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Help Happiness Happen


What is Happiness?

As Autumn's blog points out, August is Happiness Happens Month.  According to the dictionary, happiness is a "state of well-being or contentment", although many people would put a specific face on what makes them happy.  To be honest, I've never been too ambitious.  I've never expected a lot from life.  I've never been accused of being an "over-achiever".  Maybe that's part of why I've always considered myself a fairly happy person.  I've gone with the flow, accepting life's ups and downs, and floated merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, through the dream of life.  But I realize most people aren't this way.  And fund raisers, by definition, cannot be content with what they have, but must constantly strive to achieve more for their organizations.  That's where training can bring some measure of happiness, I believe.

Happiness Training?

For those of you who want contentment and a feeling of well-being when using FundRaiser software (and I suggest that it would increase your overall happiness with your work) then be aware that every hour you spend learning about how to use the software will pay you back in many hours of frustration and/or confusion avoided.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone in class say "I wish I had taken this training long ago.  It would have saved me so much time and aggravation", or some similar statement.  The truth is that no database program worth its salt is going to be totally intuitive to use.  If it has any power, it will require learning the steps to harness the power.  Most folks wouldn't consider just jumping into a plane and trying to take off without any training.  They know the consequences of crashing.  So don't just jump into the driver's seat of your database program (FundRaiser) without first learning some of the controls.  Otherwise you put your most valuable data at risk of crashing and burning.

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