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 Ideas for Recording Memorial Gifts in FundRaiser Software

3 Non-Version-Specific tips that everyone can use

With Memorial Day just around the corner, it's good to know that there are ways to record memorial gifts even if your version of FundRaiser is not equipped with the Tributes Module.  The Tributes Module is a great tool not only for keeping track of memorial gifts, but also for sending the right correspondence to the next of kin of the person being memorialized.  It can also handle creating lists of memorial gifts during a particular time period, which can then be used in newsletters, etc.  But not everyone has FundRaiser Professional (Tribute Module standard), or Select with the optional Tribute Module.  So what can a Spark, or Select, user do without that module?  Or, for that matter, what could you do in Professional without using that module?  These three tips will give you an alternate route to keeping closer track of memorials.

1.  Use the Gift Motivation Code

The Motivation code answers the question "Why did this donor give us this gift?".  If it is in memory of someone, whether a relative, friend, veteran, or "all who have served", this code can make it easy to pull out tribute gifts into reports, and easy to pull out groups of people who have given these types of gifts.  If you've already been doing this, then you can target those who have given these types of gifts in the past for a special mailing to encourage them to give in this way once again.  You can have different motivation codes for different types of tributes, if you like, too.  You might have "Family Memorial", or "General Memorial", or "In Honor", or "In Celebration", etc.  It really just depends on how much separation you need in dealing with the different types of gifts.  It's not so easy as the Tribute Module, but it can be done.

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3 Mother's Day Suggestions for FundRaiser Users

Non-traditional ways to honor mothers

Mother's Day was begun, back in the early 1900's, as a celebration of the person to whom we owe our very existence, but quickly became so commercialized that even the originator of the day became disenfranchised with it.  If we want to truly celebrate our mothers, we can do better than giving flowers or a dinner out, I think, and FundRaiser can be a part of that effort.

Tributes Module

FundRaiser recently got an upgrade to the Tributes module, in that there is now an "In Celebration of" tribute type, in addition to the usual "In Honor of", and "In Memory of" tributes.  You might consider an effort to solicit donations "In Celebration of Mother's Day", as an alternative to the gifts, cards, dinners, flowers, etc.  A donation to (your worthy cause here) can be a loving tribute that lasts longer that it takes to read a card, eat a dinner, or for those flowers to wilt.  Using the Tributes Module (optional in Select, standard in Professional) will let you easily track these types of donations, create lists of tribute donors for newsletters, as well as send appropriate correspondence to donors AND to the mothers they are honoring in this way.  If you don't yet have the module, you can learn more about it here.

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3 General FundRaiser Features to help track Events / Projects

General features you can use for event management

No matter which version of FundRaiser (Spark, Select, or Professional) you use, there are features that can help you track events.  While Professional has a Campaign Management component, it's not necessary for simple tracking, as I'll explain.  Using gift- and name record-based codes, along with TIckles, you can keep a better handle on planning of events, as well as their results.

1.  Category Codes:  an unlimited (practically) identification system

For years I've been letting users know that Category codes are a perfect way to show non-giving aspects of peoples' lives.  I've said "non-giving" because gift records have their own coding aspects, as we'll see next.  You can create 6-character codes, with longer descriptions.  The codes are alpha-numeric, so 10 numbers and 26 letters can be used, as well as the underscore ( _ ), giving us (I did the math) over 2.5 BILLION possible codes.  According to various sources, that's about the number of heartbeats one can expect during one's lifetime, so no one will ever run out of code possibilities.  So, how can we use these for tracking events?  Codes are unique identifiers.  Need to know who is on a particular event planning committee?  Code them.  Need to print that list with phone numbers?  Create a Grouping and use the Master Report.  Need to know what codes are already in use?  Print the Code Listing report, selecting just category codes, including the inactive ones.  Are you getting the gist?  

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5 Ways to Appreciate your Volunteers all year round with FundRaiser

1. Utilize your volunteers fully through better recordkeeping

With FundRaiser's Volunteer module (available in Select, standard in Professional), you can better track several aspects of your volunteer base, which will allow you to better utilize their talents.My wife, Nanette, volunteers as a "site steward" for a local non-profit that visits archeological sites in the area and records new disturbances from pot hunters, among other things.  She is quite passionate about her involvement, but, at first, after having taken some initial training, it seemed she was on her own to figure out what she should be doing, and where, and with whom, and when, and on and on.  Later she discovered she was not alone, and that there were other volunteers who had languished with no direction provided by the organizers, and no real records of who was assigned to what regions.  So she set out to correct some of that by organizing some of the information available.  After all, volunteers do so because they want to help, not because they want to be called "volunteer".

2. Show appreciation through clear and frequent communication

Once you have a volunteer, make certain you develop that relationship in a positive way, by, first of all, thanking them for taking the time and effort to volunteer, and, secondly, to thank them every time they volunteer their time to your cause.  

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5 Main Steps of Data Entry Work Flow in FundRaiser Software

Establishing a Work Flow for your FundRaiser Database

Most folks want guidelines that will help them get their work accomplished with a minimum of drudgery, mistakes, backtracking, etc., and an established work flow will help with that.  Entering gifts and name data after a fundraising event is mostly what is done within donor management software, and should be a regularly scheduled task.  The frequency of the task, whether daily or weekly, will depend on the volume of gifts, of course, but it should be a part of the office routine.  If written down as a task outline, it will help when the person who normally does the data entry is out sick, or is promoted to another position, or is otherwise taken out of the data entry picture.  The person who takes over will appreciate having those steps in logical order, with hints, tips, and tricks in their appropriate places along the way.

 Prepare your Thank You Letters first (1)

Having the steps laid out in a logical order is important, and the first thing that will need to be in place, even before any gift entry occurs, is a thank you letter template.  You may need several templates available, if you have different sources of giving, or different events happening during the same time period, but the main point is that you must have your letter templates in place BEFORE you begin the gift entry process.  Remember that you will be associating a letter template with each gift as you enter them, so, rather than having to go back and change a lot of gifts later, just have the letter template(s) ready to go.

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The 3 ways of doing most anything, including data conversion

Cliche, but true none the less

It's been used to describe the design process, retail service and repair businesses, and it's just as true for data conversion.  You can have it cheap, fast, and good, but not all at the same time.  Most of the time, you can only pick two.  And that's really a part of the decision-making when it comes to how you want to convert your data from an old system into FundRaiser.  

FundRaiser Upgraders get all three

The rare exception to the "pick two" logic is when a current FundRaiser user is moving up to another FundRaiser product, like from Basic to Spark or Select, or from Spark/Select to Professional.  In these cases, you get all three:  cheap, fast, and good, because the products have all been developed by the same teams, and there are no hidden stumbling blocks to worry about.  In these cases, there are special import features and functions in the File menu to facilitate bringing in old data to the new system, without a lot of hassle, but with quite a few choices as to how to treat the incoming data.  

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Conversion Conversations Begin with Education

Conversion Conversation

When considering data conversion from an old system into FundRaiser, there are opportunites to re-think your use of the data you store, and even what data are relevant to your fundraising efforts.  If you take some time to learn more about how FundRaiser stores and uses information, for instance, you'll have a better understanding of how your data can best be "ported" over to the new system.  For this reason, I recommend taking the time for training, even before initiating conversion processes.


The FundRaiser Overview class is available in both video form and as a live webinar which does not count against training credits.  While most live classes require one credit per class (no matter the number of attendees you have for that class), the Overview can be attended multiple times, if needed, at no cost of credits.  The Overview serves multiple purposes, in that you learn some simple data entry (entring name and gift information), as well as the general layout of the program, and some of the broader points regarding codes as they are used in FundRaiser.  Another purpose of the Overview class is to give you a better idea of which other classes you may want to attend (or view, in the case of the videos).  There is no "set" order for viewing, so it becomes a matter of what your priorites are, and what you feel you need to learn, and when.

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Using FundRaiser's Premiums Module to track and facilitate donation giveaway items

Keeping on top of your gift rewards

FundRaiser Professional and Select (with the optional Premium Module) have the ability to track your inventory of gift premiums, print labels and packing lists for shipping them, record the cost and value of the premiums, and showing the net value of a gift that involves a premium.  I wrote an article several years ago that covers that module (find it here) in detail, and it's still pertinent today.  This blog, however, is not to tell you how to do it, but to get you to thinking about whether or not you want or need to consider giving away items to donors.

Are incentives necessary?

First of all, as pointed out in the case study this week in Sasha's blog, giving away premiums for donations, no matter the amount of the donation or cost of the premium, will take money away from the primary mission, and has to be weighed against the amount of additional donations those premiums will generate.  In the case of a public TV or Radio station, the public has many choices, generally, in what they can tune in on their sets.  Often the same sort of broadcasting will be done by multiple stations, so the competition for donations can be stiffer than it might be for other types of non-profit organizations.  Are you under the same sort of pressure for donor dollars, with other similar organizations in your area of influence?  If so, premiums may help.

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Safeguarding your FundRaiser Software data with regular backups

Keeping your Data Safe (from Computer Crashes)

Keeping your data safe from others is easy in FundRaiser.  Files are automatically encrypted so that only those who run the program can see the contents, and you can strengthen that encryption further in the Options section.  Usernames and passwords can be established to prevent unauthorized people from running the program.  Authorized users can be limited in their access to the program to prevent accidental misuse (i.e.,  loss or change of data).  Keeping your data safe from a computer crash is almost as easy, since you can make backups directly from the File menu in FundRaiser.  Keeping up to date with backups can be another issue altogether, however.

Schedule a regular backup by "Tickle"-ing yourself

The biggest problem with making backups, for me, is remembering to make them.  In FundRaiser Select and Professional, the Staff Tickle feature will help with this.  If you have FundRaiser Spark (no tickles), you'll need to use your appointment calendar system (like within MS-Outlook) or some other program to remind you to do your backup.  To set a "tickle" (named that way because it's designed to "tickle your memory" that something needs attention), simply go to the Windows menu within FundRaiser, then to the Staff Tickler choice.  Inside that window, click on ADD, and give the tickle a name, like "BACKUP DATA".  Then put a "DO" date on it.  If you want to backup weekly, then make it Friday's date.  You'll be incrementing this each time you make a backup, by the way.  If you plan to backup every day, then you might want a separate tickle for each day of the week (titled "Monday Backup", "Tues...", etc.).  You can have as many as you need, but the point is to be reminded when you need to go make a backup.  When the backup is complete, set the "DO" date on the Tickle for the next time you'll need to back up data, and that's it.

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Your FundRaiser Software Data: it's not immune to computer failure

Or, "Do as I say, not as I've Done"

Yesterday morning (Thursday, 2.21.13) was one of those unusual scenes in Southern Arizona (location of the training office), with 6 inches or so of snow on the gound at our 4300 foot elevation.  Even low-lying areas, like Tucson and Phoenix, got a bit of the white stuff.  A pretty day, and I, with no scheduled classes or pre-sale tours, was getting ready to work on my latest video project for FundRaiser Software:  task-oriented training videos.  I've been working on them for a while now, with the expectation of debuting in a month or so.  Task-oriented videos will show you the basics of, say, putting out a mass mailing, or sending out thank you letters, or creating a grouping of all your donors, or simply entering a new name record.  And then my video computer crashed.  And I found myself in the position of not having practiced what I preach.

2 Computer Types:  Have Crashed; Will Crash

I've expounded before on the necessity of keeping backups of data, both as insurance against computer failure as well as fail-safe when about to try something new in FundRaiser, like mass deletions, duplicate merging, or importing data.  My secondary work computer, the one used to create all the training videos, crashed hard, and no amount of cajoling, tinkering, recovery disk techniques, nor swearing at it was able to bring it back to life without losing all the data on the hard drive.  That's right:  ALL the data.  Training scripts, old videos, new videos, graphics for openings and closings, music, and all the programs used to create them... simply gone.  And the worst part of it all is that I had no backups, even though I preach the importance of them to all our users.

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5 Ways to Manage Physical Moves in a Modern Mobile Society with your FundRaiser Database

What percentage of your donors can you afford to lose?

According to the US Census Bureau, over 10% of the population will move during the year, and while this figure has been much higher in the past, it still represents a significant number of changes that will, most likely, occur in your donor database as well.  If you rely on your donors to inform you of their address changes, you will no doubt lose contact with many of them.  There are a few ways to take positive action on your own to keep in touch and retain donors who move without notice, however.  These include:  3 features available in FundRaiser Spark, Select, and Professional; 1 additional feature available in Select and Professional; and 1 other feature exclusive to Professional.

1. Email Communication

In this modern age of electronic communication, email addresses can prove to be more stable than physical addresses.  Consider, even if you don't regularly email, that you could use email to ask donors to verify current mailing address information.  If you've identified bad mailing addresses, either through the postal service or some other means, and you have email addresses recorded, it can be a cost-effective way to obtain those new physical addresses.  More and more donors are accepting a "green" solution for thank you letters, too, and it's certainly less expensive to send email than to send hard-copy letter these days.  Email capability is built into Spark, Select, and Professional.

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How to get up to speed when you've inherited an existing FundRaiser database.

What have I gotten myself into??

As the training manager here at FundRaiser Software, I often hear phrases similar to this from users who have inherited the responsibility of maintaining and utilizing an existing database in FundRaiser.  The challenges that present themselves in this situation range from learning what has already been done, and how it's been done, to making changes that will make it easier to do what is needed without having to start from square one.  To my mind, it's rather akin to buying a home, as I did just last month, and discovering that, while the structure is sound, and most everything is functional, there are a lot of small (and not-so-small) improvements to be made before it will be truly comfortable.

Status Quo vs. Ad Libitur

The "state in which" we find the situation, whether database or "new" house, is not very often the "as desired" situation we would prefer, so how do we go about changing that?  There are different approaches, of course, and some people will jump right in and work with what exists while being on the lookout for ways to improve.  Other folks will take the road of thorough examination, planning, and restructuring before trying to do anything more than the basics.  At our house, it was a matter of necessity to move in, work with what we had, and, step by step, identify and change those things that we can, as we can afford the time, expense, and effort.  And, even though we love our house, I'm sure we'll be doing this for a long time.  Here are some steps that may help when trying to figure out the current state of affairs and a path to the desired outcomes for your FundRaiser database.  Keep in mind that you will, most likely, be constantly finding new ways to use the database and "tweaking" the way you currently use it to make it easier, better, etc.

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Making Membership Management Easier with the FundRaiser Memberships Module

Why Memberships?

Many non-profits find that membership instills a sense of pride and ownership in supporters, encourages repeat donations in the form of membership dues, and allows donors from all socio-economic levels to participate at a level that is comfortable and sustainable.  For the full story, refer to my article on Memberships, written before the advent of Spark, the latest FundRaiser program to be offered and created especially for membership-based organizations that need more than Basic, but not all the power of Select or Professional.

Flexible Format

The options for the Membership module allow you to match FundRaiser to the way you operate, with defaults to help automate proper payment application for existing members and the correct expiration date determination for new and existing members.  No matter how you run your membership periods, no matter how often dues are paid, no matter how many different types of memberships you have available, FundRaiser can help you manage payments, renewal letters, overdue letters, and Grouping members into specific segments as needed.

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Turn your New Year’s resolutions into End of Year benefits with FundRaiser training option

The Annual Resolution Parade

This time of year, most of us "resolve" to make changes: in our lives; in our work habits; in our approach to life in general, etc.  And many of those resolutions fall by the wayside as the year develops, either because they seem too difficult, or they weren't that important, or (fill in the blank with your last unfulfilled resolution reason).  I'd like to suggest a resolution that will help you all through 2013, and will almost certainly repay your efforts manyfold:  learn how to better use your FundRaiser software to do what needs doing for your organization.  While learning the program doesn't sound nearly so important as changing lifestyle choices, or gaining virtues, or shedding bad habits, it can, for your non-profit organization, be the catalyst for many changes, like donor retention, increased donations, better communications, and less effort expended for all of it.  

Which type of training do you prefer?

FundRaiser offers several different training formats, to fit your individual and organizational efforts, from self-help using the program's built-in Help manual and training videos on our website, to scheduled live webinars, to on-site training at your facilities, and you always have the option to call or email the training office, or tech support, for help.  Each method of learning has it's pros and cons, of course, but the choices are available to you, and in this blog I'll try to give you some tips on how to approach them.  And at the end of this, I'll let you know how all this can benefit you at the end of the year.

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When your spreadsheets aren't enough: import options in FundRaiser donor management software

Many non-profits began their data management using spreadsheets.  Yours may still use them, but there are many reasons to move away from them and into donor management software, as you may be aware.  If you're having trouble convincing others of this, you may want to use one or the other of these linked articles as good examples.

Why NOT convert?

One of the big stumbling blocks to converting to a better system seems to be the old argument of "we would have to re-enter all that information, and no one has time to do that!".  Well, in FundRaiser there is a file menu option that allows you to import from other file formats.  Here are some quick tips and tricks on how to do that efficiently and successfully:

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5 steps to creating tax summary letters for your donors in FundRaiser

It's almost time to produce Tax Summary letters (End of Year Letters).  Usually sent in January, after the last donation for the year is in, end of year letters are a perfect way to re-establish your relationship with all your donors.  Here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users to breeze through this important time.

Step One -- HOW do you want to display their donations?

You'll obviously want to thank them for the year's donations, but do you want to list donations individually, or as a total dollar amount?  Do you want to mention the number of gifts they gave?  Would you like to encourage them to give again?  FundRaiser has merge fields and functions to help with all of this, with the most often used being the GiftList and GiftTotal functions.  GiftList can show a listing of the gifts you specify in a mini-report format, while GiftTotal simply adds up all the gifts you specify to print out the total dollar amount.

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How your nonprofit can keep up to speed on memorial giving letters with the help of FundRaiser

Tribute Gifts (In Honor/In Memory/In Celebration)

Tribute gifts are in a class by themselves when it comes to fundraising.  They give you the opportunity to acquire new donors that might otherwise not be involved with your organization, while offering existing donors the opportunity to show their respects by giving to a cause they already deem worthy.  Tributes can be "in honor of", "in memory of", or "in celebration of" something, whether person, pet, event, or otherwise.

For each tribute gift we keep track of three categories of people:

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How your non profit organization can record campaigns and associated events for clear ROI data

Campaigns are groups of events

In the blog about of Gilda’s Club, Debra makes some good points about events and sub-events. This is important to understand, so here is bit more detail.  In the Campaign Management console in FundRaiser Professional, Campaigns are comprised of Events. Events may be standalone affairs, or they may be comprised of Sub-events. This is how it looks

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Tips for helping several people share the work in your donor database


What happens when you begin to have more than one person working simultaneously in your donor database? For one thing, new situations arise that weren't there when only a single user was accessing the database. There may be questions about data integrity, work flow, or coordinatiing usage of the program.

This article will shed some light on these common questions and concerns about coordinating more than one user working in FundRaiser. I'll suggest ways to make FundRaiser even more helpful in keeping your information secure and accessible.

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Keeping Data Clean

Clean data is good data, that's for sure, but how can we insure that we're getting clean data, or that we're keeping data clean, and what, exactly, IS "clean" data.  

First of all, from a data entry viewpoint, clean data is information that is entered in a consistent way, with every data entry person adding things in the same way, using codes in the same way, and so forth.  For instance, if we use mailing labels, we want to insure that all of our mailing labels are consistent in style, both with names of donors and street addresses. 

City, State, and Zip (Postal Code) fields usually take care of themselves in FundRaiser, using the US Postal Code Lookup feature: i.e., entering the 5- or 9-digit US postal code will automatically (and consistently) fill in the corresponding City and State.  So far as the style used for the names on a mailing label, the Name Defaults section of the Options menu can help with that.  

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