At FundRaiser Software, staff members are experts in helping nonprofit organizations use our software. We have learned a lot about the how-to's of fundraising from our customers... but very few of us do it ourselves. For me, over the years, I've become eager to try my own hand at it. Yesterday, my wish came true as I mailed out my own first fundraising campaign. The experience was both fun and humbling, giving me a new and deeper appreciation of the work that our customers do daily!
Let me say at the start, that the organization I volunteer for has done well for more than 35 years tracking donors by spreadsheet and memory. It's understandable that when I suggested using a FundRaiser program they were wary. This year, however, the other volunteers at the organization agreed to let me have a go at it... as long as I was the one working with FundRaiser.
The first step was gathering the names of donors from a variety of Excel spreadsheets. After several urgent text messages with the person who had previously handled the mailings, I finally had 4 spreadsheets with donor names open in front of me. Importing the information from the spreadsheets into FundRaiser wasn't really an option, as the data was entered differently on each spreadsheet. Even while admiring the diligence and care that had gone into creating and maintaining the spreadsheet data, I found myself frustrated by the need to go over each sheet several times to find missing data, and to eliminate duplicate gift entries. This is usual for fundraising data maintained in spreadsheets, and one of their limitations. Steadily the data entered into FundRaiser grew-- donor name tied to all their gifts over the years, including when each gift was made and what was the motivation for the gift. The clarity was so satisfying.
It was simple to see who our regular donors were. Additionally, I could easily see which donors might be interested in increasing their donations, after many years of giving at the same level. I could also see which donors had lapsed, and might return to contributing if they were given a call. A simple Grouping gave me the names of the donors I wanted to send our Sponsorship mailing to. Address labels and fundraising letters were printed without a hitch. Success!
One thing that FundRaiser can't do is fold letters, put them in envelopes, and stick on labels and stamps. As I did this job, I felt a sustaining sense of connection to the many nonprofit staff members I know who have done this countless times, keeping their organization going with their behind-the-scenes dedication. Late last night, as I sealed the last envelope and stuck down the last stamp, I felt a sense of deep satisfaction.
Today, the letters were mailed out. I'll keep you posted on how the campaign continues, and what more I learn about the 'other side' of fundraising.
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