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 Ways to Track Miscellaneous Data in FundRaiser


1.  Spare Fields

Whether you have Spark, Select, or Professional, there are at least 3 spare fields available to you for entering extra or unusual information.  Spare fields can contain either text or numbers, or they can be code dropdowns, date dropdowns, or even logical yes/no checkboxes.  You can label them in any way you choose, too.  Best of all, whatever you put in a spare field will be available for use in correspondence, User-Defined reports, and exporting.  Create them in the Options | Spare Fields menu, and get a bit of training in them by viewing the Coding & Spare Fields video class found in the Customer Portal section of the website.

2.  Tickles

In both Select and Professional, the Tickles tab of each name record allows you to enter date-sensitive reminders about your donors.  Normally they are used to record (and remind you of) birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.  In the Overview class, I also instruct users that they can be used as a means of tracking personal contacts with your major donors.  Well, here's another place you can use, then, to record specific information about your corporate donors...

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2 Situations When You Might Want to Consider Using Access or Excel for Donor Management


With the proper template (and there is one for nonprofits included with Access), it's not too difficult for someone with a modicum of computer savvy to put together a program to handle the basics of fundraising using either Excel or Access. However, remember that the fundraising world is not static, and neither should be your fundraising program—continuing maintenance could become a drain on your time and resources.

In our opinion, there are two situations in which using Access or Excel (or similar products) might make sense.

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8 Ways to Know If You've Outgrown Your Homegrown Software


In this modern technological age, even the smallest nonprofits are likely to use some type of software to help with fundraising. These fall into two general categories:

commercial "off the shelf" donor management softwarehomegrown or custom programs.

The homegrown varieties are most often constructed using Microsoft's Access or Excel because they are the most readily available products from which to create a database. In our many years working with small to medium-sized nonprofits in various capacities, many organizations have come to us looking for a solution to having outgrown their homegrown programs. This experience has taught us a number of lessons that may be helpful if you are thinking it may be time to purchase fundraising management software.

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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 Important FundRaiser In-Kind Gift Entry Tips


1.  Mode Code Denotes In-Kind or Monetary

When entering a gift in FundRaiser, the Mode Code is used to differentiate not only between methods of payment (cash, check, charge, etc.) but also between monetary or in-kind donations.  When you create a Mode Code you must specify whether that code will be monetary or in-kind.  A Mode Code is always one or the other, and each gift requires a Mode Code.  You may have multiple codes, as is usual in FundRaiser, which allows for specific types of in-kind donations.  For instance, one of our users is a diaper bank, and, while they accept many infant-related types of in-kind donations, they need to keep diaper donations separated from others.  The easiest way was to have, simply, a "diaper" Mode Code.  When running various reports, you can specify to include monetary, or in-kind, or both types of donations.  Use these codes to your advantage.  And check out the Coding & Spare Fields training video in the Customer Portal section of our website.

2.  Use the Merge Notes for Descriptions

On each gift record is a "Letter Notes for Merging" section.  It is primarily used for notes that will then be merged into thank you letter templates.  And for monetary gifts, these are usually personal greetings, of sorts, like "Gee, it was great to see you", or "Glad to see you've recovered from surgery", or something else to more personalize the thank you letter.  For In-Kind donations, this is a great place to put a description of the items (or services) that were donated.  It makes a permanent record as well as an easy way to pull that description in to a thank you letter.  More information on entering gifts is available in both the FundRaiser Overview and Recurring Gifts training videos available in the Customer Portal section of our website.

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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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3 Independence Day Reflections


1. Independence, good or bad?

Nearly every citizen of the U.S., I believe, would agree that national independence from foreign powers is a good thing, and we celebrate our country's independence from Great Britain every year on July 4th.  But not all forms of independence are necessarily good, I think.  Let me elaborate.  When I was young, I was instilled with the idea that self-independence is a good thing, so far as providing for one's own needs, food, shelter, clothing, etc.  Hard work, I was told, was the key for obtaining that independence.  Looking back, I think that was a bit naive on my parents' part, but it certainly got me out of the house earlier than I might otherwise have left.  Few of us truly want to be independent in all respects, and most of us need some forms of interdependence to thrive and live full lives.  Successful marriage, rearing children, meaningful employment, team sports, all require interdependence to one degree or another.  And learning how to use donor management software as powerful and versatile as FundRaiser products requires a bit of interdependence as well.  So consider that trying to be too independent when learning the ins and outs of FundRaiser is not a good thing, and is probably a bit self-defeating, in that you will take longer to perform the tasks that you need to perform without a proper grounding in the use of the software.  Allow yourself the luxury of interdependence with our staff and other users in order to more quickly and efficiently reach your fundraising goals.  You'll see that, while not a bad thing in itself, striving for independence in all things may be a bit misguided.

2.  Independent interdependence

It's not really an oxymoron.  There are several avenues for learning FUndRaiser software that allow you to be independent to a great degree:  training videos online; online FAQ's (Frequrently Asked Questions); the Help Contents HOW-TO section; FundClass Archives on our website for learning about fundraising itself.  These avenues of learning allow you to view the information at your leisure, on your timetable, without being dependent on someone elses's scheduling or priorities.  Someone else, of course, expended the effort to create or make available the information on the website, so there is a level of dependence on those folks (mostly our staff here at FundRaiser), but it's kept at arm's length, so to speak, through the media in which it's presented.

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Fat and Sassy

Mab Guards the HouseThe brilliant colors of Fall have moved from the trees to the ground.  Bright confetti of red, orange, and yellow leaves litters the road and yards.  The smell of fallen foliage is rich and brings back childhood memories of jumping into piles of crunchy, newly raked leaves.  The summer complement of flying bugs is gone leaving only a few industrious honeybees to visit the few yellow flowers left on my dying tomato plants. 

We have had our little foundling kitten, Mab, for nearly two months now.  She’s a very different creature than the starved little waif who showed up on our doorstep.  She has become our fat little porch guardian, content to curl up on the step and sleep in the sun or hover just out of reach when we try to pet her.  It’s amazing the difference regular feeding makes.

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Keeping on Top of Grant Deadlines

Okay, so we're not going to travel back in time to keep tabs on Ulysses, here, but in tracking grant proposal progress, it is important to make sure that each step of the process is done in a timely manner. There are usually deadlines that must be met to be considered for grant monies, so it is imperative that we have some method of reminding ourselves when those deadlines are coming near.

Tickle Your Memory

In FundRaiser Professional and FundRaiser Select, the "Tickler" system fills this need. Tickles are date-sensitive reminders that can be associated directly with a name record, such as a Foundation from which we are seeking a grant. There is a Tickle tab for each and every name record. In this tabbed page, we can keep multiple tickles, with "Do Dates", notes, and more. In the case of a grant application, you would set up separate tickles for each stage of the application process, and later for the reporting deadlines. If different staff members need to be involved, you can assign tickles to the responsible staff members to accomplish. Once they have completed their portion of a tickle, they can pass the tickle along to the next staff member, or when completed, can give it back to you.

Automatic Tickle RemindersWhen FundRaiser is started, it will remind you of all tickles coming due in the next "X" number of days that pertain to you. You get to tell it how many days that "X" should be, whether it is "0" to show only those due today, or "7" for a week's advance notice, or "30" for a month, and so forth. This is set in the Options > Personal > Tickles section of the program.Print Tickle ReportsOnce in the program, you can view all tickles for a specific donor by looking on their Tickles tab. You can view all tickles that pertain to you by going to Windows > Staff Tickler. And, you can print a variety of reports in Print > Tickle Reports.Assign Tickles to FundRaiser UsersTo allow tickles to be assigned to certain users, each person must be given a program password. To do this go to the Options menu and click on User List/Security. In this window, you set up the passwords with which each user will login to FundRaiser. After that, tickles can be designated for a specific user, by name, or can be for all the staff. The "supervisor" of FundRaiser will be able to see all tickles for everyone, if you choose, and will be able to limit others to see only the tickles that apply directly to them and/or those assigned to "all staff members". As always, if you have questions on how best to use these features, drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or give us a call at 800-543-4131.
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7 steps to increased donations for schools using a donor database

increasing donations for schools large and small

Schools can significantly increase incoming donations by clarifying who their most generous constituent groups are and then focusing development efforts on those donor segments. Several FundRaiser users have done this, with excellent results.

1.    Enter your donation amounts into your database

The first step to locating your most generous donors is easy. “It’s a simple matter of entering your checks into FundRaiser. Then all that information is there,” says Ellen Bouye, Administrative Assistant of Oklahoma Christian Academy and a FundRaiser Select user.

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Attack of the Killer Strawberries


Currently, I am using on a particular list of keywords to optimize the whole website, and I thought it would make sense to use that list for the blog, but after a session with our marketing analytics company (HubSpot), I realize that may not be the best approach to the website. It may make more sense to develop a separate list of keywords for the blog For example, I had been operating under the idea that using two or three keywords in an article would generate the best results, but our HubSpot consultant said they generally focus on one keyword per article.

I have a lovely south facing window next to my desk at the FundRaiser office. Early this spring I replaced the sinuous vines that had been growing on the windowsill next to my desk. They had been slyly trailing beneath my desk, giving me the impression that they were ready to wrap around my feet and drag me under the moment I wasn’t paying attention.

I decided that sweet, innocent strawberry plants would be a lovely replacement. After all, there could be nothing sinister about the fresh green, rounded leaves and delicate white blossoms with their cheery yellow centers. The vines went into the compost pile and five small strawberry plants took their place in fresh new soil. The plants seemed very happy in their new home and the June bearing variety quickly produced blooms followed by small tart berries. Then the runners spouted.  It began with a single, innocent shoot. Now the longest one is relentlessly reaching for me across the top of my desk.  Time to find the pruning shears.... A coding scheme in your donor management software can be very much like these vines.

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Not gone yet...! Lapsed donors

You still have time to catch them... and it's easier to do it while they are still in sight, than later when they are totally gone. That's lapsed donors I'm talking about. One of the most important groups to send letters to are Lapsed Donors - those who have given in the past, but not in the most recent 9-24 months. It’s much easier, and less expensive, to win a donor back than to find a new one.

Lapsed donors have indicated that they are interested enough in your organization to donate at least once. This makes them highly qualified as potential future donors. For some reason they have not felt the incentive to donate again recently. That may be for reasons beyond your control, but it might also be because you haven't asked.

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The Heat is On... C/S Upgrade Special

Cool car with large engine

It's scorching hot here in the Southwest (training office is in Arizona), and the monsoon rains just haven't been as heavy or as often as we'd like to cool things down or build the water table up.  This is the time of the year when many of us become lethargic and just don't want to do much more than sit and think.  And I was thinking of the impending deadline most all of our users have in the near future.  It's just around the corner:  the deadline for getting the best upgrade pricing for Client / Server.  And some folks may be wondering how much change this will make in their use of the program.  Most of us are used to routines in entering data, creating reports, sending thank you letters, and so on, and ANY change can be a bit intimidating.

How much will you need to re-learn once you've upgraded to the Client / Server version?NOTHING.

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Trust - Keeping Donor Information Private


My morning cup of tea on the back deck was especially nice today. A cool breeze swirled though the leaves of the trees and brought the first spicy hint of autumn to my nose. Grass, newly green from recent rains, has quickly pushed dangling seed heads toward the sky.  Crickets piped their sad tunes from the hedge. Even the placid doves seem livelier with the advent of cooler weather.

While I sat, a steaming cup of mint tea cradled in my hands, I watched a small grey rabbit dine on a patch of clover left uncut by the corner of the house. His ears flicked back and forth and his bright black eyes scanned his surroundings as he daintily pulled velvet green leaves from their stems. One can hardly blame him; a rabbit, being the natural prey of pretty much anything with pointed teeth, must always be ready to run.  The slightest hint of trouble will send him bounding away.Donors can be very much like rabbits when it comes to their information with nearly as many “virtual predators” as a rabbit has physical ones.

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Timing It Right


Mother Nature is mistress of the art of timing. When left to her own devices, everything happens when it should.  Seeds sprout when the soil warms enough to nurture them properly.  Delicate green leaves unfurl when the days are long and warm enough to feed the tree.  Blooms burst forth just in time for the bees and other insects to pollinate them, while birds hatch their hungry families to feed on this bounty.

I, on the other, do not have Mother Nature’s patience.  I am always trying to bend the rules.  I want those super early tomatoes, flowers in the winter, and cucumbers in December.  These preferences have nothing to do with what is best, just what I want.  The funny thing is that when I do get my way with these things they are often less than satisfactory.  Those early tomatoes are small and bitter from lack of sun; the flowers quickly marred by insects, and the cucumbers bland and tasteless.  Truly timing is everything.Just as with gardening, timing is vital when creating your FundRaiser backups. 

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MaineShare Shares Tips

MaineShare logo

I contacted MaineShare to talk to them about how they celebrate Happiness Happens Day, which I posted about here in Happiness Happens Day at MaineShare. I wasn't expecting when I talked to them to learn about a unique way of fundraising, but that's also what happened. MaineShare is part of a national organization called Community Shares. Each Community Share organization, in this case MaineShare, acts on behalfof local nonprofits who belong to it as members in order to participate in workplace giving programs. his organizational model creates some unique tracking challenges, which MaineShare is meeting in outstanding fashion with some help from FundRaiser Professional. Here's how it works:

Acting on behalf of their member organizations, MaineShare raises funds for 43 local nonprofits groups. The structure created by the Community Shares model that they follow works well. It also creates the need for highly accurate tracking of many different and sometimes complicated fund pools. MaineShare relies on FundRaiser for help. With the skillful use of codes and reports, MaineShare keeps their records accurate and their funding distributions to member groups on-target.

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Grow Where You Are Planted


I love weeds. That may seem very odd to hear from someone who enjoys gardening, but perhaps I am not a typical gardener. I must confess I’m terribly fickle when it comes to my garden. Each spring I succumb to the passion of lush, green spring and gaily plant far more than I can ever take care of. Inevitably the oppressive heat of summer squelches my enthusiasm and only those plants that survive the minimal tending I care to give them live to benefit from my renewed vigor with autumn’s chill.Despite these serious flaws in my gardening technique, I’m never without green in my life. For intrepid weeds soften my failures. Perhaps my favorite is the wild morning glory. Its rich green leaves cover a vine as tough and tenacious as barbed wire. These tendrils coil from dry, barren ground and climb to the sun upon anything they can reach. Yet from this ruthless creeper spring delicate ivory blossoms that sing to the sun for only one day. It is truly heartening to see beauty spring from what seems to be nothing.

Nonprofit organizations often have the same issue with hardware and software. You spring out of what seems to be nothing, pulling resources from volunteers and donations from the community you serve. Purchasing up to date computers and hiring someone to set up and maintain them is frequently out of your reach, financially, although I’ve seen some pretty amazing things done with the bare minimum.

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Make It Count


For those of you who haven’t spent much time on the phone with me while unraveling one of the many mysteries FundRaiser may present us, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I cook most everything from scratch, make cheese, and sew some of my own clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I like electricity and indoor plumbing as much as the next girl, but I feel strongly that technology should be a helper, not the sole reason for doing something.

 

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Just the Way I Want It!

I think the key attraction of owning our home for me is the fact that I can do whatever I want with it. If I want purple and green walls I can have them (well if I can talk my husband into it, that is). One of the first things we did after buying the house was remove the door between the kitchen and the bathroom as it made the kitchen basically a hallway to the bathroom. One must walk through the bedroom to get to the bath now, but I felt that is more than made up for by the increased counter space I will be able to add.

 

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