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.

Keeping in Touch with Donors

Preparation makes informal meetings go smoothly

Even if you successfully get donors to make site visits and are able to reach out to them as described above, it is not enough. You need to do more to keep in touch. After all, how many times a year will a donor be willing to come to the organization, or how frequently can you call for an appointment without becoming a pest? Besides, there are other ways to communicate and express interest in donors. Let’s begin by looking at communication that is more about the donor than the organization.

Send birthday and other appropriate greeting cards. Send get-well cards and even flowers to a donor in the hospital. Keep your eye open for items about donors in newspapers. When you see one, clip it and send it along with a “congratulations” note to the donor.

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Personal Form Letters: Oxymoron?!



(NOTE:  originally published 9/11/2013)  It sounds like an oxymoron:  “personal” form letters.  How can a form letter be personal at all?   Well that’s really a big part of what donor management software is all about, whether it’s FundRaiser Basic, Spark, Select, or Professional.  In the old days, when everything was done with typewriters and people power, some organizations would get pre-printed letters with gaps or spaces in the areas that needed to be filled in with the “personal” information.  Now, though, with the power of the computer and well-designed software programs, we can do essentially the same thing, but resulting in letters that are not obvious “fill-in-the-blanks” forms.  Each letter is individually fitted, printed, and contains information specific to the recipient.

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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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3 Ways Brilliant Fundraisers Use Their Donor Database to Create Effective Appeals

I've talked to some brilliant and inspiring fundraisers through my work at FundRaiser. Over time, I've noticed how they emphasize certain points about the interface between effective appeal letters and using their donor database.

These people have a heart-felt connection to their donors and they want to use their donor database to convey that.  They often have ways they think of their letters that help them feel their emotional connection, even through all the layers of distance, and technology. Some find this through envisioning letters as organizing tools. Others experience letters as a way touch someone who has touched them. It depends on the purpose and personality of the organization. But whatever that may be, there are some consistent ways that they use their donor databases to make that connection.

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In-Kind Gifts: How to Acknowledge and Recognize Them

In-KInd Gifts

When you receive gifts of products, time and services, be aware that your organization can be held in even greater regard by donors of such In-Kind gifts, should you express your gratitude in a meaningful way—in a manner far and above how these contributions are usually acknowledged by non-profit organizations. This can be accomplished in strict keeping with the applicable IRS rules and regulations, which are especially explicit when it comes to In-Kind gifts and how non-profits handle them.

By law, non-profit organizations cannot provide a donor with the dollar value of an In-kind gift. Such valuations when applicable, relative to "fair market value" of In-Kind gifts, need to be professionally assessed and certified elsewhere—if they can be—and that is the responsibility of the donor. This certification subsequently needs to be resolved with the professionals and others who prepare the donor's tax forms—whose work in turn will need to be reconciled with IRS regulations. In instances where time and service are donated, no tax break whatsoever is allowed, as the IRS Publication 526 clearly states, "You cannot deduct the value of your time or services…"

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5 simple ways to publicize your memorial giving program to donors

Memorial giving reminder on flap of reply envelope
Example of reply envelope text. This is the First Witness reply envelope, and the text is on the back under the flap. It has generated much of their memorial gift donations.

Memorial giving feels good. A donor is able to give to an organization they or a loved one values, and at the same time express a positive connection to someone important to them. Because of the all-around 'feel good' of memorial giving, organizations who successfully promote this kind of donation reap the benefits not only of the gifts, but also the extra good feelings associated with the gifts.

Letting your donors know that they can give to your organization in honor of someone can be very simple and straightforward. Becky Lindberg of First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center and a FundRaiser Select user says, "it is such an easy painless way to keep people connected to your program."

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Mothers' donor database know-how: how MADD personalizes appeal letters with local chapter information

MADD chapters personalize appeal letters

In honor of Mother's day, we're running a case study , written in 2010 that shares how FundRaiser is used to create a personal feeling for appeal letters sent out from one central location on behalf of several Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) chapters in Florida.

Fundraising appeals for many MADD Florida chapters are produced and mailed from one central office, but donors won’t be able to tell. With personalization, these letters will look and sound local, addressing the local activities of the closest chapter.

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Case study: How one volunteer's excellent data entry routine helped turn around a fundraising downslide


Menaul School has turned its fundraising downslide around. They've worked as a team to do it, combining in-person fundraising with strategic changes to what they record in their donor database and backed up by meticulous data entry. Each of these jobs is accomplished primarily by a different person, who excels at it. The data entry work is entrusted to a special volunteer.

Through steadfast attention to detail, volunteer Jim Hodges makes sure that correspondence goes out in a timely fashion and accurate data is in place when reports are needed for evaluation and planning.

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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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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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Get ready to send end of year letters to donors for tax season

End of Year Letters

Now is the time to start thinking about what information you need for your End of Year letters for tax season.  Although these letters aren't sent until after the New Year, you may have some decisions to make and some data entry to complete in order for the process to go smoothly. For instance a couple of questions to answer are

Will you send out letters to all donors, just to donors who will be required by the IRS to have written proof of their donations, or skip sending them altogether?Do you want to include a fundraising appeal with the tax summary letter? What is a tax summary letter?

Tax Summary letters, often called End of Year letters, give donors information on what they have donated to your organization that year. These statements differ from the holiday appeal, in that they are sent after the holidays. Their primary intention is to give information to the donor for taxes; however it is not uncommon to combine them with another appeal.

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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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How a Christian radio station got back on track by responding quickly to listener letters

How a Christian Radion Station Got Back On Track by Responding Quickly to Listener Letters

About 10 years ago, key members of CrossTalk ministry took a step back from their work, and realized they weren’t getting where they wanted to go. “We had a lag of four to six weeks in responding to people who contacted us. When we got around to contacting them they were irritated and didn’t care anymore. We were failing,” says Caleb Weiss, Development Director.

Caleb knew that donor management software could help, but theirs was more of a liability. “We had some kind of membership tracking software at that time. It took more work to use than it saved. We were also using several Excel spreadsheets. We needed a software product that would help us do our job without having to put so much into it.”

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3 ways you can use your database to create warmer fundraising letters

Stronger fundraising letters

“Donors share personal things in letters when they send donations. For instance they might say that they recently lost a loved one. I want to be able to use my software to respond to that person, to create ‘high touch’ communications, and even to become friend,” says Joe Emert of Life Radio Ministries.

Joe makes it part of his mission to interact with donors as people. He also knows that a good relationship to a donor can have a positive impact on giving. “I don’t just do things to help me get another donation and yet I know that if I meet the needs of a donor not just on the radio but also by responding appropriately to an inquiry or something that is said in a letter, that creates a better relationship.

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Looking Ahead

The brilliant colors of Fall are beginning to blaze here in the Ozarks.  I see crimPiawacket helps himself to his son blushed sumacs nestled among the stalwart green of the oaks.  Oaks are the last trees to change color, calmly keeping their glossy green raiment as a lovely backdrop to the riotous colors of less sedate trees.  Acorns and walnuts rain down and the grass grows with spring-like abandon.

All of this color and abundance tends to make me forget we are heading into the cold, drab days of winter.  Days when all is quiet and still and where growth happens unseen below fallen leaves and brown grasses.  I always long to take some green with me into winter and this year I am determined to do so.  I have spent the last month designing a hydroponic system for growing wheat grass.  The idea was to be able to feed the few critters I want to add to our home without having to depend on outside hay.  I accomplished this, but since I am currently “critterless” with the exeption of a few cats, I am now considering using it to grow salad greens all winter.  What can be better that eating a fresh picked salad as I watch the snow fall outside? 

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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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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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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 a Spark...

I live in Arizona (not Missouri, where our home office is located) and sparks are not normally welcome at this time of year, due to dry conditions and fire hazards that, each year, cost millions of dollars in loss of habitat and homes. So when our CEO, Autumn Shirley, told me about a new product we’re releasing, called “Spark”, with a tag-line of “Start something big”, my first thoughts were of some rather large wildfires that we’ve had here in the West.Well, I came to grips with my regionalized knee-jerk reactions, and took a look at this new arrival, and now I see what all the hoopla is about.

Many FundRaiser users are with organizations that have modest database needs, and a tight budget. That is, after all, why we released FundRaiser Basic (, originally: to have an “entry-level” offering that would help small nonprofits grow to a level that allows them to step up to FundRaiser Select or Professional ( when Basic’s abilities are no longer enough. And it’s that same thinking that prompted us to a modular approach, allowing customers to start with Select, for instance, and add modules for functionality as needed (like Pledge, Membership, and Volunteer management modules).

Over the years, one of the problems we found with that approach was that the cost of even Select was too much more than that of Basic. It was just too big a step for growing organizations to make all at once. And, for some, even Select has more functionality than necessary, like too many codes, too many data fields, too many options, etc.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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