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.

The Season for Thanks - a note from our CEO

As the weather turns cooler and the leaves begin to drop, I always try to take some time off from the constant stream of news and information that is constantly coming at me, and spend some time reflecting on the things that I'm truly thankful for. Sometimes, especially given the current state of affairs this season, this can feel a lot like... exercise. What if I miss something? What if everything changes when I'm not paying attention? What if, what if, what if?

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), this has never actually happened. Indeed, the world always continues to spin, news always continues to happen, and nothing major seems to change overnight. Apparently, my inattention to the news has zero effect on the bigger picture, what a relief! With that in mind, I chose to dedicate my mental energy in November and December to gratitude. The first week was mostly a detox; it is surprisingly difficult to avoid clicking those juicy headlines, or opening my News app for a quick update! After the first week, things began to normalize and I could focus more on my actual intention of feeling grateful. I decided to make a list of a few the things that I'm most thankful for to share with the world (the FundRaiser blog reading world, that is). Without further ado, here's a very partial list in no particular order of the things I am grateful for every single day.

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How to Capture Email Addresses from First Time Online Donors

How to Capture Email Addresses from First Time Online Donors

When someone makes their first online donation to your organization, do you automatically add their name to your email contact list? This is a "Best Practice, for most organizations. Here's why:

First, consider that the reasons for an opt-in or a double opt-in on an email list:

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Sales Cycles and Spares

Sales Cycles and Spares

There may be times when you want to track the potential giving, either in a possibility or in a place in a sales cycles, for your donors or potential donors. Noting a donor record by the amount that they may be able to give is something that you want to do as well. Keeping notes is okay, and our note fields within FundRaiser are searchable and able to be included in groupings. However, there is an easier way that will create a more uniform way of keeping track of this information across your database.

Spare fields.

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Leveling Up Your Donors

Leveling Up Your Donors

Knowing the giving level of your donors has numerous benefits for both the donor and the organization. When you’re aware that a donor gives in a certain range, then it becomes easier to ask the donor to match, or exceed, giving done in past years. As an organization, when you know at what levels most of your donors give, then you can begin asking for suggested donations.

FundRaiser provides powerful tools for donor levels. First, our options all you to set your own levels. We provide examples based off some commonly used levels, but you can change not just the names of the levels but also the dollar amounts. With up to nine levels, there’s plenty of flexibility to create what you need.

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Membership Campaigns: Moving Members Up The Giving Ladder

Contact lapsed donors as part of your membership program

Read part 1 of this series, Membership Campaigns: The "How-To" In part 2 on building a membership program, you'll learn how to prepare to ask your members to move up the giving ladder.

Creating a Reality-Based Gift Chart

Compile an A to Z listing of all current donors and  lapsed donors—no more than three years (excluding those whose reason for lapsing is known).

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The Case for Building a Broad Base of Donors

Build donor relationships with mutual interests

Dear Kim,

We are being advised by a consultant to stop trying to build a broad base of donors and instead to focus on high net worth individuals and seek six figure gifts from them.  The consultant says it will be faster and more lucrative which makes sense to me.  Why do you advise focusing on small gifts? ~Seeking Efficiency and a High ROI

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Good News? Great Time to Ask!

Doing worthwhile things gives joy

Here’s my response to a fantastic question raised by one of our colleague nonprofit communicators this week. Eager to hear your thoughts! Q:  Should I include an ask in announcing a big win? Tomorrow we’ll email supporters to celebrate a recent victory. This win has not been a focus in our emails to folks on this list, but is something our organization is responsible for (and supporters will care about).

I want to keep supporters excited about our impact, and motivated to give during our year-end campaign (we’ll email a year-end appeal later this week). It seems easiest to  just send a quick victory email sharing the great news and linking to more detail on the win.  But I wonder if it’s best urges folks to take a Thank you action, e.g. “Thank President Obama for this good thing!” Keep in mind I have to send the year-end email later this week, and can’t rework that content (it’s part of a series).

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Creative Codes

Creative Codes

FundRaiser Software has the ability to track the non-giving aspects of your donors as well as donation information. A great way to do this is to use the category codes features. Each version (Spark, Select, and Professional) of FundRaiser offers unlimited category codes. With an ability to create codes up to eight characters in length, your organization has a nearly unlimited (there’s a limit, but it’s in the billions) to create as many codes as you require.

So in what ways can your organization use codes?

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A Development Director Needs More Than “a Smile and a Shoeshine,” But It’s a Good Start

No matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person

This is the era of high-tech delivery of information in an instant. The Internet is accessible from any telephone line, and lap-top computers let us take the facts and figures—all the facts and figures—to wherever they’re needed. Development professionals must master this technology which lets us massage estate planning scenarios, target solicitation mailings, and develop campaign giving plans. But, we must also remember that, no matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person.

In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s rejection of new technology, when he encounters a voice recorder for the first time, is part of his slow and agonizing deterioration. The only thing he knows—selling—is slipping from his grasp, and he tries to tighten his grip on it by clinging to the past. The times are changing and Willy isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of a lifetime of selling is no longer valid when he declares, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.” Willy is talking about being a salesman and having the proper temperament for the job, but he might just as well have been talking about Development Directors.

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What's in a Greeting, Personally?

In a recently (Oct. 3, 2014) posted blog by Kim Klein, the question of how to greet donors and prospects in letters and emails is addressed.  While the article seems to favor erring on the side of formality, when in doubt, it also recognizes that there are times to be informal, and even quite casual, during correspondence.

In FundRaiser the word processing is built into the program, allowing access to all fields of data for merging into letters as needed.  This enables you to write "form" letters that have the personal look and feel that used to be possible only through individually crafted letters.  The way you greet people in a letter can be personalized for each name record in FundRaiser, as well.

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Accept Fundraising Feasibility Study Results No Matter How Painful

Don't be afraid embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.

As I was in the midst of writing this article, my wife entered the room modeling a dress she thought would be perfect for an upcoming special event. She asked my opinion. I looked her up and down, examined the garment, and then suggested that it might be a bit too dressy for the event. When will I ever learn?

It wasn’t the first time she had rejected what I had to say. Nor is she the only one to ever do so. As someone who has been asked by nonprofit organizations to produce campaign feasibility studies, I’m familiar with what often happens when you tell people what they don’t want to hear.

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4 Examples of FundRaiser Pledge Flexibility

Tony Poderis's recent blog (July 31st:  How Long Should Donors Have to Fulfill Fundraising Pledges?) proposes that the donor should be allowed to set the time limit for fulfilling any pledge they make.  Some folks might, at first glance, think this will dramatically increase the amount of work necessary to manage the overall pledge campaign, as well as the individual pledges.  With FundRaiser's Pledge Module, available in Select and standard in Professional, this should be of little concern and here is why:

1.  Flexibility of pledge length.  With FundRaiser, no two pledges have to be the same.  You can set defaults that you'd like to use, but you can adjust each pledge, as needed, to suit the donor.

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Why Grassroots Fundraising?

When one neighbor helps another we strengthen our communities

Dear Kim:

You are well known as an advocate of individual donor fundraising, and many people admire you. However, you have your detractors, one of whom describes you as “the Queen of spending a lot of time to little result.” Others claim that you are simply not realistic and that real money is in foundation grants especially when you compare writing a proposal that yields $50,000 to the amount of time it would take to get that from individuals, unless you know a few really big donors. It does seem like the work of grassroots fundraising is out of proportion to the money raised. Can you comment? (And, please know that most people I talk to really love you and admire you.)~Wanting to be a fanDear Potential Fan:

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How Long Should Donors Have to Fulfill Fundraising Pledges?

Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach

In my hands is a slick, well done brochure for a capital campaign. The nonprofit organization that has produced it wants to build a new $6.5 million facility. Dates are given for ground breaking, commencement of construction, building completion, and dedication of the new facility. It tells of several encouraging, pacesetting donations that have already been received. An impressive campaign leadership group is identified. Attractive naming opportunities are listed. Everything in the brochure speaks to a well thought out project.

It’s a great brochure touting a well planned project and campaign. All looks good, except for one thing—one sentence: “Pledged donations may be paid over three years.” Eight words, such a small thing, but those eight words are the seeds for potential disappointment, even failure.

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Creating a Culture of Fundraising at Your Organization

Our doubts are traitors and make us loose the good we oft might win by fearing to attemp

Dear Kim:. I was wondering what tips you have for engaging all levels of staff members in fundraising? I am being pushed to create a culture of fundraising within the organization, and while I’ve had moderate success engaging the department heads in major donor communication, I’m struggling a bit on how to engage the rest of the staff. Our structure is: one executive director, 5 department heads, and 7 other staff under the department heads.. ~Heads in gear, tails slow to follow.

Dear Slow Tails:

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7 key components for donor cultivation you should be tracking in your donor management software

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the daily details of life

Fund-raising has many engaging and inspiring sayings. Three that give insight into donor cultivation are:

People give to people.You don't raise funds; you raise friends.Fund-raising can be summed up in just three words - relationships, relationships, relationships.

At its heart, donor cultivation is about an organization's staff and leadership developing relationships with those capable of giving support and making them friends of the organization.I define donor cultivation as an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.I can't stress enough how important this definition is - how important it is to the future of an organization's fund-raising efforts. Every successful fund-raising operation cultivates its donors - builds relationships with them. The most successful do it constantly and systematically.Let's parse this 48-word statement and examine its key components. Again, the definition, this time with its key components in bold type:Donor cultivation is an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

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How Much Foundation Funding?

Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.

Dear Kim:

Our organization is in the middle of finalizing our fundraising plan for the coming fiscal year. Is there any general rule about what percentage of our unrestricted funds should come from foundation grants?

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Tapping the Philanthropic Well

Trust men and they will be true to you: treat them greatly and they will show themselves greatness

Principal Fund-Raising Myth: It's common knowledge that corporations and foundations give most of the money to non-profit organizationsPrincipal Fund-Raising Truth:  You go where money you think you can get is to be found in the greatest quantities and most of the time that means you look to the individual donorNo fund-raising campaign should ever be started until you have identified the sources from which you will draw contributions. Sources here does not refer to specific potential donors, but to the six categories of donors who contribute money to non-profit organizations. They are:

Trustees Of The OrganizationIndividualsCorporationsPrivate FoundationsCommunity FoundationsGovernment

Your plan for a fund-raising campaign should target each source appropriate for that campaign and set a goal for contributions to be achieved from that source. Those goals are determined by rating and evaluating the potential donors that comprise each source.

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Donor Management Simplified!

Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

Database programs are for storing and using informaiton, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much informaiton as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts.  It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

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Recognizing Donors Appropriately

Thanking donors is a private act. It is between the donor and the organization.  Recognizing donors is public, and because it is public you need to be absolutely sure you adhere to a donor’s wishes when you do it.

Obviously, you don’t publicly recognize a donor who has requested anonymity. But just how publicly does the donor want to be recognized? Does he wants his name ballyhooed from one end of town to the other, or would she prefer a discrete listing in the annual report?

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