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.

Asking for a Specific Amount

Acknowledging the abundance that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

Dear Kim:

I have often heard and others say that when you are asking for money, you need to name an amount or a range.  I feel uncomfortable doing this, and I think some of my donors do not like being asked for a specific amount.  I work with a lot of donors who are deeply religious and look to GOD to tell them what to give, not me.  Can I violate this best practice and still be successful?

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Do You Really “Know” Your Corporate Donors And Prospects?

Listening is important in an conversation

We should–and usually do–work hard to make our best possible case for support to corporations. We of course want them to know as much as possible about us. But what we know about them is just as likely to determine the outcome of a request.

I was recently thinking about the extent to which we need to know our corporate prospects in order to make the assessments, ratings, and evaluations that should precede requests for funding. That brought to mind the annual fund-raising conferences for our geographic area that I would attend each year. The conferences usually included three or four contributions managers from large corporations and banks.

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Collecting Pledges

Patience and persistence of Nature as a model

Dear Kim:

A donor recently promised a donation of $2500 but hasn’t paid it.  How can I collect this money?  We could really use it but don’t want to be rude.

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7 ways an alumni foundation improved donor cultivation by moving from Excel to a donor database


Mariemont School Foundation didn’t really want to move from their Excel spreadsheets to a donor database, but their new development director said they needed to if they wanted to be more successful. “The people who were on the foundation board didn’t want to learn something new, but then they hired a development director who said in order to be a successful group, donor management software was something we needed to grow our organization. You start out as a grass roots organization and then you need someone to say, ‘to grow your organization this is something you need to do’.” says Ann Pardue, who is a Trustee on the Board of the Mariemont School Foundation.

Since starting to use the donor database, the foundation has seen great gains

According to Ann, Mariemont has been able to:

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When I Forgot the Meaning of Philanthropy


Recently, during a meeting at our Church, I talked to Alice, our pastoral associate, about my wife Joyce and I offering to give a special major contribution for a program she heads.

Alice is in charge of a group who regularly review the cases of fellow parishioners in desperate need of money to pay overdue bills for household utilities, rent, mortgage, medical expenses, and other critical needs.

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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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Sharing the Good News of a Campaign on the Road to Success

Announcing the Success of a Campaign

Recently, I was asked again what a non-profit organization should do about announcing that a fund-raising campaign is racing toward its goal at a record-setting pace. It’s a question asked more often than one might think.

If you’ve got a positive story to tell, especially one of community support, you tell it, right? The reality is that I have known many campaign leaders who have wanted to downplay their success during the campaign. Some have even wanted to under announce results. Why?

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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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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 Actions Schools Take with Their Donor Database to Know Who Their Most Generous Donors Are

increasing donations for schools large and small

With the start of the new school season, my mind is on donor management for schools. One of the things I've learned most clearly from talking to school organizations about their successful donor management strategies is the key importance of knowing by constituent group who your most generous donors are. FundRaiser Software is created to help you do this as one of its core tasks. Organizations thrive who do it well, whether they are schools or another type of organization.

The three steps that make it easy to see your donations by constituent group start with the most basic donor management task.

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How a local United Way uses donor management software to encourage repeat donations and build donor loyalty

United Way of Moscow/Latah County logo

As the need for emergency services throughout the USA continues to rise, overall donations to emergency management organizations have fallen. The local United Way of Moscow/Latah County is succeeding at holding its own because of two important factors. The first is their own skill and understanding of their community and its evolving needs, and the second is thanks to their donor management database, FundRaiser Select.

Effective donor management can be simple

The features Cretia Bunney, executive director at United Way of Moscow/Latah County, uses in FundRaiser are all core features. They are easy to learn. Even with very limited time, any organization can maintain the necessary records. Cretia works at United Way of Moscow/Latah only one day a week, and in that time is able to do this tracking in FundRaiser as well as her other office work.

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Case study: moving from endowment-funding to broad-based community support with the help of donor management software

Lisner Louise Dickson Hurt Home

Most nonprofits dream of the simplest form of fundraising-- an angel who walks in the door and freely offers money. For a few organizations this dream comes true... at a cost. Those organizations are very dependent on one or a few donors. What's more, staff fundraising skills languish.

In an effort to avoid this very situation, the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home began to take proactive steps to move from endowment-only funding to individual donor support. Support from a broad base of individual donors creates a solid base  for organizations. Donor management software helps keep details organized for development aimed at individual donors.“I want to make sure that the Home is here in the future,” says Ward Orem, CEO of LLDL Home. “Up until 5 years ago, we didn’t have an aggressive development program. Our work was supported by an endowment but not a huge one. Whatever modest development efforts we made were scribbled on notes and kept in a binder.”“However, we could see that at the rate at which we were dipping into the endowment, we would eventually spend ourselves out of business. It was sort of a draconian doomsday projection but it was crystal clear we couldn’t keep withdrawing money from the endowment if we were going to sustain ourselves into perpetuity. The economic downturn drove the point home, but we already knew we needed to do things differently.”“As development folk, we recognized that the bulk of support comes from individuals,” says Ward. He knew he needed a solid infrastructure for donor gifts.

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Understanding donor management of nonprofit memberships

Understanding nonprofit memberships

Membership initiatives can be a powerful way for your organization to increase donor loyalty and the size of gifts... but what do you actually mean when you say 'membership'? In fact, two very different types of outreach efforts are both called 'memberships' and they are managed in very different ways. Different staff skills are needed for each, as well as different donor database features. Understanding the differences between the two main types of membership will help you create a thriving outreach effort.

The two main types of memberships are...Benefit-driven memberships where donors give more money to receive greater benefits. Often these are used during membership drives. Often, there are several membership 'levels', with higher donations amounts bringing more valuable benefits/premiums/privileges.Recognition-driven memberships where donors give money and receive recognition, such as a wall plaque, engraved brick, or even a named building. These are also called 'philanthropic memberships'. They are a development tool, used to convert  prospects into donors and to increase the size of gifts.These also often are offered in levels, with greater donation amounts offering greater recognition.How donor management differs between the two types of memberships

In a nutshell, donor management of benefit-driven memberships depends on keeping track of lots of different pieces of data, and following up in a timely manner on those bits of data. It is in fact, very much like accounting. Donor management of recognition-driven memberships relies on the tools that help you build relationships. It relies more on the people-side of development work.

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5 ways to use your donor management software to create a thriving membership organization

Making members feel ike stars

Key to a thriving membership organization, is giving each member the sense that they are your most important. How can you do that, when members have different reasons for joining and different preferences for how you communicate with them? Your donor database can be your closest ally. With it, you can tune in to what it is that motivates a person to be a member, and record special preferences. That will help you to give each member the sense that you have them specifically in mind when you communicate with them, even as your membership continues to grow.

1. Make each member feel like they are your most important member

In a donor database, each donor/member has a record where you can enter information that is specific to that member. These specifics can be as basic as name and contact information, however to truly personalize your communications you need to go well beyond that. By recording information on what is important to a particular member about your organization, you can tailor your messages to speak to those interests. If you know what brought a member to your organization to begin with, what events each person participates in, and what friends, business associates or relatives of a particular member also belong to your organization, you are well on your way to understanding how to best connect with a particular member. 

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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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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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FundRaiser users respond: reaching out to donors in times of national tragedy

Look for the Helpers

This has been quite a week for disastrous and heartbreaking events in the news-- first the Boston Marathon bombing, then the explosion of the chemical plant in Waco, Texas. How does your nonprofit organization handle these kinds of events in your social media outreach?

You might have planned to make a post about some event or topic that seems out of step with the reactions that flood the newsfeeds when such well-publicized tragedies occur. Do you stay the course and make the post? Do you pause the post? Do you make a brief comment of condolence, or use the opportunity to offer some help if the crisis relates to your mission?Some FundRaiser users quickly went into action with posts related to their mission. Here's how a few of them handled it:

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Are you contacting your best donor prospects?

Low Hanging Fruit for FundRaisers

Looking for new donors is vital to any organization that depends on donations. Could you be overlooking some of your best potential donors? If your aren't asking the people who have benefited from the paid services that your organization offers, then you are missing a great source of donations. For instance:

animal shelters can ask people who had adopted animalsplaces that have an admission charge like museums, nature centers can ask visitorsorganizations that put on conferences or festivals can ask attendeeshealth care organizations can ask people who have received health servicesschools can ask alumnitheater groups can ask box office visitorsand so forthLow Hanging Fruit

These people who have already shown that they value your organization offer fundraisers the equivalent of low-hanging fruit, says Laurie Anderson Mann, of DramaBiz.

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7 steps for your nonprofit to establish a successful memorial giving program

Establishing a successful memorial giving fund

You can easily start a memorial giving program just by adding a line or two on your website, in your newsletters and in your appeal letters. For that small effort, you can experience both

increased donations andstronger emotional ties with your donors

Of course to create a really successful tribute program, you'll need to do more. Step by step is the way to succeed.Memorial gifts are made on the death of a loved one (people and companion animals), or in honor of a special life event like a wedding. People are especially likely to want to make memorial donations to organizations that deal with life and death issues, such as hospices and other health care related programs; veterinary practices and animal shelters. For instance, Kairos Dwelling, which houses terminally ill people, says that a large percentage of their income comes from tributes.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
Donor Portal major gift prospects backing up data Congratulations personalizing letters capital campaign planned giving campaign management auction small donations ticket sales anonymous donors Network for Good End of Year Letters National Change of Address flash sales foundations Constant Contact gift acceptance policy endowment campaign support fundraising letters repeat donors Snow Birds volunteering change of address updating development director ticketsales correspondence membership benefits add ons LYBUNTS adding personal notes to letters pledges major donors donor recognition motivation code happiness corporate sponsors email office raffle holiday Importing Data operating systems donor preferences giving levels Cloud welcome packet the Ask letter appeal online donations upgrade Company culture recurring gifts FundRaiser Hosted New Year user spotlights community supported gardens premiums donor targeting relationship tracking general memorial giving Groupings solicitors announcements product news SYBUNTS mailing segmenting donors government grants pictures role of nonprofits FundRaiser Basic reports campaign GoFundMe project donor loyalty Resiliency fundraising alumni planning in honor of donations holiday letters case study donor advised funds letter templates how-to videos charity golf tournaments donor relations Reporting to IRS donation history training new donors grassroots campaign correspondance phoning donors thank you letters tax summary letters ROI salutation follow up Facebook Task List technical support Thanksgiving increasing giving amounts grants security giving history spare fields Excel gift notes field monthly giving #GivingTuesday advanced tab targeted mailings volunteers donor accounting software In-Kind gifts customer service texting donors look and feel event management transparency membership programs prospects animal rescue how to handle auction gifts merge notes board members legacy giving budget customer portal new features tech tip membersip benefits operational costs large donations community broadcasting features community arts nonprofits vacation GivingTuesday social media brick campaign motivation training tip new leadership donor retention Codes entering auction gifts online donations word processor donor slip gift entry lapsed donor merge fields direct mail holiday giving data conversion communications donor attrition overview data analysis donor engagement passwords Personalizing Alternative Addresses custom page building donor relationships password protection mission driven spreadsheets importing csv Thank You new version Facebook campaign Reminders tribute gifts Crowdfunding Campaign Tickles annual maintenance plan PayPal donor profile on site training publicity materials FundRaiser Spark updates donor source arts annual campaign donor contact information upgrading donors donor prospects mode code disaster relief donor retention rate new nonprofit banquet donor attrition rate understanding giving trends nonprofit fundraising NCOA processing data entry moves management appeal letters user interface Volunteer module

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