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.

How Gilda’s Club uses campaign management software to stay organized on simultaneous events

Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania has a dedication to improving the lives of cancer survivors that inspires me. They keep up a very active schedule of fundraising to pay for the services they offer to cancer survivors and their families. They started small, using FundRaiser Basic, and over the years have built momentum so that they now are running several events at once. Staying organized is a challenge, and they have done it by skillful use of special campaign management features in FundRaiser Software.

Using the Campaign Management Console is straightforward, and in doing so, Gilda’s Club of Western PA is able to easily view campaign ROI, and make adjustments as needed to their campaigns. Debra Markovich, Executive Assistant at Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania uses FundRaiser Professional on a daily basis and explains how they stay organized while running several simulaneous events:

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7 steps for keeping up with rapid growth in your donor database

Keeping up with rapid growth in your donor database

When Siena/Francis House began to grow, it also found the need to change how it was using its donor database. With more work, more people were using the database, sometime simultaneously. The development staff also increased the frequency of appeals from just a couple times a year to one going out nearly every month; and  expanded other types of in-person fundraising that relied on good information about how specific donors' felt connected to the organization.

Siena/Francis House is Nebraska’s largest shelter serving homeless men, women, and children. At the time of this interview, they had grown from 86 to 222 beds for the men guests, and more was needed. “Within 2 months of building the new men’s shelter, we were laying down mats for overflow. Depending on the weather, we now house as many as 300 to 350 men, women and children guests a night and serve 900 meals a day,” Marge Harman, Information Technology Administrator for the organization, told me. Faced with this kind of need, they have kept their database functioning optimally. “The need is there, that’s the sad thing,” says Marge. The following steps will keep your database working well under these high-pressure circumstances, too:

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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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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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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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Why I want the environmental organization I volunteer for to use a donor database instead of Excel spreadsheets

The environmental organization I volunteer for is important to me, so it followed that when I discovered they were using Excel spreadsheets to track the donors who help make it happen each year, I suggested that we use a FundRaiser Software program instead.

My co-volunteers were leery about moving from Excel to a donor database. They don't know me as any kind of expert on non-profit fundraising. They feared that using a donor database would simply complicate matters. Excel spreadsheets are free and everyone knew how to use them. Their questions led me to do some research so I could tell them more clearly why I was making my suggestion. Here's what I turned up:

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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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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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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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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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Sherry Willis, Girl Tech Supporter

Sherry of FundRaiser tech support is breaking ground in her job, just like Lois Lane, Girl Reporter and hero of my younger days. "People find it interesting that I'm a woman doing tech support," says Sherry. "This is still definitely a male-dominated field. Despite the fact that I am the only girl here in FundRaiser tech, I don't find that a handicap at all. I don't know if that's the company or if it is that if you learn enough to do the job, then any company would be happy to have you. Here, I'm not the first woman to do tech support. FundRaiser has a history of hiring women for the job."

Because FundRaiser prides itself on its high-level of tech support, great care is put into finding the right people to do the job. "Right now, there are two of us dedicated full time to doing tech support, myself and Jonathan," says Sherry. "We have different focuses. He is more interested in the fine tech details. I am more interested in the Big Picture. I think that is typical of women. So together we make a good tech team. He will delve into the fine details on a case, while my focus is trying to get people to be able to do what they want in the shortest amount of time possible."

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When You're Hot...

Like much of the country, the Ozarks has been in the throes of a heat wave. This time of year the sun seems to surge over the horizon, bursting across the treetops like molten gold. Mornings are no longer still. Birds and squirrels scurry about, determined to get their daily business done before the oppressive heat bears down on the landscape. One of the many feral cats in our neighborhood sits and watches the activity with feigned disinterest that will quickly turn into a tiger’s leap should opportunity present itself.

While our mobile cousins can hide from the worst of the heat, our leafy relatives have no such comfort.They must bear the brunt of the sun’s blaze. Some stand resolute against the blistering sun while others succumb, drooping to the ground in surrender. Yellows and oranges that usually herald the crisp cool days of autumn splatter foliage as plants draw back from the summertime heat.

I suppose it is human nature to consider the very moment we are in as somehow extraordinary. Last summer, we were told, was unusually hot. Yet here we are in the midst of an unusual heat wave once again. Our perception is so subjective. I’m sure I considered summers I spent training horses outside much hotter than those in which I worked inside an office. So how can I tell if my observations are accurate or not? I look it up on a weather service site. Those statistics are really the only way to get an objective comparison.

FundRaiser has a new report that can help you make your own objective assessment of your organization.

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Roll Over!



This morning I woke up with a heavy weight on my ribs and a buzzing sound in my ear. No, I wasn’t having a coronary; it was only my cat purring happily from the middle of my chest. He obviously feels this is an ideal morning perch. I, on the other hand, wonder if it means I’m getting squishier in my old age. Still, I find it a relaxing way to wake up unless he happens to get one of his whiskers up my nose.

It seems that people either love or despise cats. I think it’s because they make it perfectly clear that they are going to live on their own terms and not pander to what we’d like them to be. A dog is perfectly happy to change his ways to suit you. He will wear whatever you want and learn to do any amount of tricks you care to teach him. However, my cat will choose what he does for himself and I always feel a bit privileged when he graces me with his presence.

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