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 Often Should You Back Up Your Data?

How Often Should You Back Up Your Data?

Different people and organizations will have different backup needs. To set up a schedule that works for you, consider the following questions

How much data loss would you consider 'allowable loss"- fairly simple to recreateHow often do you enter data?How much of your data would be difficult or impossible to recreate?

These questions will give you the answer for how often you need to back up.  If your computer crashes and you lose all your data, how recent was your last back up? Does it cover the data which would be difficult or impossible to recreate? If you enter a lot of information regularly, you may want to back up weekly. 

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Four Great Times To Call Support

Four Great Times To Call Support

Here at FundRaiser our technical support team is here to help you. Whether it’s a simple how-to question or a detailed technical issue, you can reach our support team by phone or email. In fact, unlimited support is included in your Annual Maintenance Plan.

However there are our times when calling support can save you time and remove the worry from complex tasks.

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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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Beyond End of Year Letters

Beyond End of Year Letters

Now that January is coming to a close and end of year letters have been printed and mailed, it’s time to think about other ways in which you can prepare for the upcoming year. Performing some general maintenance tasks will help keep your FundRaiser running smoothly and your donor management process easy.

First, think about the letters you send. With the change in the calendar, you can update the accomplishments or perhaps highlight special stories from the previous year that would resonate with your donors. Updating the letters with new codes will help staff and volunteers alike use the correct letter. And don’t forget to mark your old letters inactive to keep them from being repeated.

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Going Formal With Salutations

Going Formal With Salutations

One of the biggest quandaries you may face when you think about communicating with your donors is to be formal or informal with your greetings. In general, there is a trend to become more informal in our communications. However depending on your organization, you may wish to stay with formal salutations.

Formal salutations use titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Informal salutations are when you address the donor by his or her first name. There are times when each is acceptable, and the salutation may change based on the donor, the event, or the type of correspondence.

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New Year, New Codes

New Year, New Codes

For organizations with annual events or campaigns, there are many ways to track the donations that come in each year. From fund and motivation codes to more general category codes, there are a multitude of ways to make sure you know exactly how and why your donors gave to your organization.

Keeping your coding system understandable plays a big role in the effective use of your donor management software. Therefore, when it comes to your annual events, think about using one main code and append then year to it. For example, a gala would be GALA14, GALA15, and so on. This way you would know that all codes that start with “GALA” would be for your annual event. (Or whatever prefix you choose to use for your event.)

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3 Resolutions For The New Year

3 Resolutions For The New Year

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and how to improve ourselves in the coming year. While many people are making resolutions about their health or wellness, it is also a good idea to think about how you can better utilize FundRaiser Software within your organization. There may be larger projects, such as implementing a membership or pledge program that you’re thinking about. But here are three, smaller-scale ideas to get you started.

Resolution 1: Maintain your data entry. A database is only as good as the information that’s inside it. Keeping up with your organization’s data entry allows you to utilize the robust features of FundRaiser to the fullest. With regular maintenance, keeping the data entry current isn’t a big chore and can have big payoffs for your organization.

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Save a Stamp, Emailing Within Fundraiser

Save a Stamp, Emailing Within Fundraiser

Sending your year-end appeals doesn’t mean rushing to the post office or worrying about running out of stamps. With FundRaiser, you have the option to send your correspondence through email. This means your organization will save paper and postage and your donors will hear from you more quickly.

Inside FundRaiser the process for sending correspondence through email is much the same as printing the letters. The options you select on the printing window are different.

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Reviving On-Hold projects (Revisited)

The economy is on the rebound, or so most of the news I've heard says, even though we individuals may not be feeling the positive effects as strongly as we'd like.  In light of the rebound, I'm re-posting a blog I wrote a while back, thinking that it might be time for some of you to think about revisiting projects or campaigns you've had on hold.

Sometimes it's necessary to put a project or campaign "on hold" to wait for more positive circumstances. But it's still important to keep up with your donor database changes, because, someday, those circumstances will arrive and you'll want to get back in the swing of things as quickly as possible. The economic climate change has profoundly affected many non-profits these past few years, and some have had to take a step back to reassess their plans in light of these changes.

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Backup Basics

Backup Basics

There’s nothing more reassuring to a computer user than to have a good backup of data. This is no less true when it comes to your FundRaiser data. As an organization, there’s a good bet that you keep a large amount of information about your donors. To know that you can restore it in the sad event of a computer failure, is good news indeed.

FundRaiser makes it easy to do backups, by putting the command in an easy to locate place. Under the FILE menu in FundRaiser, choose CREATE A BACKUP. To complete your backup hit the “backup” button. The process will run and once it’s finished, you can choose Exit. Your backup has completed. However, you may have questions about backups and the process. One of the most common is: where do you want to place your backup? FundRaiser conveniently places backups in a default location. (For clients using FundRaiser Hosted, always accept the default location. To receive a copy of the backup, give our technical support team a call and we’ll gladly send you a copy of the files.) Since the restore screen automatically goes to the location of the last backup, you don’t have to worry about where you saved your backup. It is a good idea to backup before doing a major operation such as an import or export. Regular backups can also keep data safe in the event of a computer failure. Set a schedule within your organization and stick to it. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a backup of your FundRaiser data. Keeping your backups current will save you, and your organization, a lot of time and trouble. Plus, the peace of mind is priceless.

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Importing from Spreadsheets to FundRaiser

Many non-profits began their data management using spreadsheets.  Yours may still use them, but there are many reasons to move away from them and into donor management software, as you may be aware.  In fact, here are a couple of articles that some folks have referenced in telling us why they no longer want to use spreadsheets:  
One of the big stumbling blocks to converting to a better system is the old argument: “We would have to re-enter all the information, and no one has time to do that!”  Well, in FundRaiser (even in FundRaiser Basic) there is a file option that allows you to import from other file formats.  Here are some tips and tricks on how to do set up your spreadsheet for optimal importing:  
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AMP Up Your FundRaiser Usage

Just the other day, I got a call here at the training office with a question about how to get out a list of Tribute Notification names (it's a Tributes module kind of thing).  Since there is no facility for doing that within FundRaiser's reports or groupings, I suggested they call tech support and get an SQL script written that will do that.  An SQL script is a program-code-like statement that can be used to tell the program to do things outside it's normal role.  The user was surprised that we could do that sort of thing, but it's just a part of the service you can expect from your FundRaiser "AMP".

AMP is the acronym we use for the Annual Maintenance Plan.  We encourage every user to have it, and it includes some important features.  First of all, AMP is a fee-based service that is required initially, since new users will require more contact with Tech Support and Training until they've learned the basice.  Even with training classes, questions will arise that will require you to either search for the answers on your own or, to save time, money, and keep your frustration level down, you can call tech support or training for the answers.

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Importing into FundRaiser ... The Right Way!

The Face wants you to know.

Hi Everybody! The name is Nick and if you've called for FundRaiser Tech Support in the last year or so you've probably talked to me, and if not, then what's stopping you?Anyway, today I would like to talk about the best way to import data into FundRaiser and the mythically obscure .CSV file ... scary. Now, you may or may not be asking yourself. "Awesome Nick, how do I create a .CSV without summoning potentially evil spirits?"

Well, first things first, open up your spreadsheet in Excel. Most of the time it will be saved as an Excel Workbook or some other file useless to FundRaiser. Now, go to "Save As" this will open the "Save As" window. On the bottom of the "Save As" window you will see a drop menu that says "Save As type." Now this part is crucial, click on the drop down menu.

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Custom Page: Explained

Kim Klein's blog on Donor Research this month is all about collecting information about donors.  As most of you know, in FundRaiser there are a multitude of ways and places in which to store this data.  The one complaint I've heard about this is that it can be difficult to remember where you've put each different type of information.  Is it in the Name Details? or Preferences? or Spare Fields?  And why should I have to jump all over the place to see the information that is important to MY tasks in this organization, anyway?

Enter the "Custom Page" concept.  Have you noticed the Custom Page tab (normally found to the left of the Master List tab) in FundRaiser?  If it doesn't exist, you probably have Spark.  If you have Select or Professional, it may have been moved to the right of the Master list (Options | Change Tab Order).  The Custom Page is, at first, a blank space just waiting for you to design your perfect information layout.  What information about donors do you want at your fingertips?  Where is that data normally kept?  You can "mirror" that field (or table) of information on the Custom Page.  You can have, for instance, not only the donor name, phones, email, age, and so forth, but also the table showing their entire Giving History, or the table shoing all of their Category Codes, or any specific Preference settings that are important, or...  whatever you wish.

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How to pick your invitation list

In this week's Tony Poderis blog, the focus is inviiting donors to events that they might not "normally" be invited to attend.  Any time we are faced with selecting a portion of our donor database, we should be thinking "Groupings".  And any time we think "Groupings", we should take a few moments to consider what criteria will be used for the group of names we have in mind.  One simple, yet effective, method of consideration is to write a concise, but complete, sentence describing who it is that we are trying to target.

Any data can be used

Since we can use virtually any information that is stored in our records, we don't really need to focus on the data to make our "selection sentence".  It may be as simple as:  "I want all the people who have given in the past six months".  But be aware that a simple statement may not be complete.  What if a donor has died since they last gave?  What if a donor has no address, no phone, and no email on record?  What if they have been designated as someone who NEVER wants to receive any solicitations from you?  So maybe the original statement might become more like:  "I want all live donors who gave in the past six months, so long as we can contact them and they haven't opted out of such contact".  Not so concise, but more specific, and more likely to give you the results you want.

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Clues on Using Que(ue)s

In this week's Kim Klein blog, several steps are suggested on how one might encourage donors to continue their support when the founder leaves the organization.  One of the first is to "make a list" of people to personally contact with the news that you (the founder) are leaving.  Another is to send a letter "to all your donors and funders" to welcome in the new person who is to take your place.  While it's easy to create a grouping of all donors and funders, it may not be so easy to create a grouping of those who "would assume they would hear it from you".

Unless you've coded them in some way unique to this idea (and why would you have?), then you'll probably need to pick them out of your database one by one.  You could, of course, give them each a common code as you finde each record and then be able to group them together in the future, but you'll most likely never need that particular mix of donors grouped together again.  So why not use the Que?

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What's in an Acronym?

In Kim Klein's blog article this month, she explains what the term LYBUNT means, which is a good thing, but there is another that is used in FundRaiser we need to know, too:  SYBUNT.  SYBUNT is similar to LYBUNT, but reaches further into a lapsed donor's past.  A SYBUNT has given "Some Year But Not This".  You can find both of these terms scattered throughout FundRaiser:  in the "WHO" section of reports and mass mailings (in the "MasterFile" dropdown), the "Common Patterns" section of creating a Grouping, and elsewhere.  They are just easier ways to describe certain donor situations.

Precisely, Generally Speaking

Once you know the definitions, you may run into another situation due to the business world view that there are two distinct types of years:  calendar and fiscal (which FundRaiser calls "Reporting" year).  FundRaiser's Reporting year is, by default, set to the calendar year, but can be changed to coincide with the fiscal year your organization uses for accounting purposes.  It's changed in the Options, General, Printing menu, and requires that you set the beginning month of the yearly period you want to consider for your Reporting year.  Be aware that, if you make a change here, you will need to run the Rebuild Statistics Page Data utility (in the Utilities menu) in order to make certain all the yearly totals reflect your reporting year, and that people are able to be put properly in their LYBUNT and SYBUNT places.

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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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3 Dead-On Grouping Tricks to Treat you right

1.  Standard exclusions for print mailings

Whenever you create a Grouping intended for the sole purpose of sending out printed correspondence (letters, labels, envelopes), it's a good idea to use multiple lines of criteria in the Grouping, with the first line consisting of things you DON'T want, and subsequent lines for things you DO want.  It makes no sense, for instance, to include in a mailing Grouping anyone who doesn't have a complete mailing address, since they'll never receive it.  It makes less sense, perhaps, to include those records marked as "Deceased".  And you *may* want to exclude those who are marked as "Inactive", as well.  In this case, then, you could start the first line of criteria using the Common Patterns | Exclude section and mark "Inactive" and "Deceased", and then use the Finish Criteria button to save that line.  Then you would need to use the AND separator to start a new line of criteria and go to the Donor | Geo 2 section and select "Has An Incomplete Primary Address".  I know, we don't want incomplete addresses, so once you click the "Finish Criteria" button for this line, you'll use the NOT button (to the right of the criteria display), which will change it to say "does not have an incomplete address".  If you are okay with this method, then you'll just click the AND button again to start a third line, and use this line for any other criteria, such as donation information, or something else.  This will make certain that, no matter what other criteria you use to select people for the mailing, you'll have no "dead" mail (pun intended) costing you resources while doing no good.  Consider using this scheme for each mailing Grouping.

2.  Easily track mass mailings

An easy way to keep track of all the non-thank-you-letter mass mailing correspondence you do will also revolve around Groupings.  Normally you don't mail to everyone in your database at any one time, but, rather, target records for mailings by creating Groupings.  So, since you will normally have a Grouping in place, take an extra step or two and use the Groupings menu choice of "Assign Category Code to All" while you have the Grouping open.  Then, create a Category Code that reflects the mailing you are doing.  You don't need to create the Category Code first, but can do it "on the fly".  So, say I'm doing an Appeal Letter in October of 2013.  I might call the Category Code "October 2013 Appeal Letter", with a code of "AL1310" (no quotes for either, by the way).  When I assign this code to all the records in the Grouping I've created for this mailing, I remove any doubt as to who received the mailing, and I have an easy one-code identifier for them.  This means that, even though the Grouping may be lost, destroyed, or changed over time, I will always have a means of pulling together the records of those who received my October appeal letter.  It only takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish, and can be quite useful in the future.  One other suggestion:  once you've mass-assigned a code, consider marking the code as no longer active (Windows | Codes menu), so that no one will accidentally assign it to anyone else.

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