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.

Small, Local Groups Struggling to Keep Donors

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Dear Kim,

I work in an arts program that serves very poor public schools in a very poor state. Without us, 2nd -5th graders in public schools in our area would have NO arts program at all. We have no government funding and little foundation funding. We have built a base of donors and we squeeze every nickel. This year I am so discouraged by the number of donors who have said they are cutting back their giving so they can give to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. For the record, I totally support those organizations and what they do, but how can I keep our donors? What we do is still important.

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Do's and Don'ts of Texting Donors

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Dear Kim,

I am wondering about texting our current and lapsed donors to ask for money? We have a donor base that tends to be young and we have lot of phone numbers (sometimes we have a cell number and not a snail mail address). I think this would work well because it is much more efficient than writing and calling and a lot of people don’t use their phone for calling anymore. My ED wants me to check with someone else. What do you think?

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One Impactful Action by 12/31

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Dear Kim,

I have taken many fundraising workshops, including from you, and I always find that I learn a lot. BUT, and this is a big BUT, I am hardly ever able to implement anything I learned because I have no time. Someone suggested just trying to figure out one thing I could do differently for a short period of time, so I am asking you: what is one thing I could do between now and the end of the calendar year that will make a big difference to our fundraising?

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New Organization? Creating Your First Thank You Letter

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When you’re new to using donor management software, one of the things you will do is create your first thank you letter. Even if you’ve been using the software for a while, you’ll probably create new letters, so a lot of what we’ll cover will apply to long-time users of the software as well. One of the biggest tasks of writing a thank you letter is deciding what to say. You want to strike a balance between conveying your organization’s mission and thanking the donor, while being personable, yet professional.

Within our software we provide a template to get you started. While we call this our “Generic Thank You Letter”, there certainly will be nothing generic about it once you’ve followed our lead. We provide the template, including automatically adding in merge fields for the gifts and the donor’s address. And more importantly, we provide pointers to give you an idea of what to write.

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Gift Thank Yous Are the Heart of Appreciation

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Dear Kim,As a new fundraiser for a mental health provider, I would like to know the etiquette and proper mode of thanking someone for either an in-kind gift or a monetary donation. It is bad form to send a pre-printed card to acknowledge the gift? I am referring to monetary gifts under $100. ~Ms. Manners, Jr.

Dear Junior Ms.,

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Thank Your Donors With Pictures

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When creating your thank you letters, telling your donors about your mission helps to convey the appreciation you have for their gift, as well as the good work their gift will do. Showing them with a picture or two will provide a powerful reminder of the transformative nature of your organization’s work.

When including a picture in your correspondence, you want to choose one that conveys your mission and the work you do. Too many pictures will clutter the letter. A single picture in a thank you letter will provide a visual reminder to your donor and help them see that their donation has gone toward a good cause. I’ve seen this work very well in animal rescue or children’s organizations, where the picture completes a very personal thank you. For example, a picture of a cat and a message that, “Fluffy thanks you for your donation to keep her purring with good food and care.” will help bring home the thought that the donation went directly toward the organization’s mission.

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Spice Up Your Thank You Notes With What Interests You

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Dear Kim:You are often quoted as saying things like, “Thank before you bank,” and “The thank you note is the most important element in a donor relationship” and other pro-thank you note statements.  But how do you make a thank you note interesting?  And do donors really read them?  And what if I think the gift the donor gave isn’t really what they could afford so I am not that thankful? ~Dubious Dear Dubious:.

Your letter poses several questions, and I will quickly dispatch the last one first.  You need to change up your attitude toward the gifts that are given to your organization.  Any gift is more than nothing, and donors are making all kinds of choices.  You really don’t know what people can afford and you need to thankful they thought of you.

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Short take: Making Event Participants into Regular Donors

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 Your event was a smashing success and you raised a lot of money. After entering the participants into FundRaser, you might be wondering what the next steps are. How do you convert them to prospective, and hopefully future, donors?

First, make sure you’ve coded them as having been a participant at the event. This could be using the motivation code from their gift or ticket purchase to attend or even just a category code. If you have FundRaiser Professional, our Campaign Management Module is a great way to keep track of complex events and their participants.

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Using FundRaiser to Increase Mission Impact

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I’ve worked at FundRaiser for many years now, and for all of that time I’ve been deeply inspired by the work our customers do. Committed to a wide range of missions, the nonprofits using FundRaiser actively make a difference in our world. 

Given that sense of admiration, of course I decided to try my own hand at the fundraising part of nonprofit work. What I’ve learned is that each time I use FundRaiser to help raise funds for an organization I care about, I succeed. I also learn something new about the whole process of fundraising, and I get better for next time. That all adds up to more funds to help achieve what I’d like to see happen in the world. An example, in the first year of using FundRaiser, I learned the value of some very basic donor management practices:

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Keeping Track of Memorial Giving in FundRaiser

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With Memorial Day just around the corner, it might be a good time to mention a couple of ways you can keep track of memorial gifts in FundRaiser.  We call them "Tribute" gifts, and they can be in memory of departed loved ones, or in honor of living individuals, or even in celebration of some life event or other.

For FundRaiser Professional users, there is a built-in module, appropriately called "Tributes" to handle the recording and subsequent correspondence for these types of gifts.  In FundRaiser Select, the Tributes module is available as an "add-on" module for a modest price.  But even in Spark, which has no specific facility for tribute tracking, one can devise some practices to follow and report on tribute giving.  Let's see how they work.

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Lessons Learned from Crowdfunding to Save a Horse

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Facebook has been a remarkable tool for those involved in saving horses from the kill buyers. For those lots that want to see a horse in a good home rather than shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter, there are pages and Facebook Groups devoted to getting these horses visibility, donations, and even a good home. Which brings me to Thanksgiving weekend, when a very pregnant mare, skinny and in dire need of a good home, came across my Facebook newsfeed. I knew I had enough money to pay the deposit required to ensure she wouldn’t suddenly be shipped off...but for the rest of the money, and the cost to ship her from Kansas to Missouri? I wasn’t sure how to raise it. I decided to try crowdfunding.

I hear about crowdfunding successes all the time, but could I do it? Could I raise the money necessary to save this horse and bring her to my place? Her story reminded me so much of my own mare (now 19), whom I rescued as a 3 month old colt, a “surprise” for the mare had been through so many auctions that no one knew or disclosed that she was pregnant. I had to try.

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Welcoming New Donors

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Dear Kim, We're a small group with limited staff and resources, but we know that properly welcoming new donors to our organization and thanking them for their gift will greatly increase the chances of them giving again. What do you recommend including in donor welcome packets that is not too labor or resource intensive? ~Small but mighty Dear Might...
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Converting In Kind Donors to Financial Supporters

Converting In Kind Donors to Financial Supporters

Dear Kim:

We are a 50-year-old social service agency mostly supported by government grants.  We do have about 600 donors who help us every year and we do a reasonable job keeping in touch with them.  We also have about 300 people who give us in-kind gifts and I have tried all kinds of solicitations to encourage them to give money as well as stuff, but I have had a really poor response. Someone said that you said in-kind donors often don’t become money donors. Is that true?  Should I stop trying to convert them? 

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3 Important In-Kind Gift Entry Tips

3 Important In-Kind Gift Entry Tips
1.  Mode Code Denotes In-Kind or Monetary

When entering a gift in FundRaiser, the Mode Code is used to differentiate not only between methods of payment (cash, check, charge, etc.) but also between monetary or in-kind donations. When you create a Mode Code you must specify whether that code will be monetary or in-kind. A Mode Code is always one or the other, and each gift requires a Mode Code. You may have multiple codes, as is usual in FundRaiser, which allows for specific types of in-kind donations. For instance, one of our users is a diaper bank, and, while they accept many infant-related types of in-kind donations, they need to keep diaper donations separated from others. The easiest way was to have, simply, a "diaper" Mode Code. When running various reports, you can specify to include monetary, or in-kind, or both types of donations. Use these codes to your advantage.  And check out the Coding & Spare Fields training video in the Customer Portal section of our website.

2.  Use the Merge Notes for Descriptions

On each gift record is a "Letter Notes for Merging" section. It is primarily used for notes that will then be merged into thank you letter templates. And for monetary gifts, these are usually personal greetings, of sorts, like "Gee, it was great to see you", or "Glad to see you've recovered from surgery", or something else to more personalize the thank you letter. For In-Kind donations, this is a great place to put a description of the items (or services) that were donated. It makes a permanent record as well as an easy way to pull that description in to a thank you letter.  More information on entering gifts is available in both the FundRaiser Overview and Recurring Gifts training videos available in the Customer Portal section of our website.

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How to Acknowledge and Recognize In-Kind Gifts

How to Acknowledge and Recognize 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 FundRaiser Thank You Letter Tips

3 FundRaiser Thank You Letter Tips
 1.  Be personal, share success, and Thank Them

It doesn't take much to include personal touches in a thank you letter template.  You could mention the last gift they gave (date and/or amount), or the first time they gave, or the amount of support they've provided over the years.  Different situations may call for different letter templates, and different groups of donors, but it's all possible in FundRaiser.  And while you are thanking them, let them know what their contribution has done.  What has your organization done since their last gift?  How many people (or animals, or communities, or ??) has the organization helped in that time?  This takes a bit of planning, so that you might have, for instance, a group of donors who have given, but not in the past 2 years, and another group who have given in the past 2 years, but not the past 6 months, and maybe another group who gave for the first time in the past 6 months, etc. You'll want different messages depending on the situation, but it's not that difficult to do, and the results will be a more personal approach to that "ask" for additional donations.

2.  Thank Often

Many non-profits are vying for the same donor dollars, and showing appreciation for past donations is important in ALL interactions with your donors.  If you are sending an invitation to an event, THANK them for their previous gifts.  If you are sending a newsletter, THANK them for their ongoing support.  If you have a special funding need and are sending an appeal, THANK them in advance for their consideration and for sharing your needs with their friends, family, etc., but THANK THEM.

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Short Take: In Kind Donations

Short Take: In Kind Donations

 

When your organization takes in donations of good or services, how do you record that donation? On the Gifts tab, when you enter in a donation, the Gift Mode code reflects the form that the donation took—how the money was received or if it was an In Kind donation.  When you choose “In Kind” for your gift mode, this tells the database that the donation was received not as a financial transaction, but rather a donation of goods or services. The amount field can be the approximate value of those donations, and you can use your motivation and purpose codes to further categorize the donation.

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5 Main Steps of Data Entry Work Flow in FundRaiser Software

5 Main Steps of Data Entry Work Flow in FundRaiser Software
Establishing a Work Flow for your FundRaiser Database

Writing down an established work flow for entering gifts and name data after a fundraising event is one of single best things you can do to increase your donor management effectiveness. What's more, it creates a good working atmosphere and makes routine work a pleasure, even relaxing after the hectic pace of a fundraising event. What you need in your database will be put there effectively, free of unnecessary mistakes, or need to backtrack. Making it a regularly scheduled task is one great way to increase your all-around effectiveness. 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.

Write it down as a task outline, laying the steps out in logical order. The ease of working will be a reward to continue doing the task. It also helps 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. Here's a suggested flow that will work for most nonprofits. Adapt it as needed to make it right for your nonprofit's needs.  

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