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.

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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Options and Choices are GOOD things


Summer is almost upon us, officially, although many of us have been experiencing summer-like weather already, and there are some great things about summer that need to be pointed out from time to time.  I was talking with a friend the other day and the conversation somehow wound around to how I've always been a bit envious of those who don't wear prescription glasses, and I'm looking forward to cataract surgery that will also correct my distance vision.  This means I'll be able to buy cheap sunglasses for the first time in my life.  I'll have options, choices, and decisions to be made regarding the size, style, color, and so on, that I've never had before, since I've been wearing prescriptions since I was 9 or 10.  What an epiphany!  Where is that rack of $1.00 sunglasses??  I can't wait!

 

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Memorial Tracking in FundRaiser


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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Communication doesn't have to be a ticklish subject


In a recent blog here by Kim Klein, follow-up was stressed as an important element in asking people to volunteer their help.  It's as true in fundraising as in any other aspect of volunteerism (or life itself, for that matter) that communication is critical in fostering a strong, respectful, and meaningful relationship.  So use what FundRaiser provides to keep abreast of what's happening with your individual requests of volunteers, and be prepared to communicate often and openly.  Here are a couple of features that I've talked about in the past, that can be very helpful in accomplishing your goals:

1.  Tickles.  Use them.  They are nothing but date-sensitive reminders that attach directly to a name record.  If you've ever ordered something from an online company or, perhaps less likely, a print catalog, you've probably had some way to follow up on that order: email, shipment tracking, etc.  Tickles can help you keep track of your outstanding requests of people, with "DO" dates set to remind you of when you need to follow up on those requests.  It only takes a minute to enter a Tickle, and it can save you a lot of grief due to miscommunications in the long run.  

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A Sneak Peek at a New Feature



SHHHHH!!  Don't tell anyone I'm giving you this sneak peek, but I feel compelled to let you know just one new layout feature coming in the near future.  It won't happen for a month or two, but when it does, you'll be able to take advantage of it right away.  The Tony Poderis blog of April 7th got me thinking about this, because it's nice to be able to thank brand new donors in one way, while thanking repeat donors in a whole different way.  In fact, one of the points in Tony's blog is to thank donors for past support.

You all know by now (I hope) that you can have as many letter templates set up as you need, for all types of donations, and all types of donors.  So, you can have one letter that you send out for a first time donor, and another for a repeat donor, and maybe even another for a long-time frequent giver.  One of the things that has been a bit frustrating for some of you is that, while viewing the gifts that you are entering, and trying to determine which template you might want to use, it is not possible to view the giving history of the donor.

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Automate to Increase Dollars Per Hour of Effort


This week's Kim Klein blog shows how some small organizations may falsely assume that "major" donors are their best target demographic when considering time vs return.  Statistically, individuals give more than foundations or corporations, and there are many more "small" donors contributing to non-profits than there are "major" donors.  Let's look at how FundRaiser's built-in word processing and automation of thank-you letters can whittle down time spent while increasing returns from the vast majority of donors.

First, let's make the assumption that an "average" donor will give about $20.00 per donation.  Let's also assume that thanking the donor is not only polite, but necessary for any future donations from that donor.  

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3-Step approach to Training in FundRaiser


In this week's blog by Kim Klein, the focus is on laying out an effective strategy for raising money, based on your organization needs and resources.  I'd like to give you a few steps on how to lay out an effective training strategy for learning FundRaiser software.

First, take the Overview class, whether it's a "live" webinar or a "canned" video on our website.  This gives a good overall layout of the program, going through many of the menu choices, most of the tabbed pages of the data area, and explains what data goes where, and why.  One of the other important things it does is to give you a sense of what other training classes you will want, to complete your specific goals.

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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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Knowing Where Your Data Are (Stored)


In this weeks' blog by Tony Poderis, entitled "Going Where Your Donors Are", there is a hint of the types of extra information your may want to keep on your major donors.  In past blogs, I have tried to help explain some of the ways you can keep, and retrieve, various information about your donors, but it might be helpful to give you a more well-defined view.  Please keep in mind:  there is no single answer.  These are just my suggestions.

Keep general information in the fields provided, so much as possible.  The idea is to minimize the amount and type of data stared in "odd" locations, so that it is less likely to be overlooked when needed.  

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Personal Form Letters: Oxymoron?!

 

oxymoron

(NOTE:  originally published 9/11/2013)  It sounds like an oxymoron:  “personal” form letters.  How can a form letter be personal at all?   Well that’s really a big part of what donor management software is all about, whether it’s FundRaiser Basic, Spark, Select, or Professional.  In the old days, when everything was done with typewriters and people power, some organizations would get pre-printed letters with gaps or spaces in the areas that needed to be filled in with the “personal” information.  Now, though, with the power of the computer and well-designed software programs, we can do essentially the same thing, but resulting in letters that are not obvious “fill-in-the-blanks” forms.  Each letter is individually fitted, printed, and contains information specific to the recipient.

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Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Mo


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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ROI tips for Spark and Select


In Sasha's blog this week, Julie, at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, explains how they use FundRaiser Professional's Campaign Management section to keep track of return on investment (ROI) for various events, as well as keeping track of responses to mailings, like newsletters.  But what if you don't have Professional?  Can you work around that limitation to get a better picture of ROI and similar characteristics of your campaigns?  Well, the answer is "yes", you can, but it may take a bit more creative thought and planning on your part.  Here are a few tips to help:

1.  ROI is a simple math problem... honestly

So, how simple is it?  Well, it's just a matter of taking the expenses involved in a fund raising effort (whether a mailing, physical event, or advertising, etc.) and subtracting them from the donations derived from that effort.  Even with Campaign Management, you need to know the total expenses in order to "plug in" that amount to the event page.  In other words, then, ROI = Income, less Expenses:   ROI = I - E

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3 Tips for Capital Campaign Reports


This week's guest blog, by Tony Poderis, suggest that, in a capital campaign, fully one third of your goal should be met by only 10 to 15 donors, and that the next third will be met by another 75 to 100 donors.  While you may have a good idea who those top donors are, it would be asking a bit much that you also, off the top of your head, know who those next hundred top donors might be.  So here are a few ideas that can help:

1.  Use the Donor List Report in Amount Order

The Donor List report can be set up to list donors in order of their giving amounts, with the largest donors always at the top of the list.  You can limit the range of gifts in many ways, to consider only monetary gifts, for instance, or to look at just a certain time period in the recent past.  And, when you are previewing the report, you can choose to print only the first few pages (or whatever number you need) to get the top 115 or so donor names, based on your selection criteria.

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3 New Tips for Pledge Management


1.  Remind yourself to send Reminders

In Sasha's recent blog on Pledge Management, BRING Recycling's FundRaiser user mentions several points in passing that could use some emphasis.  One such point is tracking reminders.  While it's easy to set up FundRaiser to send reminder letters to all those whose payments are coming due, or to send overdue letters to those whose payments are past due, it's not always so easy to remember to tell FundRaiser to carry out the plan.  Very little is fully automated in FundRaiser, simply to prevent things from happening that you may not be ready to handle.  Everything is "semi-automatic", in that you set up the chain of events ahead of time, but still have to "push start", or "yell 'GO!'" to get things moving.  So setting up a Staff Tickle (Windows | Staff Tickle) as a nudge to get you moving is a great idea.  You don't need a new reminder each month, since you can simply change the DO date once you've completed this month's reminder letters.  And you can have separate tickles for reminders, overdues, or long overdue letters, too.

2.  Overdue notices as secondary reminders

Most people associate overdue notices with those nasty reminders one might get if they've missed paying a utility bill at some time.  Often those types of notices are quite aggressive and downright antagonizing, using verbiage that only the most callous of bill collectors might use.  This is not, of course, the way we want to treat our donors, and therefore is not the way we want to use our overdue notices.  Since you create these letter templates in FundRaiser's word processor, you can have them say pretty much anything you want.  They can include the last payment date/amount, for instance, or the total that was pledged and how much has been paid to date.  And you'll certainly want to remind the pledger of what has been done so far and has yet to be done to complete the task for which the money is being collected.  All this can be done in a light, non-demanding, inclusive tone, since you want them as a part of your team, no just for their next payment.  Better to build relationships based on mutually shared goals than to concentrate on a single payment.

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4 Steps to help convert Inkind to Monetary


In Kim Klein's recent blog, she mentions some very specific steps in winning over Inkind donors to become Monetary donors.  FundRaiser can help with these steps, and here's how:

1.  "Thank the donor for whatever they gave you".  You thank you letter can include the Gift Merge Notes field, which is where you should put a description of the goods or services donated.

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LYBUNT? SYBUNT? OMG LOL


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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Tracking Donor Interests or 'What's in a Code?'


Noting the differences

It can be a bit confusing, trying to figure out which type of code really is best for tracking a particular aspect of your fundraising efforts.  But let's try to de-mystify the process a bit.  In the simplest terms, there are only two major types of codes in FundRaiser:  those that attach to Name Records, and those that attach to individual Gift Records.  So, really, the big question you have to ask, when you want to track some aspect of your donor base is this:  "Does this pertain to the person, or to the gift?"

Personal attributes, or interests

For those things that pertain to the person (or organization), you have several choices of Code types, but the most flexible are the Category Codes.  You can have (practically speaking) an unlimited number of category codes from which to choose, and you can apply as many as you need to any name record you like.  If you want to show, for instance, that a person is concerned with environmental issues, or child welfare, or government policies, or anything else, you can use Category codes for that.  Donor Type, Source, and Solicitor codes are more restrictive, with only one of each code allowed per name record, and they are intended for more distinct types of references.  As with any information you hold on donors and prospective donors, these codes can help determine how you might approach people with some form of donation appeal, based on their interests.

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3 Tips for Grouping by Donation Range


1.  Define your parameters

When you create groupings, you need to have specifics in mind, to insure against overlap and exclusion.  In other words, you want to make certain you don't miss anyone, but, at the same time, you want to make certain that no one record will be in multiple groupings for the same mailing.  In Kim Klein's recent blog article, she talks about asking for specific amounts, or asking people to give within certain ranges of giving.  So before you can ask for the right amount, you need to know who gave what amount in the past.  And those are the parameters I'm talking about.  Do you want just major donors?  How do define that?  Is it a certain size gift during a certain previous time period, or a total of giving during a previous time period, or something else altogether.  You may end up needing several groupings, since you'll want to word your written appeal in different ways for different giving levels.  So make sure you set your parameters carefully in advance to get the best and "cleanest" groupings possible.

2.  Don't Overlap Ranges

As you define your parameters, make sure that your ranges, whether date ranges for previous giving, or dollar amount ranges for separating donor levels, do not overlap.  If you have overlap, you may end up with name records that fit into more than one grouping, and, therefore, could receive multiple appeals instead of a single one.  This can be a turn-off for a donor, and it's certainly confusing for them, if not for you, too.  With date ranges, it's fairly straight forward.  With dollar amounts, however, it's a good idea to have distinct amounts for your range extremes.  In other words, if you are looking for people who gave more than $100, but not $500 or more, then that range would be $100.00 through $499.99, with the NEXT range starting at $500.00.  Otherwise, you might have a donor who gave exactly $500.00 falling into both the 100-500 and 500-1000 groupings.

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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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