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.

We've Updated Our Training Schedule


Beginning in May, you’ll notice some of the classes that we have on our training schedule will have new names. In addition, you’ll find the class schedule has been reorganized to allow you to complete our three core classes in the same weeks. We’ve made these changes in the hopes of streamlining your training experience as well as providing more descriptive names for the classes.

So what’s changed?

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Thank Your Donors With Pictures


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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Short take: Changing Merge Field Criteria In Letter Templates

Short take:  Changing Merge Field Criteria In Letter Templates

When updating a previous letter, it's important to review the criteria for the merge fields. This is especially true when using merge fields that input a total of all gifts or a list of gifts which meet certain requirements. For example, you may want to make the total of the gifts include the current year to date, rather than the date range used previously.

You can remove and then insert the merge field again to bring up the list of criteria to make those changes; however, there's an easier way to do this. Double click on the capital letter or symbol preceding the field name in brackets. This will open up the criteria window where you can make changes to the criteria and click okay to save it. Then, save your letter again.

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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: Reusing Last Year's Tax Summary Letter

Short Take: Reusing Last Year's Tax Summary Letter

If you are going to use last year's letter, it is good to review the letter in FundRaiser’s Word Processor, if the letter was used in FundRaiser previously. One of the common problems we see in Tech Support regarding Tax Summary letters is when people would like to use the letter from last year, and it isn't showing the right gift amounts. That’s easily solved. 

With the letter open in FundRaiser, click on the Gift List or Gift Total Function code and make sure that the date range is in the right year. You can also remove the merge function for the total giving or gift list and reenter it, and that will allow you the opportunity to reenter the date range. 

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Use the FundRaiser Built-In Word Processor for the Smoothest Mail Merging

Use the FundRaiser Built-In Word Processor for the Smoothest Mail Merging

Don’t be afraid to compose your fundraising letters in the FundRaiser word processor. It has many of the same features, such as bold, italics, or bullet points, as other word processing programs like Microsoft Word.

Using it will make letter merging easier than if you write your letter in another program and paste it into the FundRaiser word processor. This is  because there is often hidden code in other word processors that will affect how your letter will look. This is especially true with bullet points and paragraph formatting. When you write letters directly in the FundRaiser word processor, they will appear true to the formatting that you apply.

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Organizing Your Letters

Organizing Your Letters

My family is big on writing letters, and I think there’s no more powerful form of written communication than a letter in the mail. It shows that someone took the time to write, print, sign, and mail a letter. The organization (or the individual) cared enough to use a stamp and make sure the letter got to the carrier or the post office. It’s a personal way to communicate.

FundRaiser has many features for helping you with this fine mode of communication. One feature that I'd like to highlight here is that of being able to mark letters active or inactive as necessary. This comes in very handy for events which occur on a regular basis. How does this work?

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Using Letters To Showcase Your Organization

Using Letters To Showcase Your Organization

To build on the blogs recently posted about greetings and letters, I wanted to share a bit about FundRaiser’s word processing capabilities. FundRaiser Software comes with several pre-loaded letter templates. These templates have places for you to list your organization’s accomplishments and goals. So, it’s always good to review the letter templates before sending your first mailing.

When you open FundRaiser Software, you’ll notice a menu item marked Communications. Here you’ll find everything you need to send letters as well as update them. The Letter Templates menu option allows you to see all your letter templates, review their content, and even determine if you want to make them active or not. (We’ll talk more about active/inactive letters next week.) If you see a letter you need to personalize, for example a “Thank you” letter that has a place marked to put in accomplishments for your organization, then click on Edit Letter to go straight to the built-in word processor.

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Flexible Emails Within Fund Raiser

Flexible Emails Within Fund Raiser

One of the things I receive questions on as I’m hosting training classes is email through FundRaiser. How does the program know that someone can get emails? What can be sent via email? Is there a copy? The convenience of email, not to mention the cost savings, makes it appealing to use. So let’s talk about emailing within FundRaiser.

For each record within FundRaiser you have complete control over the communications preferences. If someone prefers email—and many people do these days—then the customer’s record can be set to email only. Additionally, with each correspondence that is sent, you can choose if it will be sent through the postal mail or via email where appropriate.

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Dress Up Your Letters With Graphics

Dress Up Your Letters With Graphics

Bold, bright graphics catch your donor’s eye and make him or her want to read the correspondence. Putting your logo on the letter provides additional organization recognition. No matter your reason for wanting to include graphics in your letter, you want to make sure that your images enhance your message.

FundRaiser Software allows you to dress up your letter with a photograph or other special image. Your picture needs to be in a recognized image format (such as .bmp, .jpg, .png, or .gif). If your computer reads the picture as an image then there’s a good chance it’s already in a supported format.

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What's in a Greeting, Personally?

In a recently (Oct. 3, 2014) posted blog by Kim Klein, the question of how to greet donors and prospects in letters and emails is addressed.  While the article seems to favor erring on the side of formality, when in doubt, it also recognizes that there are times to be informal, and even quite casual, during correspondence.

In FundRaiser the word processing is built into the program, allowing access to all fields of data for merging into letters as needed.  This enables you to write "form" letters that have the personal look and feel that used to be possible only through individually crafted letters.  The way you greet people in a letter can be personalized for each name record in FundRaiser, as well.

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Donor Management Simplified!

Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

Database programs are for storing and using informaiton, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much informaiton as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts.  It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

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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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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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Personal Form Letters: 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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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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3 Tips for Good Pledge Tracking

 1.  Divide and Conquer:  Pledge or Promise?

First, it's good to know whether your pledges are better tracked through FundRaiser's Pledge Module (optional in Select, included in Professional) or not.  That will depend on the make-up of the pledge itself.  If a person (or organization) promises to give you a particular gift in the future, and will be giving it to you in one payment, then you don't need to use the Pledge Module, necessarily.  The determining factor, in this case, might be whether you need to track promised payments as "accounts receivable" for accounting purposes.  If so, you'll probably want to use the Pledge Module, as it makes it easier to do.  If not, then you may just need to use the Gift Type Code "Later - Promise to Pay", to record a pledged amount.  

If you set payment deadlines, as in Kim Klein's example (see her blog entry here), then you may want to set the Gift Date as the promised date (rather than the date the pledge was made), so that you'll later be able to Group together anyone with a gift/pledge due during a particular time period.  Another reason to use the Pledge Module would be for pledges that adhere to the usual FundRaiser definition of a pledge:  A promise to pay a certain amount of money in increments over a given period of time.  This complicates things by necessitating a payment schedule, recording of individual payments, keeping track of balance due, etc., which the Pledge Module is designed to do.

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5 steps to creating tax summary letters for your donors in FundRaiser

It's almost time to produce Tax Summary letters (End of Year Letters).  Usually sent in January, after the last donation for the year is in, end of year letters are a perfect way to re-establish your relationship with all your donors.  Here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users to breeze through this important time.

Step One -- HOW do you want to display their donations?

You'll obviously want to thank them for the year's donations, but do you want to list donations individually, or as a total dollar amount?  Do you want to mention the number of gifts they gave?  Would you like to encourage them to give again?  FundRaiser has merge fields and functions to help with all of this, with the most often used being the GiftList and GiftTotal functions.  GiftList can show a listing of the gifts you specify in a mini-report format, while GiftTotal simply adds up all the gifts you specify to print out the total dollar amount.

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