The nine basic truths of fund-raising listed below are taken from the introduction to my book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and they are the foundation of my successful career as a development officer for and consultant to nonprofit organizations.Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it.Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared.Fund-raising is not raising money; it is raising friends.You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization.People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give.You do not wait for the “right” moment to ask; you ask now.Successful fund-raising officers do not ask for money; they get others to ask for it.You don’t decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money.Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business.
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When you upgrade to a new version, such as the recent new release of FundRaiser, it is good to familiarize yourself with the new features. A great way to do that is to read the update notes, which are easily available through the Help menu after you update the software.
Just click on Help and look for the selection that says “Read Update Notes”. Click on that to bring up the document. The Update Notes are a snapshot of the changes that were made to FundRaiser since the last update. Focus on the column marked “New.” These are the new features for this release. If you don’t understand a feature or how to use it, please contact support. We’ll be happy to help you.
A common question that we receive in Technical Support is that if an organization has an IT department which creates backups of the server computer which holds FundRaiser, is an actual FundRaiser backup necessary?
The answer is yes. When an IT department backs up a server that is different from a FundRaiser backup.
I have a multipart question. We want to start doing thank-you calls but often don’t have donor phone numbers. Is it creepy to get their phone number from the white pages? Should we require a phone number on our donation page so we can capture phone numbers going forward?
"What does it feel like to watch FundRaiser move into a new phase?" I asked FundRaiser founder Gene Weinbeck, who retired last year after a gradual turn over of leadership to Autumn and Joshua Shirley. He stopped by the FundRaiser office last week to join in the fun of celebrating birthdays for several staff members who, like himself, were born in January.
After a thoughtful pause, he shared these reflections on the past, present and future of FundRaiser...
You often advise asking people who have been giving you a certain amount of money for many years to consider giving more. But how do you do that without making them feel you were not grateful for what they have already given?
What would you do with 22 more minutes each day? According to a survey by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technologies, most workers lose approximately 22 minutes every day due to technical issues. That’s 4 hours and 24 minutes per 5-day work week. Or to put it in another context, its 228 hours and 48 minutes, or roughly 5 ¾ weeks out of your year! Of course, this could be anything from a slow computer to printer issues; however, when it comes to your FundRaising software, you don’t have to lose any time at all!
The support team at FundRaiser is always available to answer questions. From a quick how-to question or a more intensive technical issue, our talented and friendly support technicians want to help. Part of that 22 minutes each day also comes from trying to learn about the programs that we use and how these work. Here, too, FundRaiser Software has our customers covered. In addition to our support team, we offer on-demand training videos as well as a full schedule of training classes.
This time of year, most of us "resolve" to make changes: in our lives; in our work habits; in our approach to life in general, etc. And many of those resolutions fall by the wayside as the year develops, either because they seem too difficult, or they weren't that important, or (fill in the blank with your last unfulfilled resolution reason). I'd like to suggest a resolution that will help you all through the year, and will almost certainly repay your efforts many times over: learn how to better use your FundRaiser software to do what needs doing for your organization. While learning the program doesn't sound nearly so important as changing lifestyle choices, or gaining virtues, or shedding bad habits, it can, for your non-profit organization, be the catalyst for many changes, like donor retention, increased donations, better communications, and less effort expended for all of it.Which type of training do you prefer?
FundRaiser offers several different training formats, to fit your individual and organizational efforts, from self-help using the program's built-in Help manual and training videos on our website, to scheduled live webinars, to on-site training at your facilities, and you always have the option to call or email the training office, or tech support, for help. Each method of learning has it's pros and cons, of course, but the choices are available to you, and in this blog I'll try to give you some tips on how to approach them. And at the end of this, I'll let you know how all this can benefit you at the end of the year.
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.
One of the most frustrating experiences as a nonprofit is to send out a carefully crafted appeal letter only to have several envelopes be returned as unable to be delivered by the post office. Not only have you spent postage and used paper and time to send the letters, but your message won’t reach your donors. How do you prevent this from happening?
NCOA, or National Change of Address, is a United States Post Office program designed to prevent non-deliverable mail. The USPS maintains a database of all permanent address changes within the past three years by people who have completed change of address cards. When you export your database and use a USPS licensed processor, they will run your donors’ addresses through this program and provide you with information such as a changed address, the complete ZIP+4 zip code, which helps with mail processing, and which addresses are not valid without any further information. When you merge the received data back into your database, it will be updated and your donors coded appropriately to help you better manage your mailings.
It's time to produce Tax Summary letters (also called End of Year letters) again. They are usually sent in January after the last donation for the year is in. To help you breeze through this process, here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users.Step One
First, start by deciding how you want to list the donations in your letter. Two merge functions found in the FundRaiser word processor are used specifically for this type of letter.
A couple of weeks ago, I took the time to step back and reflect on why I am so committed to my work at FundRaiser. With my husband and FundRaiser co-owner, Joshua Shirley, I spent the weekend quietly reviewing where we are in relation to the FundRaiser. In the process, I reread the FundRaiser mission, thinking that with all the recent changes, perhaps we needed to update it. I was delighted to feel how fresh and alive this mission is for me. I thought, "This is why we do it—we do this because it means something to us to be working with the people we work with. We chose a career that helps us help the people that help. It allows us to support those who do that. We help helpers."
I'm aware that I only have so much energy and time, and that how I spend my life matters. The same is true for you, our customers. Your life matters and so does what you do with it. People who work at nonprofits take this to heart in a special way, which is why we love supporting you. I think our work will become even more important in the coming years. Nonprofits will need to step up and become more stable, and I am even more glad to be a part of this. We have always focused on helping as much as we can, and I can see how much the work of helping where it is needed is falling on the shoulders of the nonprofit sector.
What is an End of Year letter? Usually it is one of two things:a letter which contains a summary of all donations that a donor has made to your organization in the past year. This is sent in January, to help donors with their taxes.an appeal letter which is sent in November and December to solicit donations.
This article will go more in depth about tax summary letters. You might be surprised at the return you get from this simple and helpful correspondence.
Groupings are a useful way to work with a large number of donor records, such as printing a report or sending correspondence. However, depending on your criteria, you may not need to create a grouping. When you click Customize on the report preview screen, you are brought to a new window with four tabs, and one of these says “Advanced”. On both reports and correspondence, you can use the Advanced tab to set the criteria you wish to use in running the report. (For example, people who gave in the last twelve months or gave over a certain dollar amount.)
For correspondence, using the Advanced tab is helpful for year-end letters. Instead of creating a grouping, you can use the Advanced tab to limit your letters to individuals who gave during the calendar year.
Raymond started working in FundRaiser Technical Support in a smooth transition when former FundRaiser Support Technician Lee Johnson moved to another job. Lee asked Raymond if he might be interested in working at FundRaiser.
Raymond followed up on the suggestion and both he and FundRaiser staff felt it was a great fit. “I like it here. It’s a good place,” says Raymond. “I’m cheerful, and I try to have a positive influence. It’s great to work in a place like FundRaiser that values happiness, too, and wants people to be happy at work while they are helping others.”
Tamara Lovan is the newest FundRaiser Support Technician. You may hear her voice and enjoy her pleasant, easy-going style of helping people use their software now if you call in to FundRaiser Technical Support.
She is enthusiastic about joining the FundRaiser staff and working in an area where her personal interest lies. Her computer involvement in the past has been with coding related to website and game development, and computer art, such as animation and 3D modeling. The graphic images in this blog post, including the header are Tamara's work. “I enjoy the educational aspect of it all.”
How your organization raises and spends money is knowledge a successful fund-raiser must also have at his or her fingertips. You need to know and understand your organization’s budget so that you can delineate the cost of operation and how the money to cover that cost is to be generated. Nearly all non-profits are, by their nature, limited in their capacity to increase earned revenues, and many are unable to produce any earned income because they serve groups that cannot afford to pay.
The inability to produce enough earned income to cover the cost of doing business is why non-profit organizations must be fund-raisers. However, understanding your organization’s capacity to produce earned income, knowing where such income comes or could come from, and maximizing it, are essential to developing a successful fund-raising campaign. If your prospective donors believe you could be producing more earned income, they will be far less likely to give of their limited philanthropic resources.
Remember the TV detective Kojak, played by the late Telly Savalas, who was always asking, “Who loves ya, baby?” Well, the question fund-raisers need to ask of their organizations is the same, although it is more likely to be phrased, Who cares about us and why?
Let’s go back to the mission statement for a moment. If an organization’s mission statement is truly in sync with what the organization is doing, it provides a way to help identify who cares about it and why. Or put another way, it explains who benefits from the existence of the organization.
You start the process of becoming a fund-raiser for an organization when you first become involved with the organization. That’s when you begin to acquire knowledge about an organization, and acquisition of knowledge is the first step in preparing to raise money. To sell any product, it is important to know just what the product is and what it does. It makes no difference whether you are a waitress explaining the intricacies of the specials of the day, a computer salesperson pitching the new improved model, or a solicitor in a fund-raising campaign.
If you are the person running a campaign, you must make sure your solicitors have access to information about what the organization is, what it does, and why money is needed in the furtherance of what goals. If you are the person asking for the money, think about how you would go about making your request without that information. Yes, you will on occasion find people who will give because you ask rather than give to the cause, but that is the exception and –this can’t be said often enough—you cannot rely on the exception to support your organization.