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.

Key to Successful Fundraising: Appreciating Our Donors

Key to Successful Fundraising: Appreciating Our Donors
 Dear Kim,

I am new to development and I have heard several contradictory things about the kinds of acknowledgements I should be sending to donors. Someone said we are required by law to send a thank you for every gift and someone else said you have to subtract the value of anything you send to the donor. Then someone else said that you only have to thank people who give over $250 and someone else said you are not allowed to thank people unless they request it and on and on. I know you say, “Thank before you bank” but that doesn’t sound like a law as much as a good habit.

~Help!  

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Revolutionize Your Thinking About Creating Targeted Mailings

Revolutionize Your Thinking About Creating Targeted Mailings

This month is the celebration of independence for the USA, and it seems appropriate to try revolutionizing your thinking about creating targeted mailings using FundRaiser. This is done by creating segments of your database, or Groupings, and, hopefully, turn an otherwise onerous task into one that gives you more freedom and choice. Groupings help you to pull out a sampling of people (or organizations) from your full database in order to treat them as a separate group. Why would you even want to do that? Well, the most common answer is to “target” an audience with a specific message from your organization, whether for an appeal letter, an invitation to an event, or a special “thank you” newsletter at the end of a particularly successful campaign.

By becoming  comfortable with creating Groupings, this will become an enjoyable task. And I’m going to give you some hints to ease you into creating exactly the groups of records you need. There is a trick to it all and it doesn’t even involve the software. Here it is, in a nutshell:

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Creating My First Fundraising Mailing

Creating My First Fundraising Mailing

At FundRaiser Software, staff members are experts in helping nonprofit organizations use our software. We have learned a lot about the how-to's of fundraising from our customers... but very few of us do it ourselves. For me, over the years, I've become eager to try my own hand at it. Yesterday, my wish came true as I mailed out my own first fundraising campaign. The experience was both fun and humbling, giving me a new and deeper appreciation of the work that our customers do daily! 

Let me say at the start, that the organization I volunteer for has done well for more than 35 years tracking donors by spreadsheet and memory. It's understandable that when I suggested using a FundRaiser program they were wary. This year, however, the other volunteers at the organization agreed to let me have a go at it... as long as I was the one working with FundRaiser.   

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3 Donor Management Tips to Improve Your FundRaising Campaign Reporting

3 Donor Management Tips to Improve Your FundRaising Campaign Reporting
Track Campaigns more easily 

All the FundRaiser programs can help you track your campaign activity.  FundRaiser Professional has a special "Campaign Management" component to help do it even more completely, but any version will allow you to do the following tips. Any of these tips will help you gather together donors and/or donations specific to any of your campaigns. 

1.  Code those gifts !!!

Most campaigns are made up of fundraising events.  Some are physical gatherings, like walkathons, parties, etc., to encourage immediate donations. Some are awareness events, such as mailings, advertising, and so forth, which will bring donations over a period of time.  In any of those cases, when gifts are received and recorded, it just makes sense to use the Motivation Code to indicate why that person gave at that event.  Normally it will be a code that reflects the event during which they were asked to give, whether a mailing or a gathering.  If you do this consistently, you'll be able to create Groupings, based on donations made to these codes during a particular period of time.  Groupings can be used with almost all reports, so you can focus on a particular event, or on all the events within a campaign.

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Developing Development Director

Developing Development Director

Dear Kim:

I am the first development director for a full-service humane society that has been operating for 125 years, and I have been on the job less than a year. We have a $1. 5 million budget ($500,000 coming from a county contract). We have always operated in the black, but unfortunately, not much analysis and goal setting have ever been done. There is no strategic plan in place, and we are heading into a capital campaign to build a new shelter and have many needs on the horizon. To top it off, the Executive Director is also new, and we are both working fast and furiously to evaluate as much as we can and to get a plan in place. I have been working on an overall development plan and the article, “Creating a Budget for Fundraising” is very helpful. However, do you know if there are specific percentages or guidelines as to how much the development office should raise in relation to the overall budget? For instance, when I worked in fundraising at an independent school, I raised 6-7 percent of the total budget. That was fairly average at that time. Because there has been little tracking and overall analysis, I realize that we are going to need to look at each direct mail piece, each special event to create budgets and to determine overall purpose. Any help you can give is appreciated!

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Managing & Reporting Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 4: Finishing up your Campaign

Managing & Reporting  Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 4: Finishing up your Campaign
Campaign Assessment and Review

The campaign is finished. The thank-yous have been said and the money counted. However, before closing the book on a campaign for good, you should take one last look at it. The days immediately following a campaign are the time to analyze what went wrong and what went right, which fixes worked and which didn’t.

You should assess and review every fund-raising campaign, and you should make a record of what you find.

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Managing & Reporting Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 3: Tracking, Collecting and Acknowledging Gifts

Managing & Reporting  Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 3: Tracking, Collecting and Acknowledging Gifts
Tracking Gifts and Collecting the Money

(read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Receiving and recording gifts is simple to do, but very often poorly done. When donors make a gift or a pledge, solicitors notify their team captain and forward the pledge card or check to the organization’s development office that day. If the deal is struck in the evening, they do it first thing the next morning. The timing and process is where the first mistakes are made. The timing is do it immediately. The process is send the paperwork to the development office. There is no need for checks and pledge cards to go anyplace other than to the organization. These are official documents and should be collected in one central location as soon as they are signed. No solicitor should ever hold a check or pledge card while waiting for others to come in. Stamps and envelopes are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the bad will created by a lost or slowly processed check or pledge card.

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Managing & Reporting on Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 2 : Mid-Course Corrections & Problem Solving

Managing & Reporting on Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 2 : Mid-Course Corrections & Problem Solving
Mid-Course Corrections and Problem Solving

(read part 1 here)

We track progress in a fund-raising campaign in order to identify problems in time to take corrective actions so that the goal stays within reach. If at any point in the campaign it begins to look as if the ability to achieve the goal is slipping away, then those managing the campaign must stop and take stock of the situation.

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Managing & Reporting Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 1: Organizing Teams & Reporting Meetings

Managing & Reporting  Fund-Raising Campaign Progress, part 1: Organizing Teams & Reporting Meetings

 

How do you keep a fund-raising campaign on track? By being well organized, constantly monitoring progress, and informing all campaign participants of that progress. The very reason for the pyramidal structure of a campaign committee is to simplify management. In the best of circumstances, the pyramid is constructed so that no person supervises more than five people. (To maintain this limit is why we sometimes add campaign and divisional co-chairs.)

The campaign pyramid

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A Pledge or a Promise?

A Pledge or a Promise?

 In Tony's blog post, Financial vs. Development, he discusses two different possibilities on pledges-- are they a firm commitment, or are they more a promise to make a contribution in the future. This might seem like semantics, but when it comes to financial tracking, you would want to handle them differently. Here's an article from previous FundRaiser lead trainer, Larry Weaver, that helps you decide how you might want to handle these two different situations. 

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.  

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Pledges on Paper

Pledges on Paper

Dear Kim:  

A small family foundation run by a friend of our board chair promised us $10,000 at the beginning of the year and they have not yet paid it. Our board chair was recently told by her friend that the foundation probably wasn’t going to be able to pay because the market had wiped out a lot of their assets, but I can’t understand why they didn’t pay sooner.

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Finance vs. Development

Finance vs. Development
Mixing Oil and Water and Making it Work in a Non-Profit Organization 

The receiving and the handling of donations made to non-profit organizations are simple to do, but very often poorly done. When that happens, a vital block is taken out of the foundation we strive to build in an effort to ensure donor loyalty for future gifts. Lost or misplaced checks and other communications from donors, late and erroneous recording of gift/pledge dates and amounts, delayed and otherwise neglected acknowledgments, spelling errors of donors’ names, etc., all lead to lost or upset donors. 

We can all agree that this critically important process must be done right. And it starts with the very first check or pledge from a donor when it arrives in the mail room. But in many non-profit organizations, there is a sharply divided opinion regarding just where those checks, pledges, and other donor communications should go next in order to ensure that all goes right with the receiving, posting, acknowledging, reporting, and banking process of donations. 

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How to figure Retention and Attrition Rate in FundRaiser

How to figure Retention and Attrition Rate in FundRaiser

In Kim Klein's article on stopping a subtle decline in donations, she mentions the importance knowing your donor retention and attrition rates. You can figure donor retention (how many you have kept) and atttrition (how many you lost) easily using Fundraiser. 

Both are calculated by taking all the donors you had in the previous calendar year and comparing which of those donors gave in the most current complete calendar year. In other words, which of the people who gave in 2014 also gave in 2015? Expressing that number as a percentage of loss gives you your attrition rate; expressed as a percentage of renewal gives you your retention rate.

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Are Small Gifts a Waste of Time

Are Small Gifts a Waste of Time

Dear Kim,

I am writing to you as a donor. I give away 10% of my income every year and support about 25 organizations with donations in the $20-$50 range with a few at $100. I live on social security but I don’t have many expenses so I can do this. But I read recently that gifts of $20 and $25 aren’t that useful to organizations because it costs so much to process them. The article said to make fewer gifts of higher amounts. I like giving to a lot of organizations but I don’t want to waste their time (or my money.) You are in fundraising so what do you think?

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Case Study: Our Clubhouse's management of simultaneous campaigns

Case Study: Our Clubhouse's management of simultaneous campaigns

Our Clubhouse.org has a dedication to improving the lives of cancer survivors that inspires me. They keep up a very active schedule of fundraising to pay for the services they offer to cancer survivors and their families. They started small, using FundRaiser Basic, and over the years have built momentum so that they now are running several events at once. Staying organized is a challenge, and they have done it by skillful use of special campaign management features in FundRaiser Software.

Using the Campaign Management Console is straightforward, and in doing so, Gilda’s Club of Western PA is able to easily view campaign ROI, and make adjustments as needed to their campaigns. Debra Markovich, Executive Assistant at Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania uses FundRaiser Professional on a daily basis and explains how they stay organized while running several simulaneous events:

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The Importance of Upgrading Your Donors

The Importance of Upgrading Your Donors

ORGANIZATIONS THAT WANT TO GROW and thrive in this century need to be clear about three things:

1. Givers give. In the United States, 70 percent of the adult population makes regular donations to nonprofits. Many thousands more give money in much more informal ways such as helping homeless people asking for money on the street, buying raffle tickets and products from schoolchildren, and giving money to friends and relatives in need. More people give away money than vote, than volunteer, or than attend any house of worship. These people are going to give to your organization, or they will give to another one.

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Asking for the Money: "If you don't ask, you don't get" -- Part 2 Meeting with donors for a Big Ask

Asking for the Money: "If you don't ask, you don't get" -- Part 2 Meeting with donors for a Big Ask

read part 1 Preparing for the ASK

The Opening: How It’s Handled Will Determine Its Outcome

The first meeting should not take place in a public space such as a restaurant with its distractions and interruptions. Solicitors should begin by talking with prospects about professional and personal interests, mutual friends and acquaintances, places and times where their lives may have crossed. However, solicitors should not forget why they are there. Quickly, but naturally, discussion of the campaign should be worked into the conversation. Solicitors should mention their own personal involvement and commitment to the organization as a way of explaining why it is of such great value to the community. They must convey how important the current fund-raising campaign is to the organization’s future. When appropriate, a tour of the organization’s facilities and the opportunity to meet others involved with the organization should be offered. Finally, solicitors should ask prospects to consider supporting the organization by making a pledge in the suggested amount.

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Asking for the Money: "If you don't ask, you don't get" -- Part 1 Preparing for the ASK

Asking for the Money: "If you don't ask, you don't get" -- Part 1 Preparing for the ASK

Generally, the first step in asking prospects to make a donation is to send them a letter. This is true no matter the type of campaign or potential size of gift. In the small-gifts division of an annual campaign the letter may be the only step, although I would recommend having it followed up by a telephone call, if at all possible. Even in door-to-door solicitations, a letter should be sent first announcing the date of, reason for, and, in most cases, the suggested amount of the request. In the case of larger gifts, the letter announces that a solicitor will be calling for an appointment. We refer to this kind of letter as the proposal letter because it proposes that the prospect become a donor to an organization.

Proposal letters are usually signed either by the solicitor or by the campaign chair. In the case of the latter, the status and power of the chair are lent to what is essentially a request of the prospect to meet with a solicitor. If signed by the chair, you can also be sure the letters all went out by a specific time. This also forces solicitors to act by the time the letter says they will be calling for an appointment. However, not every solicitor will be able to make the initial calls in the same time frame. One or more solicitors may be out of town when the letter hits. Consequently, there is less likelihood of being in error as to when solicitors will be calling if the timing of proposal letters is left in the hands of the solicitors.

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Lee Johnson, new FundRaiser Support Technician

Lee Johnson, new FundRaiser Support Technician

We’re pleased to announce that Lee Johnson joined the FundRaiser technical support staff this month. He brings to the staff a strong background in computer service and repair, and recent training in programming and web development. He has worked at a local computer service shop in West Plains for the past 8 years since moving from California to West Plains, Missouri and just graduated with a degree in computer science from Missouri State University. He started his computer training in California, where he was born. His long-term goal is to be working in programming full time. His real love is programming in Sql database, which is the basis for FundRaiser, so we are pleased to have him on board.

This month, Lee is getting up to speed on the ins-and-outs of FundRaiser, taking training classes and going in-depth with the program.  You’ll begin to hear his pleasant easy going voice answering technical calls soon. 

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Accepting 'No' & Moving On

Accepting 'No' & Moving On

Dear Kim,

I am the executive director of a small environmental justice organization focused on organizing a community to stand up to a large and highly polluting CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.) We have recently had some victories but need to keep pushing. One of our board members comes from quite a wealthy family and he has been very generous himself plus raised a lot of money from family and friends. But recently we needed an extra $10,000 very quickly so I went to him and he said he couldn’t give anything right now. I didn’t say anything but I was really upset. The man has more money than all of us put together! I need to get him to change his mind. How can I do that?

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