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.

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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Donors Surveys: Acting on Findings and Recommendations

Donors Surveys: Acting on Findings and Recommendations
Acting on the Findings and Recommendations

Once a donor survey has been completed and you’ve received a report of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, you’re ready to start the toughest part of the process. Now, you have to listen and pay attention and act. You have a wonderful opportunity to benefit greatly from what your donors told you about the pleasure and satisfaction they derive from their support to your organization, as well as to be alerted to their concerns and cares. You work as best you can to “fix” the things that need fixing, according to what the donors told you. And you need to continue and to enhance the cultivation practices which are the most desired and satisfying to your donors. This will surely help in great measure to maximize your chances for their giving to continue, and it will provide opportunities for even larger gifts in the future.

What if the Donor Survey Tells You What You Don’t Want to Hear?

Make sure that you take the time to go over every aspect of the donor survey. Don’t skip over negative things that on first reading seem minor. It is folly to take the time to conduct a donor survey, spend the money on it, and then risk alienating people important to the organization by ignoring the survey’s recommendations. An organization that ignores some or all of a donor survey’s findings is making a mistake that can damage the organization.

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Donor Surveys: Questions to Learn About Your Donors

Donor Surveys: Questions to Learn About Your Donors
What Do You Know About Your Donorsand What Do They Know About Your Organization?

If we’re going to ask people for money, it sure helps if they think highly of both our organization and its mission.

Do they see our mission as vital and valid?Are we perceived as being successful at carrying out that mission?Has our organization earned and maintained trust and respect?Have we been efficient stewards of donations and resources?Has any controversy been associated with us?Have questions about any of our leaders arisen?Do people believe we are the right organization to address what we declare in our Mission Statement?Do they know enough about us to have formed any deeply held opinions?Learn About Your Donors

Methods to learn the opinions and impressions donors have of your organization can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet.

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Beyond End of Year Letters

Beyond End of Year Letters

Now that January is coming to a close and end of year letters have been printed and mailed, it’s time to think about other ways in which you can prepare for the upcoming year. Performing some general maintenance tasks will help keep your FundRaiser running smoothly and your donor management process easy.

First, think about the letters you send. With the change in the calendar, you can update the accomplishments or perhaps highlight special stories from the previous year that would resonate with your donors. Updating the letters with new codes will help staff and volunteers alike use the correct letter. And don’t forget to mark your old letters inactive to keep them from being repeated.

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In Remembrance of Larry Weaver, the voice of FundRaiser Technical Support

Larry Weaver at his retirement part
 Larry Weaver, at his FundRaiser retirement party in December 2014. 

It is with sadness we report the death on January 13, 2016 of Larry Weaver, long-time employee and friend at Fundraiser.

Many of you have have “known” Larry for years, as he helped all of our FundRaiser users in his roles as Technical Support expert, and in later years, the “star” of our Training videos and live classes. Larry was the first employee hired by founder Gene Weinbeck, and remained, through the ups and downs of the company and his own move from Missouri to Arizona, a staunch friend and supporter of FundRaiser’s mission.

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Segmenting Lists

Segmenting Lists

Dear Kim,

I am about to take the plunge. For years I’ve listened to many fundraisers stress the importance of segmenting your donor lists. For a variety of reasons including laziness, being too busy, and poor software, I have not yet done this.

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New Year, New Codes

New Year, New Codes

For organizations with annual events or campaigns, there are many ways to track the donations that come in each year. From fund and motivation codes to more general category codes, there are a multitude of ways to make sure you know exactly how and why your donors gave to your organization.

Keeping your coding system understandable plays a big role in the effective use of your donor management software. Therefore, when it comes to your annual events, think about using one main code and append then year to it. For example, a gala would be GALA14, GALA15, and so on. This way you would know that all codes that start with “GALA” would be for your annual event. (Or whatever prefix you choose to use for your event.)

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Prepare for sending end-of-year letters to donors for tax season

Prepare for sending end-of-year letters to donors for tax season

Now is the time to start thinking about what information you need for your End of Year letters for tax season.  Start with a few simple decisions and complete your data entry for 2015 in order for the process to go smoothly. Questions to answer are

Will you send out letters to all donors, just to donors who will be required by the IRS to have written proof of their donations, or skip sending them altogether?Do you want to include a fundraising appeal with the tax summary letter? What is a tax summary letter?

Tax Summary letters, often called End of Year letters, give donors information on what they have donated to your organization that year. These statements differ from the holiday appeal, in that they are sent after the holidays. Their primary intention is to give information to the donor for taxes; however it is not uncommon to combine them with another appeal.

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Turn your New Year's Resolutions into End-Of-Year Benefits with FundRaiser Training Options

The Annual Resolution Parade

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 2016, 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.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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