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.

How Often Should You Communicate with Donors?

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When your organization receives a gift, you send a thank you letter. Perhaps the donor has requested to be subscribed to your newsletter, which is sent maybe once a quarter. Other than that, do you reach out to your donors? Are you afraid you’re talking to them too much?

It’s a fine balance between too much outreach and not enough. On one hand, you don’t want your donors to forget about you, and it happens in even those with the best of intentions. People’s lives are busy. In the hustle and bustle of juggling jobs and family along with everything else, something as simple as sending a check slips through the cracks.

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Do's and Don'ts of Texting Donors

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Dear Kim,

I am wondering about texting our current and lapsed donors to ask for money? We have a donor base that tends to be young and we have lot of phone numbers (sometimes we have a cell number and not a snail mail address). I think this would work well because it is much more efficient than writing and calling and a lot of people don’t use their phone for calling anymore. My ED wants me to check with someone else. What do you think?

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Two Ways to Entice Lapsed Donors With Your Letters

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Now that the busy holiday giving season, as well as end of the year tax letters are completed, it’s time to look at ways to bring donors back who perhaps missed out on giving during the past year (or longer). Even if your organization doesn’t consider a donor lapsed until they haven’t given for a much longer time frame than 12 months, it doesn’t hurt to put some enticements into your letters to bring these donors back.

Once you’ve identified your lapsed donors, it’s time to contact them. A primary reason why organizations may not reach out to lapsed donors is an uncertainty about what to say. There are two things that you can do to help entice these donors to return to your organization.

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One Impactful Action by 12/31

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Dear Kim,

I have taken many fundraising workshops, including from you, and I always find that I learn a lot. BUT, and this is a big BUT, I am hardly ever able to implement anything I learned because I have no time. Someone suggested just trying to figure out one thing I could do differently for a short period of time, so I am asking you: what is one thing I could do between now and the end of the calendar year that will make a big difference to our fundraising?

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Identifying Lapsed Donors

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The goal of a nonprofit organization is to acquire and keep a stable, and growing, donor base. Preferably these donors give often, at least once a year, if not quarterly, or even monthly. And yet, in the day to day operations of the organization, it’s easy to lose track of the donors who simply have stopped giving.

Donors stop connecting with your organization for many reasons, but probably the two largest are either due to financial circumstances changing or it simply slipped their mind. In our busy lives, “out of sight, out of mind” happens all too often, and not just with the causes we want to support. Before we can reconnect with our donors we need to identify who has lapsed.

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Anonymous Donors

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Dear Kim,

I am the ED of a medium sized organization (budget just over $3 million). We raise $1 million from government (we hope that continues), $1 million from fees and rentals, varying amounts from foundations and about $600,000 from individuals. I recently solicited and got a gift of $50,000 but the person made me swear I would never tell another soul where the money came from. I did, but later wondered if that was the right thing to do. What are the protocols for anonymous donors? Can you have a donor that only one person in the organization knows about? If not, should I go back to this person and explain that I made a mistake?

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Looking Deeper Into the Donor Period Comparison Report

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The Donor Period Comparison Report (available on FundRaiser Select and Professional) provides a powerful way to receive an overview of your donors’ giving over several set time periods. From monthly to quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly, this report allows you to see a list of all your donors (or just a selection) and the totals of their giving for each period. In one glance you can chart trends, view donors who haven’t given and even see percentage and dollar amounts of the increase or decrease in giving.

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Using FundRaiser Reports to Support Your Capital Campaign

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When looking if your organization has what it takes to succeed with a capital campaign, FundRaiser reports can help. As a rule of thumb, fully one third of your goal will 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 if you have that kind of commitment from a large enough pool of donors and 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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Using Reports To Set Fund Raising Goals

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With the start of a new year, there’s a good chance that you’re already well into strategic planning for 2019. No doubt you have a list of goals to achieve such as a certain number or percentage increase in new donors, more consistent donor acquisition, and an increase in total giving or perhaps getting your major donors to increase their giving by a certain percent. No matter your goal, FundRaiser Software has reports which will help you track and reach these goals. 

Increasing the Overall Number of Donors and Prospects

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Using Merge Fields for a Special Touch in Letters

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What happens when saying thank you isn’t enough? Your donors love to receive acknowledgement of your gifts, and these letters often include the phrase (or something similar) “thank you for your generous donation”. And yet, there are times, especially in the case of major donors, when you want to say more. How do you handle it?

On every gift within FundRaiser, there’s a “Letter Notes for Merging” field. This field is designed for you to type additional notes which can be inserted into a letter, such as the thank you letter. In this way, you can type a personalized note that will appear on the letter and customize it for each gift.

You’ll find the “Letter Notes for Merging” field on the notes tab of the gift. This field differs from the “in house” notes, which will remain within the program and cannot be merged into a letter. The field provides unlimited space for you to type a personalized note, and while this isn’t designed to replace the thank you letter, it can certainly provide a way to share appreciation. I wrote about this field when I recently talked about auction gifts.

However, there may be times when you want to put an additional post script or personalized note in your appeal, end of year, or other correspondence. For example, if someone had been a volunteer at an event last year and you wanted to invite them back or even provide a welcome message when sending out a first appeal or welcome kit if someone signs up at an event, this field would provide a place to do so.

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Moving up the Donor Management Ladder

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I've been thrilled with my explorations as a volunteer fundraiser for a small all-volunteer nonprofit that I support. Four years ago, I moved donor information from Excel spreadsheets into FundRaiser's simplest program, FundRaiser Basic.  At that time, I had no hands-on experience raising money, and I was eager to try out some of the things I'd learned from talking to customers in my work at FundRaiser. 

As it turned out, success was relatively easy. Yes, it's true what 'they' say: sending thank you letters, following up with donors who gave last year but not this year, and making sure that donors don't fall through the cracks does result in more stable incoming donations. I've learned lots of good lessons in fundraising and what's more I've really enjoyed the work. Now, on our 5th year using FundRaiser Software, the organization is more financial stable than ever before, all funded by grassroots giving-- loyal donors who believe in our work and aren't likely to move on as a grant or foundation often does. 

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New Organization? Creating Your First Thank You Letter

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When you’re new to using donor management software, one of the things you will do is create your first thank you letter. Even if you’ve been using the software for a while, you’ll probably create new letters, so a lot of what we’ll cover will apply to long-time users of the software as well. One of the biggest tasks of writing a thank you letter is deciding what to say. You want to strike a balance between conveying your organization’s mission and thanking the donor, while being personable, yet professional.

Within our software we provide a template to get you started. While we call this our “Generic Thank You Letter”, there certainly will be nothing generic about it once you’ve followed our lead. We provide the template, including automatically adding in merge fields for the gifts and the donor’s address. And more importantly, we provide pointers to give you an idea of what to write.

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Our Heartfelt Thanks As We Roll into the New Year

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As we roll over into the New Year, there is no doubt that the past year was an eventful one – in fact, I learned a new term tio describe my experience: news fatigue. In case you haven’t experienced this, yourself, news fatigue occurs when you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up. According to Pew Research, nearly seven in ten Americans claimed to have it in 2018– and that was in July!

So, in light of that, I’m going to make this New Year message short and sweet. With this New Year, I would like to send out a heartfelt thanks to all of you, our FundRaiser Family. You make it possible for us to continue to work in this space, and we are proud to be able to support your efforts. Every day, we are privileged to be in direct contact with the very best of the workforce – the helpers, the volunteers, the recruiters, the fundraisers, the directors, the organizers. All of you, who are dedicating your time and careers to nonprofit work are shining examples of how to be the change in the world, and we are proud and grateful to be of service to you. Thank you for continuing to do the work that you do, and thank you for continuing to allow us to be a part of that, as well. Joshua and I and the whole FundRaiser Team wish you all a very happy happy New Year, too.  We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2019!

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Handling Holiday Auction Gifts

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Auctions are a popular part of holiday fundraising and festivities. People are often looking for gifts and a charitable donation while they’re marking off items on their holiday list creates a great way to raise funds and provide value to your donors. Auctions also provide a way for local businesses to promote themselves and do good in the local community. Once the auction is over, how do you enter in the money raised from the auction?

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Gift Thank Yous Are the Heart of Appreciation

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Dear Kim,As a new fundraiser for a mental health provider, I would like to know the etiquette and proper mode of thanking someone for either an in-kind gift or a monetary donation. It is bad form to send a pre-printed card to acknowledge the gift? I am referring to monetary gifts under $100. ~Ms. Manners, Jr.

Dear Junior Ms.,

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Thank Your Donors With Pictures

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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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Spice Up Your Thank You Notes With What Interests You

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Dear Kim:You are often quoted as saying things like, “Thank before you bank,” and “The thank you note is the most important element in a donor relationship” and other pro-thank you note statements.  But how do you make a thank you note interesting?  And do donors really read them?  And what if I think the gift the donor gave isn’t really what they could afford so I am not that thankful? ~Dubious Dear Dubious:.

Your letter poses several questions, and I will quickly dispatch the last one first.  You need to change up your attitude toward the gifts that are given to your organization.  Any gift is more than nothing, and donors are making all kinds of choices.  You really don’t know what people can afford and you need to thankful they thought of you.

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Exciting Developments on the Horizon for a FundRaiser Software

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With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas and the end of the year right around the corner, now is a great time for both reflection and forward thinking. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ways that I am grateful for FundRaiser Software and the huge FundRaiser Family that comes with it – I’ve been here for more than fifteen years and have had the great honor to work with some of the most amazing co-workers and customers during this time. I’ve seen the company, the software, and the customers grow and change so much over the years that it’s hard to believe that we had such humble beginnings!

When I began working here, we did not have a central office and were one of the pioneers of the remote workforce movement. I worked from a home office with a (very touchy) satellite internet connection and used our FundRaiser DOS program to keep track of leads, customers, and notes. We had just released our first Windows version and were working to convert customers from DOS to Windows, as well as onboard new customers. We didn’t have much competition back then, either – we were one of about three vendors creating donor management software at that time.

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Making the Most of Donor Preferences

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As part of donor management, being able to mark your donors as inactive or deceased, or even making note of mailing preferences (email vs. paper mail, for example), plays an important role. Not only can good preference management save your organization money by moving more of your donors to email, but it can also ensure that you’re contacting the donors when and how they wish to be reached. Within FundRaiser Software, our preferences tab places all of this information in one handy location, as you can see in the following screenshot:

The Preferences Tabbed Page is broken down into four sections. The first involves mailings and gifts, with an option for excluding from general mailings (newsletters and appeal letters), sending end of year letters if that’s not done automatically by your organization, as well as not sending thank you letters (for frequent donors), and the ability to completely block the addition of gifts to a record (for deceased donors).

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3 Ways To Target Your Giving Tuesday Donors

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As we draw closer to Giving Tuesday, you may be thinking about how to make highly targeted appeals to your donors based on information like their giving history or other factors. Luckily, FundRaiser software makes it easy for you to select groups of donors and then send them correspondence based on your selections. Let’s look at three different ways you can target your Giving Tuesday prospective donors.

Based on past giving

A motivation code tracks what motivated your donors to give a specific gift. This could be an appeal letter, a campaign, an event, or the fact that they gave to Giving Tuesday last year. Perhaps you want to reach out to donors who haven’t yet given this year or ones who have lapsed. Use your criteria to target your communication directly to these donors.

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