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.

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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Pledge management is key to capital campaign success

Planet Improvement Center sign

When BRING Recycling began their capital campaign it was a big jump for them. Kara Brinkman, Administrative Assistant at BRING Recycling and a FundRaiser Select user, says "The capital campaign was a major change in mind set for our organization. We started out very grassroots in 1971 as a recycling center. As the community has become more aware and involved in our mission we’ve also evolved. Raising money and courting donors didn't come naturally to us, but we've done well. The community here in Eugene has been really supportive."

Their key to Phase 1

BRING’s capital campaign started with raising the money to build a “Planet Improvement Center.” The Center is a resale outlet for used building materials; and a community learning and action center. BRING has successfully finished Phase I of their capital campaign, raising over a million dollars in the process and built the building. Pledges have been key to the success of the capital campaign. "We had pledges ranging from $40 to $40,000. A lot of people wanted the option to make a pledge," says Kara.

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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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Converting In-Kind Donors to Financial Supporters

Dear Kim:

We are a 50-year-old social service agency mostly supported by government grants.  We do have about 600 donors who help us every year and we do a reasonable job keeping in touch with them.  We also have about 300 people who give us in-kind gifts and I have tried all kinds of solicitations to encourage them to give money as well as stuff, but I have had a really poor response.  Someone said that you said in-kind donors often don’t become money donors.  Is that true?  Should I stop trying to convert them? 

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What's in an Acronym?

In Kim Klein's blog article this month, she explains what the term LYBUNT means, which is a good thing, but there is another that is used in FundRaiser we need to know, too:  SYBUNT.  SYBUNT is similar to LYBUNT, but reaches further into a lapsed donor's past.  A SYBUNT has given "Some Year But Not This".  You can find both of these terms scattered throughout FundRaiser:  in the "WHO" section of reports and mass mailings (in the "MasterFile" dropdown), the "Common Patterns" section of creating a Grouping, and elsewhere.  They are just easier ways to describe certain donor situations.

Precisely, Generally Speaking

Once you know the definitions, you may run into another situation due to the business world view that there are two distinct types of years:  calendar and fiscal (which FundRaiser calls "Reporting" year).  FundRaiser's Reporting year is, by default, set to the calendar year, but can be changed to coincide with the fiscal year your organization uses for accounting purposes.  It's changed in the Options, General, Printing menu, and requires that you set the beginning month of the yearly period you want to consider for your Reporting year.  Be aware that, if you make a change here, you will need to run the Rebuild Statistics Page Data utility (in the Utilities menu) in order to make certain all the yearly totals reflect your reporting year, and that people are able to be put properly in their LYBUNT and SYBUNT places.

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Inviting LYBUNTS to Renew Their Support

Photo of cats

Dear Kim:

What is a Lie-Bunt?  I have some pro bono consulting from this high powered direct mail and social media person and she told me we have a lot of lie-bunts we should be asking.  I already feel stupid around her and don’t want to ask her what she means.  Do you have any idea? 

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Tracking Donor Interests or 'What's in a Code?'

Noting the differences

It can be a bit confusing, trying to figure out which type of code really is best for tracking a particular aspect of your fundraising efforts.  But let's try to de-mystify the process a bit.  In the simplest terms, there are only two major types of codes in FundRaiser:  those that attach to Name Records, and those that attach to individual Gift Records.  So, really, the big question you have to ask, when you want to track some aspect of your donor base is this:  "Does this pertain to the person, or to the gift?"

Personal attributes, or interests

For those things that pertain to the person (or organization), you have several choices of Code types, but the most flexible are the Category Codes.  You can have (practically speaking) an unlimited number of category codes from which to choose, and you can apply as many as you need to any name record you like.  If you want to show, for instance, that a person is concerned with environmental issues, or child welfare, or government policies, or anything else, you can use Category codes for that.  Donor Type, Source, and Solicitor codes are more restrictive, with only one of each code allowed per name record, and they are intended for more distinct types of references.  As with any information you hold on donors and prospective donors, these codes can help determine how you might approach people with some form of donation appeal, based on their interests.

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Why Give to the Arts When People Are Starving in the Gutter?

I actually read that riveting question in the marginal notes of a proposal for funding an orchestra. The notes were penned by a trustee of a grant-making foundation during a meeting to review the proposal. Another trustee of the foundation, the one who presented the proposal on behalf of the orchestra, later showed them to me and asked what I could do help counter his colleague’s questioning remark.

Arts and cultural institutions are often forced into such defensive postures. They’re accused of only benefiting the elite. The needs of the hungry, the homeless, the physically, mentally and emotionally challenged are cited as so great that something as frivolous as the arts should not be drawing from the pool of available support for non-profit organizations. Those of us who work with and passionately support the arts are asked how we can justify "diverting" funds to the arts when such need exists.

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3 Tips for Grouping by Donation Range

1.  Define your parameters

When you create groupings, you need to have specifics in mind, to insure against overlap and exclusion.  In other words, you want to make certain you don't miss anyone, but, at the same time, you want to make certain that no one record will be in multiple groupings for the same mailing.  In Kim Klein's recent blog article, she talks about asking for specific amounts, or asking people to give within certain ranges of giving.  So before you can ask for the right amount, you need to know who gave what amount in the past.  And those are the parameters I'm talking about.  Do you want just major donors?  How do define that?  Is it a certain size gift during a certain previous time period, or a total of giving during a previous time period, or something else altogether.  You may end up needing several groupings, since you'll want to word your written appeal in different ways for different giving levels.  So make sure you set your parameters carefully in advance to get the best and "cleanest" groupings possible.

2.  Don't Overlap Ranges

As you define your parameters, make sure that your ranges, whether date ranges for previous giving, or dollar amount ranges for separating donor levels, do not overlap.  If you have overlap, you may end up with name records that fit into more than one grouping, and, therefore, could receive multiple appeals instead of a single one.  This can be a turn-off for a donor, and it's certainly confusing for them, if not for you, too.  With date ranges, it's fairly straight forward.  With dollar amounts, however, it's a good idea to have distinct amounts for your range extremes.  In other words, if you are looking for people who gave more than $100, but not $500 or more, then that range would be $100.00 through $499.99, with the NEXT range starting at $500.00.  Otherwise, you might have a donor who gave exactly $500.00 falling into both the 100-500 and 500-1000 groupings.

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Asking for a Specific Amount

Acknowledging the abundance that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

Dear Kim:

I have often heard and others say that when you are asking for money, you need to name an amount or a range.  I feel uncomfortable doing this, and I think some of my donors do not like being asked for a specific amount.  I work with a lot of donors who are deeply religious and look to GOD to tell them what to give, not me.  Can I violate this best practice and still be successful?

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3 Ways to Track Miscellaneous Data in FundRaiser

1.  Spare Fields

Whether you have Spark, Select, or Professional, there are at least 3 spare fields available to you for entering extra or unusual information.  Spare fields can contain either text or numbers, or they can be code dropdowns, date dropdowns, or even logical yes/no checkboxes.  You can label them in any way you choose, too.  Best of all, whatever you put in a spare field will be available for use in correspondence, User-Defined reports, and exporting.  Create them in the Options | Spare Fields menu, and get a bit of training in them by viewing the Coding & Spare Fields video class found in the Customer Portal section of the website.

2.  Tickles

In both Select and Professional, the Tickles tab of each name record allows you to enter date-sensitive reminders about your donors.  Normally they are used to record (and remind you of) birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.  In the Overview class, I also instruct users that they can be used as a means of tracking personal contacts with your major donors.  Well, here's another place you can use, then, to record specific information about your corporate donors...

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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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Do You Really “Know” Your Corporate Donors And Prospects?

Listening is important in an conversation

We should–and usually do–work hard to make our best possible case for support to corporations. We of course want them to know as much as possible about us. But what we know about them is just as likely to determine the outcome of a request.

I was recently thinking about the extent to which we need to know our corporate prospects in order to make the assessments, ratings, and evaluations that should precede requests for funding. That brought to mind the annual fund-raising conferences for our geographic area that I would attend each year. The conferences usually included three or four contributions managers from large corporations and banks.

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Collecting Pledges

Patience and persistence of Nature as a model

Dear Kim:

A donor recently promised a donation of $2500 but hasn’t paid it.  How can I collect this money?  We could really use it but don’t want to be rude.

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7 ways an alumni foundation improved donor cultivation by moving from Excel to a donor database

Mariemont School Foundation didn’t really want to move from their Excel spreadsheets to a donor database, but their new development director said they needed to if they wanted to be more successful. “The people who were on the foundation board didn’t want to learn something new, but then they hired a development director who said in order to be a successful group, donor management software was something we needed to grow our organization. You start out as a grass roots organization and then you need someone to say, ‘to grow your organization this is something you need to do’.” says Ann Pardue, who is a Trustee on the Board of the Mariemont School Foundation.

Since starting to use the donor database, the foundation has seen great gains

According to Ann, Mariemont has been able to:

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When I Forgot the Meaning of Philanthropy

Recently, during a meeting at our Church, I talked to Alice, our pastoral associate, about my wife Joyce and I offering to give a special major contribution for a program she heads.

Alice is in charge of a group who regularly review the cases of fellow parishioners in desperate need of money to pay overdue bills for household utilities, rent, mortgage, medical expenses, and other critical needs.

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Why Appreciating Gifts of All Sizes Matters

Photo of plants expressing idea of slow and steady growth

Dear Kim:

We have thousands of individual donors and recently decided to stop sending thank you notes to people who give less than $15.  One of our board members heard you speak and said that you said everyone should be thanked, regardless of size of gift.  The cost/benefit of this eludes me. 

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3 Dead-On Grouping Tricks to Treat you right

1.  Standard exclusions for print mailings

Whenever you create a Grouping intended for the sole purpose of sending out printed correspondence (letters, labels, envelopes), it's a good idea to use multiple lines of criteria in the Grouping, with the first line consisting of things you DON'T want, and subsequent lines for things you DO want.  It makes no sense, for instance, to include in a mailing Grouping anyone who doesn't have a complete mailing address, since they'll never receive it.  It makes less sense, perhaps, to include those records marked as "Deceased".  And you *may* want to exclude those who are marked as "Inactive", as well.  In this case, then, you could start the first line of criteria using the Common Patterns | Exclude section and mark "Inactive" and "Deceased", and then use the Finish Criteria button to save that line.  Then you would need to use the AND separator to start a new line of criteria and go to the Donor | Geo 2 section and select "Has An Incomplete Primary Address".  I know, we don't want incomplete addresses, so once you click the "Finish Criteria" button for this line, you'll use the NOT button (to the right of the criteria display), which will change it to say "does not have an incomplete address".  If you are okay with this method, then you'll just click the AND button again to start a third line, and use this line for any other criteria, such as donation information, or something else.  This will make certain that, no matter what other criteria you use to select people for the mailing, you'll have no "dead" mail (pun intended) costing you resources while doing no good.  Consider using this scheme for each mailing Grouping.

2.  Easily track mass mailings

An easy way to keep track of all the non-thank-you-letter mass mailing correspondence you do will also revolve around Groupings.  Normally you don't mail to everyone in your database at any one time, but, rather, target records for mailings by creating Groupings.  So, since you will normally have a Grouping in place, take an extra step or two and use the Groupings menu choice of "Assign Category Code to All" while you have the Grouping open.  Then, create a Category Code that reflects the mailing you are doing.  You don't need to create the Category Code first, but can do it "on the fly".  So, say I'm doing an Appeal Letter in October of 2013.  I might call the Category Code "October 2013 Appeal Letter", with a code of "AL1310" (no quotes for either, by the way).  When I assign this code to all the records in the Grouping I've created for this mailing, I remove any doubt as to who received the mailing, and I have an easy one-code identifier for them.  This means that, even though the Grouping may be lost, destroyed, or changed over time, I will always have a means of pulling together the records of those who received my October appeal letter.  It only takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish, and can be quite useful in the future.  One other suggestion:  once you've mass-assigned a code, consider marking the code as no longer active (Windows | Codes menu), so that no one will accidentally assign it to anyone else.

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3 Tips for Exporting Data to Spreadsheets

Why Export Data to Other Programs??

You know, from my point of view, "why" is a question I don't always feel inclined (or capable) to answer.  Sometimes the best answer to "why" is simply "because".  Why export?  Because I want to export.  It's a valid reason, and so it behooves us at FundRaiser to make it as easy as possible to perform the task, even though it's a relatively little-used task when compared to most features of the program.  We don't need to know "why" you want to export, but YOU need to know HOW to export, and here are some tips to get the job accomplished in the best possible way for your purposes.

1.  Export or Print to File??  Choosing the right method.

Under the File menu, the "Export" option enables you to send data to various file formats that can be easily read by other programs.  The ASCII/dBase option gives you several choices, but the most common for spreadsheets is the CSV (Comma-Separated-Values) file format.  Exporting, however, has some limitations, in that you can only export fields that are available in the "Field Selection" list.  You may have noticed that only "statistical" gift data can be exported, rather than individual gift information.  So, when you need to export that type of information, the best bet is to use the "Print to Excel" option found in almost all reports (like the donation/deposit reports).  While this option will not be as "clean" as exporting to a CSV and then opening the resulting file in a spreadsheet, it WILL allow you to bring those multiple gifts into play.  So, the first step to exporting is to decide the level of detail you need, and either choose to Export (less detail) or Print to Excel, using a report (more detail, but more cleanup needed in the resulting Excel/spreadsheet file).

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2 Situations When You Might Want to Consider Using Access or Excel for Donor Management

With the proper template (and there is one for nonprofits included with Access), it's not too difficult for someone with a modicum of computer savvy to put together a program to handle the basics of fundraising using either Excel or Access. However, remember that the fundraising world is not static, and neither should be your fundraising program—continuing maintenance could become a drain on your time and resources.

In our opinion, there are two situations in which using Access or Excel (or similar products) might make sense.

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