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.

Donor Research

Keep trying until you get it right

Dear Kim:

I work with a small college and I am trying to find information about our individual donors.  I want to know about their donor history and what they have been involved in.  Since I can’t access tax returns, do you know of any other resource that would help me find this information?

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Knowing Where Your Data Are (Stored)

In this weeks' blog by Tony Poderis, entitled "Going Where Your Donors Are", there is a hint of the types of extra information your may want to keep on your major donors.  In past blogs, I have tried to help explain some of the ways you can keep, and retrieve, various information about your donors, but it might be helpful to give you a more well-defined view.  Please keep in mind:  there is no single answer.  These are just my suggestions.

Keep general information in the fields provided, so much as possible.  The idea is to minimize the amount and type of data stared in "odd" locations, so that it is less likely to be overlooked when needed.  

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Going Where Your Donors Are

Take the chance to communicate in person with donors

It’s not always possible to bring donors to your organization in order to get face time with them. So, does that mean you give up on your efforts to have in-person communication with donors too busy to commit to visiting? Not by a long shot. Take the initiative and make a site visit of your own—to a donor’s site. Schedule an appointment to pay a call on a donor you wish to cultivate, and have a reason for that call. Share information on new projects. Bring along a staff person you would like the donor to meet.

Maybe best of all, set up an appointment with the donor to ask the donor’s advice about something. Asking someone for help is the most flattering thing you can do. There are few things that will draw donors closer to an organization on a professional level than having the organization turn to them for their knowledge and expertise. Just think, there you are asking for something, and it isn’t money.

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Personal Form Letters: Oxymoron?!



(NOTE:  originally published 9/11/2013)  It sounds like an oxymoron:  “personal” form letters.  How can a form letter be personal at all?   Well that’s really a big part of what donor management software is all about, whether it’s FundRaiser Basic, Spark, Select, or Professional.  In the old days, when everything was done with typewriters and people power, some organizations would get pre-printed letters with gaps or spaces in the areas that needed to be filled in with the “personal” information.  Now, though, with the power of the computer and well-designed software programs, we can do essentially the same thing, but resulting in letters that are not obvious “fill-in-the-blanks” forms.  Each letter is individually fitted, printed, and contains information specific to the recipient.

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Gift Thank-Yous and Acknowledgements

Take time to personalize thank you letters

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.

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How to pick your invitation list

In this week's Tony Poderis blog, the focus is inviiting donors to events that they might not "normally" be invited to attend.  Any time we are faced with selecting a portion of our donor database, we should be thinking "Groupings".  And any time we think "Groupings", we should take a few moments to consider what criteria will be used for the group of names we have in mind.  One simple, yet effective, method of consideration is to write a concise, but complete, sentence describing who it is that we are trying to target.

Any data can be used

Since we can use virtually any information that is stored in our records, we don't really need to focus on the data to make our "selection sentence".  It may be as simple as:  "I want all the people who have given in the past six months".  But be aware that a simple statement may not be complete.  What if a donor has died since they last gave?  What if a donor has no address, no phone, and no email on record?  What if they have been designated as someone who NEVER wants to receive any solicitations from you?  So maybe the original statement might become more like:  "I want all live donors who gave in the past six months, so long as we can contact them and they haven't opted out of such contact".  Not so concise, but more specific, and more likely to give you the results you want.

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Site Visits to Build Donor Loyalty

Take the time to speak personally to your donors

There is no better way to expose donors to the good works your organization does than by having them visit your facilities, or than by taking them to another location to see the results of a project or program of your organization. We call these events site visits and when donors are on site:

You have their undivided attention.They can be shown exactly how contributions are being used.You can introduce them to key staff.They can meet individuals benefiting from the organization.They ask questions, the answers to which may allow for additional contact.They acquire information that they will share with others.They end up feeling good about being a donor.

Another way to bring donors to your organization is to comp them to events or performances you host. This is easy to do if you are an arts or education organization. However, other organizations also have events. There is always the annual meeting. Make sure donors receive an invitation and make it a “special” invite.

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Clues on Using Que(ue)s

In this week's Kim Klein blog, several steps are suggested on how one might encourage donors to continue their support when the founder leaves the organization.  One of the first is to "make a list" of people to personally contact with the news that you (the founder) are leaving.  Another is to send a letter "to all your donors and funders" to welcome in the new person who is to take your place.  While it's easy to create a grouping of all donors and funders, it may not be so easy to create a grouping of those who "would assume they would hear it from you".

Unless you've coded them in some way unique to this idea (and why would you have?), then you'll probably need to pick them out of your database one by one.  You could, of course, give them each a common code as you finde each record and then be able to group them together in the future, but you'll most likely never need that particular mix of donors grouped together again.  So why not use the Que?

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Fundraising After Your Founder Leaves

Good communication avoids many future problems

Dear Kim:

I have been working for 10 years as the director of a social justice nonprofit that I founded. Since we have no development director, I’m the primary fundraising staff. I am considering leaving my position to stay at home with my young child. Many of our donors were brought into the organization through me, and I’m concerned some of them may stop giving if I’m no longer on staff. What can I do over the next three-four months to encourage as many of them as possible to remain part of our work after I am gone?

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ROI tips for Spark and Select

In Sasha's blog this week, Julie, at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, explains how they use FundRaiser Professional's Campaign Management section to keep track of return on investment (ROI) for various events, as well as keeping track of responses to mailings, like newsletters.  But what if you don't have Professional?  Can you work around that limitation to get a better picture of ROI and similar characteristics of your campaigns?  Well, the answer is "yes", you can, but it may take a bit more creative thought and planning on your part.  Here are a few tips to help:

1.  ROI is a simple math problem... honestly

So, how simple is it?  Well, it's just a matter of taking the expenses involved in a fund raising effort (whether a mailing, physical event, or advertising, etc.) and subtracting them from the donations derived from that effort.  Even with Campaign Management, you need to know the total expenses in order to "plug in" that amount to the event page.  In other words, then, ROI = Income, less Expenses:   ROI = I - E

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Donor management software helps nonprofit track fundraising event ROI

Knowing the balance between incoming donations and outgoing expenses is vitally important at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. The organization runs a large and historically rich facility on a tight budget. The facility serves as a spiritual center for the Catholic Church. Among the Center’s many activities this year, they have been hosting events and retreats for high schools students.Julie Nerl is currently a one-person development staff for the Center. “It’s a large place with few employees,” she says. “Like most nonprofits we all multi-task.” Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center is a FundRaiser Professional user. Julie is the main user of FundRaiser. “I use the FundRaiser Software system daily,” she says.One of important things she uses the software for is to get a clear picture of event return on investment (ROI). This is one of the main challenges for any nonprofit, and especially crucial if funds are tight. For Julie, the Campaign Management section in FundRaiser has been particularly helpful in this regard. 

ROI on newsletter donation envelopes

This year she focused on clarifying the cost versus income on the newsletter. “We insert a reply envelope in every newsletter, it’s not a formal ask but a reminder. I mark the envelope, so when it comes back, I’ll be able to track exactly where the donations come from and if we are receiving enough to cover the cost of the newsletter,” says Julie.“We send an issue every other month. In the Campaign Management section, I track each issue as a sub-event under the annual fundraising campaign. I enter the expenses of the newsletter and track the donations. That has let me report on the actual costs versus income. I can track and see what month we raise the most or least. We are using the information to determine if we should cut down on our newsletter mailings or replace one with another kind of mailing.”“It’s important to know where your donations are coming from and which fundraising events work and which do not,” explains Julie “That’s why I like Fundraiser Software, it’s easy to see the results.”

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3 Tips for Capital Campaign Reports

This week's guest blog, by Tony Poderis, suggest that, in a capital campaign, fully one third of your goal should 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 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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Capital Campaigns: Building for Now

A capital campaign raises money that will be spent to acquire or improve a physical asset. The most common use of a capital campaign is for the purchase, construction, or renovation of a building (commonly referred to as “bricks and mortar”). However, an organization can conduct a capital campaign to purchase machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures, or any physical asset that can be reflected on its balance sheet.

The purpose of a capital campaign differs from that of an endowment campaign in that the money raised will not be used to cover ongoing, operational expenses, or to fund special projects. Capital funds are spent on one-time or seldom recurring expenditures. The primary difference between capital and endowment funds is that capital funds are not retained and invested to yield income. However, capital and endowment campaigns are very similar in their planning and management.

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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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