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.

Beautiful Weeds

We’ve had a few days of gentle rain, slowly soaking our rocky Ozark soil to the brim. Water rushes merrily in all the little wet weather streams that chuckle downhill in frothy exuberance. A golden sun blazed forth this morning among billowing clouds and the muted colors of the past few days were transformed into vibrant greens glittering with sparkling jewels of dew.

Purple spring flowersEverything is growing by leaps and bounds now. The wooly sage colored leaves and tiny purple flowers of henbit push brazenly toward the sun while vivid purple violets bow modestly amid their leafy rosettes. I cringe at mowing such lovely plants, but something must be done to keep them in check lest they take over the entire lawn and push out their more timid cousins.

Since this is the final week of Spring Cleaning, I thought a quick lesson on “weeding” out your old Codes would be in order. Codes, especially Category Codes, can certainly grow like weeds in your database obscuring the codes you use frequently and making it time consuming to create reports.

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Spring Fever

The weather has been delightful this week, certainly more like June than March in the Ozarks. Warm fragrant days are interposed with nights of crashing thunderstorms and fresh rain. Plants are pushing through the rocky soil with wild abandon. The blooming pear trees rain white petals and reveal slender branches clad in delicate spring green. A few intrepid butterflies flit here and there among the wildflowers. Blooming pear

All this loveliness is urging me to plunge in to my usual spring planting frenzy. I always plant way more than I need while in the throes of spring fever. All the work and weeding of summer never seems to cross my mind as I decide I can certainly use ten more tomato plants and three kinds of pumpkins. All those seedlings are so small and pretty, somehow I can’t seem to remember just how large they get later. Of course this inexorably ends with crowded garden beds and less yield from all the plants unless I ruthlessly thin them so those that are left can get all the attention they need.

Databases are kind of like gardens that way. It is easy for them to get overcrowded with old or outdated Donor records. This makes it cumbersome and takes your attention away from your active donors. Therefore our Spring Cleaning task for this week is to find and delete all those old, unproductive records. 

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Spring Cleaning

While many of you may still be caught in the icy grip of Old Man Winter, Spring has shown her gentle face in the Ozarks. Trees are blossoming in frothy white and stunning maroon. The undergrowth and thickets sport wisps of tender green. Daffodils and crocus echo the warm yellow sunshine while tiny blue wildflowers lay across the ground like little snips of sky.

Spring has always been a time of cleaning and renewal for me. One of my fondest childhood memories is that the first nice weekend in spring we washed all of the winter-stale bedding and hung it outside in the fresh breeze. That first night of snuggling in crisp sheets and inhaling the sweet smell of outdoors was a real treat!

Spring is also a good time to clean out your FundRaiser Database, getting it ready for all the events and fundraisers that will be taking place over the rest of the year. So I am dedicating the month of March as FundRaiser Spring Cleaning Month and will have a project each week to help your database work more smoothly and be easier to use.

 

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Back from the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville

Joe and Jenny Emert with Autumn Shirley
Josh Shirley with Shawn Rames from WLMB-TV40

Joshua and I have just returned from our second year attending and exhibiting at the National Religious Broadcasting Convention in Nashville, TN, and what a year it was! It was very inspiring to be surrounded by so many passionate and engaged community leaders! I have returned feeling refreshed, invigorated, and excited about what the future holds for us. I found myself thinking over and over, as I met some of the most amazing people, "This is what it's all about. This is why we do this."

We really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with some of our new customers from last year, as well as customers who have been using FundRaiser for years. At one point, Joe Emert and his lovely wife, Jenny (both pictured at right, along with myself), from Life Radio Ministries were chatting with us, when Eric Jingst and Aaron Darr from WLMB-TV40 walked up. Joe said he remembered reading their recent Case Study (published in February's newsletter) that they were using some parts of FundRaiser which he hadn't explored yet, and he'd like to talk with them about that some more to see if it could work for his organization. 

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FundRaiser founder starts new nonprofit

Gene at entrance to OzSBI
Gene Weinbeck, founder and lead programmer of FundRaiser, has also recently helped found a local nonprofit, the Ozark Small Business Incubator (OzSBI). OzSBI helps new business owners bring their creative vision to life. About his involvement in OzSBI, Gene says, "For me, starting a business is the most fun, it’s creative. By being involved in OzSBI, I get to share in the creative excitement of starting a business."OzSBI just opened its doors this fall. Gene is one of several people who have been working for the past 6 years on getting the nonprofit started. Gene says he's used a lot of what he's learned from FundRaiser customers over the years. "For instance, we’re one of the few incubators in the world that has a membership program for the general public. It is an advantage because when people are members they feel more involved and connected. It is an additional source of income, and it helps spread the word about OzSBI." "We are also using FundRaiser online to keep track of memberships and clients, and using the FundRaiser Donor Portal for donations, memberships, and soon for workshop reservations." Now that OzSBI is working with clients, Gene will be involved as a mentor. “I’ve learned a lot about various aspects of business because of all my years with FundRaiser so I have something to share.”
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Using FundRaiser to gain a deeper understanding of your audience

What does the winning of broadcast awards have to do with donor management software? More than you might think!WLMB-TV40 has been recognized for the excellence of its broadcasting with many awards, including 4 time winner of TV Station of the Year by NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) and 7 time winner of the Peoples Choice Award. Visible in their programming is a deep understanding of their audience, and this is where FundRaiser comes in...

Read more...

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See you at National Religious Broadcasters Conference?

We are going to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention Feb 18 - 21, just a little over a week from now! We had a wonderful time last year; it was so invigorating and inspiring to be surrounded by passionate, engaged nonprofit leaders. We enjoyed so much having the opportunity to meet with some of our clients there, and we hope to connect with more of you this year, too. We'll be at Booth #463, and will be looking for you!

 

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Simple segmenting for your newsletter

Yesterday, I heard a great simple idea on how to target newsletters to different segments of your mailing list. If you are sending out an email newsletter to your donors, you can easily customize that content to your donors' specific interests with a little reformatting.You are probably already including a variety of articles in order to appeal to a variety of interests among your donors. So, to help them connect to the specific content that interests them:

First, create segments of your mailing list. You can use data in FundRaiser to do this, such as what motivated the donor to donate; are they volunteering at your organization; have they attended events; or similar data that helps you understand what your donor might want to hear about your organization.Then, when you are ready to send your email newsletter, simply make one copy of it for each segment that you have defined. Now, move the article that is of most interest to a specific segment to the top of the newsletter. Voila, send the appropriately formatted newsletter to each segment, and watch to see if your response increases. Thanks to Heidi Tobias at Constant Contact for sharing this idea.

 

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How are the tax summary letters going?

We're wishing smooth sailing at this busy time of year! How are things going with producing tax summary letters? If you run into questions about using FundRaiser, please contact us for help !    

 

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Producing Tax Summary Letters

It's time to produce Tax Summary letters (also called End of Year letters) again. They are usually sent in January after the last donation for the year is in. To help you breeze through this process, here's a coherent plan of attack for FundRaiser users.

Step One... Read More

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Smudge, office cat, goes to the Christmas party

Smudge at FundRaiser Christmas party
Marcy with Smudge
Let me introduce you to Smudge, our office cat. Since early this summer, Smudge spends working hours at the main office. During non-working hours, she bunks with Gene Weinbeck, founder and lead programmer for FundRaiser. At the office, she snoozes on window sills, leaps over key boards, races up sectional dividers, and generally keep us from getting too serious. She has quickly found a way into our hearts, and now no office gathering is complete without her. For the Christmas party, she happily joined us at Autumn and Josh Shirley's house for the celebration. She's very comfortable there, as it was her first home, after being rescued from a school parking lot. During the party, she lurked around our ankles, checked out Santa's hat, and enjoyed some cuddles from Marcy Weinbeck (in photo at right), co-founder of FundRaiser. 
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Relaxing at the FundRaiser Christmas party

James at the FundRaiser Christmas party
Joe Salrin at FundRaiser Christmas party

This year at the FundRaiser Christmas party, we all seemed to be in a mellow mood... except occasionally our office cat, Smudge (more on that later). James Ware (in photo at left), our main sales rep, brought a pitcher of margaritas, and it is possible that this helped, but at least it didn't hurt. No dancing on the tables or other classic 'office party' humiliations. I'd say we enjoy being together, and the Mexican food everyone brought helped, too. I'm not sure it all classified as strictly Mexican, but it did classify as good and even interesting. Sherry, who works in FundRaiser Tech Support, brought cheese cake made from the milk of the goats she raises. If you've never tried her goat milk cheesecake, then don't wrinkle your nose... it is excellent.

Joe Salrin (in photo at right) spent the time relaxing from his work doing data conversion at FundRaiser. If you ever need to move your data from a previous program into FundRaiser, Joe is the one that you talk to.

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Case Study: Life Radio Ministries

Life Radio Ministries needed to update their donor management software. "We were using something that had served us well enough over the years, but it was becoming extremely expensive to maintain, as well as being outdated. We decided to look for something that was more reasonably priced and which had stayed up with technology," says Joe Emert, General Manager of Life Radio Ministries.He was looking for features that allow him to create a personal, 'high touch' connection with donors...Read more ...

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Connecting with your donors

Last week, a friend of mine was complaining about people who ask to 'friend' her on Facebook and don't bother to add a personal note to their request. Reading this, I was aware of an uncomfortable feeling, because I've gotten pretty casual about this myself, although I really enjoy getting a little note myself. It only takes a few words to let me know that the person values the connection they are asking for.That's the topic of a new FundRaiser case study. In it, Joe Emert of Life Radio Ministries reminds us of the need for staying human in our communications with donors.

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Connecting with your donors

Last week, a friend of mine was complaining about people who ask to 'friend' her on Facebook and don't bother to add a personal note to their request. Reading this, I was aware of an uncomfortable feeling, because I've gotten pretty casual about this myself, although I really enjoy getting a little note myself. It only takes a few words to let me know that the person values the connection they are asking for.That's the topic of a new FundRaiser case study. In it, Joe Emert of Life Radio Ministries reminds us of the need for staying human in our communications with donors.

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How do you respond to technology changes?

I was recently asked what my greatest technology challenge was, during an interview for TechSoup . For me, it's keeping up with changes. Sometimes you can participate those changes directly, for instance by giving input to us here at FundRaiser that could influence how we develop the software. Other times, you may not have much say about the a change, but you can choose your attitude and adjustment to it, for instance the growing importance of online fundraising, highlighted in our case study with Sacred Heart Radio this month.     A pleasant change at the FundRaiser office is the addition of Jonathan Smith to the FundRaiser tech support team. He joined us in August. He has previously worked in internet technology for a large phone company, and more recently as a computer instructor for Missouri State University.

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Changing Contact Information

Today I was looking through my emails and I noticed that I have quite a few from customers who want me to update their contact information for billing  purposes in our database. I’m happy to do this, of course, but I also wanted to  point out a way that you, as a FundRaiser customer, can control your own contact information.  Accessing this information through our Customer Portal is just for you!

You can log in, set up multiple users, view free training videos, review help technical support help documents and interact with other users and the FundRaiser staff through the Support Forum.  Make sure you contact our Technical Support staff to obtain your username or you can reset your password on your own from the login page.

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Spring Cleaning - Not Just for Dust Bunnies Anymore!

I am so glad that spring is finally here! After a long, cold, gray winter, it has been a long time coming!

Having all of the windows open at work really jump-starts my annual spring cleaning. This year, I'm not just going after the dust bunnies - I've also been reorganizing my desk, my calendar, and my databases, and making sure that everything is updated and in tip-top shape for a busy year. Updating my software and contacts always seems to take a back burner to answering the phones, responding to email, sending out invoices, and putting out fires...and I suspect that a lot of our FundRaiser customers are experiencing the same challenges. But it's amazing how much more efficiently I can work with a clean desk, an updated calendar, and the newest fixes for all my different software applications! I've noticed, for example, that I can really walk into the office, sit down, and get started with my day, instead of spending 15 minutes sorting through all the notes and paperwork scattered around my desk. When I log in to our CRM software, I can see all the calls I need to make today right on my homepage, instead of them being buried in page 3, behind all the calls I was supposed to make yesterday or last week. I also updated it to the newest version recently, which took care of a pesky bug that was causing all of my scheduled tasks to appear an hour earlier than they were scheduled for, and gave me several new options for building reports. Updating my browser to the newest version of Firefox also solved some problems I was having with unexplained slowdowns and bad page loads.

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Back from NRB

NRB 2011 Crosstalk
NRB 2011 Josh and Joe Emert
Calvin Bader and Autumn Shirley

Recently, Joshua and I had the opportunity to attend and exhibit at the 2011 National Religious Broadcasting Convention in Nashville, TN. I cannot easily describe how invigorating and inspiring it was to be surrounded by passionate, engaged nonprofit leaders for four whole days! It’s so easy to get so caught up with everyday management details, that I sometimes forget why I got involved in this business in the first place. The convention was a wonderful reminder of how much I love working with nonprofits. I can honestly say that I love my job because I get to work with the most important people in the world.While we were there, we also had the opportunity to meet with some of our clients, many of whom have been with us for a long time. Caleb, Jennifer (in photo at left with Joshua Shirley), and Josh Weiss from CrossTalk Ministries came by to meet us and could not have been more kind! They have been using FundRaiser since 1999, and are a brilliant example of a nonprofit who has really made the best use of donor management software, beginning with FundRaiser Basic and upgrading over the years all the way up to Professional Hosted! You can read the story or how CrossTalk has used FundRaiser to increase their donor base in their case study here. We also met Joe Emert (in photo at right with Joshua Shirley) from Life Radio Ministries, who spent a long time talking with Joshua about some of the ways he uses FundRaiser to manage their events, and to provide us with some thoughtful input for future development. Joe was so kind to share so much of his time with us.

 

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Cleaning up after the 'other tornado'

Sasha with chainsaw at Dhammasukha

On May 25, a few days after the tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, another set of tornados passed by my house in eastern Missouri. The storms moved north, touching down briefly in a few places. No one was killed, but where tornados touched down, they caused significant damage. One of the places hard hit was Dhammasukha Meditation Center in Annapolis, Missouri. I know the residents there (who are also FundRaiser users) and so I was happy to pack up my chain saw and go help them clean up last weekend.

Dhammasukha Center has two sections of buildings. The upper section was untouched by the tornado, but in the lower section nearly every building was destroyed. The only structures left untouched were the two with people in them, and even these had the shingles stripped from the roof. One of the women was sucked out of her door and thrown onto the porch of the neighboring building. There, she was able to grab a hold of the front door by her fingers and drag herself in. She and another woman hunkered down in a corner and rode the storm out, while trees fell on all sides and the other buildings were destroyed. Although the noise must have been intense, they both said they had the sense of absolute stillness and peace.

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