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.

 

Dear Kim,

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Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks, part 3

Since experiencing the massive flooding in Southern Missouri, I've run into the concept of 'resilience' linked to disaster recovery. It's a great concept. It easily applies to good recovery on the part of  any individual or organization that experiences stress, especially stress that is game-changing. I'd guess that many if not most of the organizations that FundRaiser works with can relate directly to the concept of resilience at this time of great change in our society.

In the case of Autumn Shirley, CEO of FundRaiser, fundraising has been a part of her resilient response to the extraordinary experience she and her husband Joshua Shirley, who is CFO of FundRaiser, and other members of the Shirley family went through. Their dramatic story was publicized widely when they survived the flood that unexpectedly forced them to the roof of their river house. 

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1.  Be personal, share success, and Thank Them

It doesn't take much to include personal touches in a thank you letter template.  You could mention the last gift they gave (date and/or amount), or the first time they gave, or the amount of support they've provided over the years.  Different situations may call for different letter templates, and different groups of donors, but it's all possible in FundRaiser.  And while you are thanking them, let them know what their contribution has done.  What has your organization done since their last gift?  How many people (or animals, or communities, or ??) has the organization helped in that time?  This takes a bit of planning, so that you might have, for instance, a group of donors who have given, but not in the past 2 years, and another group who have given in the past 2 years, but not the past 6 months, and maybe another group who gave for the first time in the past 6 months, etc. You'll want different messages depending on the situation, but it's not that difficult to do, and the results will be a more personal approach to that "ask" for additional donations.

2.  Thank Often

Many non-profits are vying for the same donor dollars, and showing appreciation for past donations is important in ALL interactions with your donors.  If you are sending an invitation to an event, THANK them for their previous gifts.  If you are sending a newsletter, THANK them for their ongoing support.  If you have a special funding need and are sending an appeal, THANK them in advance for their consideration and for sharing your needs with their friends, family, etc., but THANK THEM.

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My nonprofit experience has been limited to membership groups, and in my training, I’ve discovered this is an area in which FundRaiser excels. All three versions of FundRaiser (Spark, Select, and Professional) have the ability to manage members, though in Select it is an optional module. The process is very similar in all three versions as well.

When you enter a gift the type can be marked membership dues. This triggers the system to set up a new membership where you can input the type (family or individual), any benefits, and double check the renewal date. As an organization, you can choose how you want the memberships to renew and any default benefits as part of the settings. In fact, you can print membership cards.

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Dear Kim,

We receive a significant number of donations in honor/memory of individuals. Most are one time donations. Is it proper to add these donors to our ask list?

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Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks, part 2

I usually report about nonprofit activity from the sidelines, but earlier this month massive flooding hit the area where I live. Over a period of 2 weeks, I experienced what it is like to live in a community affected by out-of-control weather.  Due to the efforts of compassionate and resourceful people in my community, a relief effort began immediately. I was fortunate to experience only minor direct effects from the flooding and so was free to volunteer. Now, three weeks later, I've learned many precious lessons about the blessings offered by rolling up your sleeves to volunteer where you can. I know that many of our FundRaiser customers are the front line in making this possible for people all over the world. Here are some key experiences things I learned that I'm grateful for: 

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When your organization takes in donations of good or services, how do you record that donation? On the Gifts tab, when you enter in a donation, the Gift Mode code reflects the form that the donation took—how the money was received or if it was an In Kind donation.  When you choose “In Kind” for your gift mode, this tells the database that the donation was received not as a financial transaction, but rather a donation of goods or services. The amount field can be the approximate value of those donations, and you can use your motivation and purpose codes to further categorize the donation.

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The water has swept on from the floods that raged through this region less than 2 weeks ago. It took with it all that it had the power to carry away. It left behind not just confusion and debris, but also an opportunity for communities to rise higher than the water ever did, and they are doing so. All members of the FundRaiser staff were touched directly by the impact of the floods which spread over the entire region where the FundRaiser office is located. Each responded with energy and courage as matched their situation, and all have been left with a deeper understanding for customers involved in disaster relief.  

Tamara Lovan of Technical Support went right to work volunteering. "Heading to Carmichael Field to assist with sorting flood debris starting at noon. This evening we will be helping gather donations at the Civic Center," she wrote us after being one of the first to track down where the volunteers were gathering. 

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Feel like you need a refresher on the software? Do you have a new employee or volunteer who will be helping your organization with FundRaiser Software? Our FundRaiser Overview Class is the perfect resource for this - and it is offered every week.

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So, how do you know from within an organization when and if you should hire a development director? The answer is simple, and it starts with knowing the costs of running the organization as it carries out its mission as set out in the its long-range strategic plan. It continues with the development of a fund-raising plan.

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The short answer is sooner rather than later! If a non-profit organization is beginning to ask whether it needs a professional development director, it probably should have hired one months, even years ago.

The biggest mistake non-profits make in hiring their first development director is waiting until the board, executive director, and other key personnel have arrived at a consensus that one is needed NOW. An organization that waits until it is necessary to hire a development director has waited too long.

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With Spring, the Ozarks come truly alive. It's one of the most gorgeous places on Earth, with lots of rain, vibrant green grass, and sweet tiny flowers. It's impossible to remain untouched by all the beauty and growth, and we have been touched! As the first shrubs began blooming a few weeks ago, Autumn Shirley, CEO of FundRaiser and I sat down and brainstormed ideas to make our Facebook page more of a resource for you. We came up with some great ideas-- some brand new and a few tweaks to old standards.

Brand new are the weekly Facebook-only Flash Sales, which include things like discounts on modules, donor portal set up, NCOA processing, training credits, additional user licenses and more. These are only available on Facebook, so be sure to check our page each week to stay in the know.

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 241
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Dear Kim,

We work with refugees and immigrants, providing legal services, workshops and even sanctuary in some churches. I have been reading a lot about fundraising metrics recently and wonder how much time I should spend figuring out our retention rates and return on investment and that kind of thing? We have three paid staff: I am the development director and we have an executive director and a director of programming. We have about 100 volunteers and serve 2,500 people a year, and growing. We have about 1,000 individual donors as well as a number of faith-based organizations who are partners in a variety of ways. Sometimes we make money from workshops. We are all stretched thin but I want to run a good development program. What is the value of all this data?

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When several different people are entering codes into FundRaiser, ‘code creep’ can occur. Code Creep is where several different codes are used to designate the same type of gift. This creates complications when you want to get the data out of FundRaiser for a report. Because codes are the main way that you get data out of FundRaiser, keeping codes consistent will ensure that your reports accurately reflect all the data you have entered into FundRaiser on a particular topic.   

To prevent code creep, make sure that everyone who is entering codes understands your conventions. Basic training on using FundRaiser and on your coding conventions is important. Also the program settings allow you to limit certain people’s use of the program to only the areas that are needed for the job they are doing. The Administrator can do this by going to Options > User Set Up to  

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in Tech Blog 281
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Establishing a Work Flow for your FundRaiser Database

Writing down an established work flow for entering gifts and name data after a fundraising event is one of single best things you can do to increase your donor management effectiveness. What's more, it creates a good working atmosphere and makes routine work a pleasure, even relaxing after the hectic pace of a fundraising event. What you need in your database will be put there effectively, free of unnecessary mistakes, or need to backtrack. Making it a regularly scheduled task is one great way to increase your all-around effectiveness. The frequency of the task, whether daily or weekly, will depend on the volume of gifts, of course, but it should be a part of the office routine.

Write it down as a task outline, laying the steps out in logical order. The ease of working will be a reward to continue doing the task. It also helps when the person who normally does the data entry is out sick, or is promoted to another position, or is otherwise taken out of the data entry picture. The person who takes over will appreciate having those steps in logical order, with hints, tips, and tricks in their appropriate places along the way. Here's a suggested flow that will work for most nonprofits. Adapt it as needed to make it right for your nonprofit's needs.  

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There are three main reports within FundRaiser for viewing donor or donation data: Master, Donor, and Donation. Each of these reports contains separate pieces of information, though there is some overlap between the reports. Each report has a unique use.

The Master Report is one of the few reports where you can see information for non-donors in your database. The variations allow you to look at donor codes, donor addresses, or donor information including gifts.

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There are times when you are looking to see the names and addresses for your donors, and FundRaiser supports multiple ways of retrieving this information. If you need a list to use as a print out, for example, then the Master Report has a variation which only prints names and addresses. You can access this through Reports > Master Report.

If you need to export those names and addresses to send to a vendor for printing mailings or to import into another system, the most efficient way to obtain this information is to follow a 2-step process.
  1. First, create a grouping of the individuals whom you wish to include in the mailing list. 
  2. Then, go to File > Export, select your grouping, and export the names and addresses directly into a CSV (Excel-compatible) file. You can export additional fields such as total giving or last gift as well if you'd like.
By choosing one of these methods you'll be able to export names and addresses in a format that will work for your organization and in an easy to transfer manner.

To learn more on this and related topics, sign up for one of our live webinar training classes or contact support at 800-543-4131 or Support@FundRaiserSoftware.com 
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The nine basic truths of fund-raising listed below are taken from the introduction to my book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and they are the foundation of my successful career as a development officer for and consultant to nonprofit organizations.

  1. Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it.
  2. Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared.
  3. Fund-raising is not raising money; it is raising friends.
  4. You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization.
  5. People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give.
  6. You do not wait for the “right” moment to ask; you ask now.
  7. Successful fund-raising officers do not ask for money; they get others to ask for it.
  8. You don’t decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money.
  9. Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business.

Learn more about how FundRaiser can help you acheive your fundraising goals

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When you upgrade to a new version, such as the recent new release of FundRaiser, it is good to familiarize yourself with the new features. A great way to do that is to read the update notes, which are easily available through the Help menu after you update the software.

Just click on Help and look for the selection that says “Read Update Notes”. Click on that to bring up the document. The Update Notes are a snapshot of the changes that were made to FundRaiser since the last update. Focus on the column marked “New.” These are the new features for this release. If you don’t understand a feature or how to use it, please contact support. We’ll be happy to help you.

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A common question that we receive in Technical Support is that if an organization has an IT department which creates backups of the server computer which holds FundRaiser, is an actual FundRaiser backup necessary?

The answer is yes. When an IT department backs up a server that is different from a FundRaiser backup.

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