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.

Get Some Simple Answers to your FundRaiser Technical Questions

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Recently I learned a new phrase, "Cuddle Puddle." I learned it after discovering three new kittens near the office. It was early, and I saw a movement in the grass.... then a little kitten head popped up above the grass and practically waved a paw at me.  The meow clinched it. It sounded beseeching to me. I was sure it said, "We don't know what to do! Someone just dumped us! This is so confusing!"

There were three of them. When I went to scoop them up, they were easy to catch. These kittens were still trying to figure out why they were sitting out in the hot sun with no food or water around. I feel so much gratitude that when I saw them, I knew that there was someone to help take care of them... Ozark Regional Cats, a local nonprofit started by staff members at FundRaiser Software to address the issue of feral cats in downtown. Soon these three little ones (bellies now full) were "cuddle puddled" in my lap. What could have been a quiet and unpublished tragedy for three small kittens was now inexorably heading  towards a happy ending.  

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Inviting LYBUNTS to Renew Support

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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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Using FundRaiser to Increase Mission Impact

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I’ve worked at FundRaiser for many years now, and for all of that time I’ve been deeply inspired by the work our customers do. Committed to a wide range of missions, the nonprofits using FundRaiser actively make a difference in our world. 

Given that sense of admiration, of course I decided to try my own hand at the fundraising part of nonprofit work. What I’ve learned is that each time I use FundRaiser to help raise funds for an organization I care about, I succeed. I also learn something new about the whole process of fundraising, and I get better for next time. That all adds up to more funds to help achieve what I’d like to see happen in the world. An example, in the first year of using FundRaiser, I learned the value of some very basic donor management practices:

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How FundRaiser Helps You Track Awareness Day FundRaising

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Nearly every day on the calendar, and certainly every month, has an Awareness Day attached to it. For example, did you know that not only is May Zombie Awareness month, but also Fibromyalgia and CF/ME Awareness month? Depending on the work your nonprofit does, awareness days, such as those related to families, children, or certain illnesses, can be excellent fundraising opportunities.

Not only is it important for organizations to use awareness days in their fundraising, but also to be able to track where those donors and gifts come from. FundRaiser Software will allow you to do so.

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Keeping Track of Memorial Giving in FundRaiser

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With Memorial Day just around the corner, it might be a good time to mention a couple of ways you can keep track of memorial gifts in FundRaiser.  We call them "Tribute" gifts, and they can be in memory of departed loved ones, or in honor of living individuals, or even in celebration of some life event or other.

For FundRaiser Professional users, there is a built-in module, appropriately called "Tributes" to handle the recording and subsequent correspondence for these types of gifts.  In FundRaiser Select, the Tributes module is available as an "add-on" module for a modest price.  But even in Spark, which has no specific facility for tribute tracking, one can devise some practices to follow and report on tribute giving.  Let's see how they work.

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When can we ask monthly donors for special one-time gifts (and to upgrade)?

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Dear Kim,

Our organization has been having discussions about whether and how we can approach monthly donors, particularly those who are already giving $100+ per month, to discuss an extra single gift or an increased monthly gift. When speaking with high-end monthly donors about a special gift, some have responded strongly that, “I have done the math in my budgeting and this is the most I am able to donate. It pisses me off when charities ask for more,” while others have responded by making very large single gifts, and increasing their monthly gifts voluntarily. We are looking to develop a protocol about this so our development team has some guidance. Do you have any advice?

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Short Take: Get Reminded

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When you create a “tickle” or reminder in Fundraiser Software, it will show up on the Task List when the program opens if it is due, or overdue. However, with the release of 5.20, we have an even more visible way of being reminded. Now, when a tickle is due, a reminder will show in the upper right-hand corner of the program until the reminder is marked completed.

When you click on the reminder button, the task list will open and show you how many reminders you have outstanding.

Screenshot of task list reminder window
task list window 

 

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Increase Donor Loyalty with a Membership Program

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Membership programs may have many practical benefits, but the biggest benefit to an organization is their potential to increase donor loyalty. Someone who sees herself as a member of an organization will generally feel more ownership and involvement in an organization than someone who sees herself just as a donor, even if the member never has any more concrete involvement than simply giving money. 

In order to create a strong membership program, there are  four basic questions you need to be think through in order for things to run smoothly. Knowing the answers will get a new membership program off to a strong start; or help clear up problems in one that is already established. Either way-- whether you are new to membership management or needing to strengthen one you already have, knowing the answers to these questions creates a solid foundation:

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5 ways your donor management software can help create a thriving membership organization

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Key to a thriving membership organization, is giving each member the sense that they are your most important. How can you do that, when members have different reasons for joining and different preferences for how you communicate with them? Your donor database can be your closest ally. With it, you can tune in to what it is that motivates a person to be a member, and record special preferences. That will help you to give each member the sense that you have them specifically in mind when you communicate with them, even as your membership continues to grow.

1. Make each member feel like they are your most important member

In a donor database, each donor/member has a record where you can enter information that is specific to that member. These specifics can be as basic as name and contact information, however to truly personalize your communications you need to go well beyond that. By recording information on what is important to a particular member about your organization, you can tailor your messages to speak to those interests. If you know what brought a member to your organization to begin with, what events each person participates in, and what friends, business associates or relatives of a particular member also belong to your organization, you are well on your way to understanding how to best connect with a particular member. 

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Do you know the difference between the 2 types of nonprofit membership programs?

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Membership initiatives can be a powerful way for your organization to increase donor loyalty and the size of gifts... but what do you actually mean when you say 'membership'? In fact, two very different types of outreach efforts are both called 'memberships' and they are managed in very different ways. Different staff skills are needed for each, as well as different donor database features. Understanding the differences between the two main types of membership will help you create a thriving outreach effort.

The two main types of memberships are...Benefit-driven memberships where donors give more money to receive greater benefits. Often these are used during membership drives. Often, there are several membership 'levels', with higher donations amounts bringing more valuable benefits/premiums/privileges.Recognition-driven memberships where donors give money and receive recognition, such as a wall plaque, engraved brick, or even a named building. These are also called 'philanthropic memberships'. They are a development tool, used to convert  prospects into donors and to increase the size of gifts.These also often are offered in levels, with greater donation amounts offering greater recognition.How donor management differs between the two types of memberships

In a nutshell, donor management of benefit-driven memberships depends on keeping track of lots of different pieces of data, and following up in a timely manner on those bits of data. It is in fact, very much like accounting. Donor management of recognition-driven memberships relies on the tools that help you build relationships. It relies more on the people-side of development work.

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Case study: Making members feel like they are the only one in your database

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This case study from the files of FundRaiser demonstrates how effective a membership program can be to increase donor loyalty. Original published in 2008. 

Indian River Land Trust, where Melanie Jones works as the Membership and Events Coordinator, is a completely membership-based organization. Instead of donor drives, they have membership drives. For Jones, "the most important aspect of my job is knowing my members and making them feel like they are the only member in our database." FundRaiser Select helps her to accomplish that. "With FundRaiser, we can be as specific as we want with each donor entry. We can record the information that lets us know the interests of each member."

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Come Rain, Shine or Nor'easter, American Rescue Workers Offer Crucial Assistance

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It’s been a tough winter in eastern United States. Happily, there are nonprofits who help keep people safe. American Rescue Workers in Williamsport, Pennsylvania is one, providing emergency assistance in the way of food, shelter, counseling, and more. 

Their mission is to give spiritual and material aid to those in need. New development director Valerie Fessler is busy fundraising in the community as well as working behind the scenes to build an even stronger program.

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Short Take: Spare Fields for Follow Up

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A common question that I am asked is whether there a good way to track follow up within FundRaiser other than through the notes tab. You may want this when, as in the case of the American Rescue Workers highlight, you have donors that don’t make any commitments as concrete as a pledge or recurring gifts, but who do send in major gifts at least once a year.

Utilizing spare fields within FundRaiser to track this information is perfect. Spare fields are configurable fields within FundRaiser that you can customize to track the additional information that’s important to your organization and your donors.  FundRaiser Spark has 3 spare fields; FundRaiser Select has 5 of them; Professional has unlimited spare fields.

In FundRaiser Select and Spark, you’ll find the spare fields at the bottom of the Codes page. FundRaiser Professional has its own dedicated Spare Fields page.

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Speak Your Truth & Create Space for Others to Speak Theirs, Too

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February is full of passion and power with Black History Month, Valentines' Day, and Presidents' Day. One thing that both true love and true leadership have in common is that they thrive on truth and integrity... yet it can take real courage to live these virtues and to support others to have them as well.

A free society is dedicated to each person being given the right to Speak Their Truth. Even with this legal right, it can be dangerous to speak a minority opinion, as the stories told in Black History Month testify. One of the most important roles nonprofits play now in our society is acting as truth speakers for vulnerable populations.

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Short take: Tracking Tickets With Campaign Management

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Within FundRaiser Professional, the Campaign Management module makes it easy to track responses and response rates to your campaigns and events. But did you know it can also track ticket sales? For an event, such as a raffle or a banquet where there isn’t assigned seating and you want to track how many paid versus complimentary tickets are sold, our Campaign Management module is a big help.

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Back-up Your Database... and other important files

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It's a little boring to talk about... but it's not boring at all when something happens to your database records. It can happen in a moment... as I discovered when I accidentally dropped my external back-up drive last Friday. "No problem," I thought. "It was a short fall onto carpeting... and it's a well-built drive. Haven't I knocked it around a little before?" 

My drive experienced the event differently. When I plugged it in (so as to access all of the photos that I use in my work) it made little grunting sounds and disappeared from the computer explorer memory. If you've been there yourself, you  know what I did next... a series of restarts, re-plug-ins, and re-trys all gave me the same result. Yes, it was true, about 10 years worth of raw and edited photos were no longer accessible. 

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Small, local groups struggling to keep donors

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Dear Kim,

I work in an arts program that serves very poor public schools in a very poor state. Without us, 2nd -5th graders in public schools in our area would have NO arts program at all. We have no government funding and little foundation funding. We have built a base of donors and we squeeze every nickel. This year I am so discouraged by the number of donors who have said they are cutting back their giving so they can give to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. For the record, I totally support those organizations and what they do, but how can I keep our donors? What we do is still important.

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Art-Based Non-Profits Bring Hope to Disaster Recovery Work

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As the recovery continues from the Spring 2017 floods in southern Missouri, non-profits are involved in helping on every level. One key way in my home town of Doniphan, Missouri, has been through the work of two art-focused non-profits-- Radical Joy for Hard Times and the Riverside Art Guild. They have both stepped forward to focus attention on hope. Their projects have taken almost no resources at a time when resources are even more scarce than usual.

It all happened in an almost coincidental way. A project to paint a mural in honor of Earth Day was already scheduled when the rain started to fall at the end of April last year. Due to the weather, the Earth Day mural painting was postponed. The rain continued into May and by the time it stopped, the Southern Ozarks were looking at a daunting and long-term flood recovery

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Short take: non-traditional uses for the alternate address field

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FundRaiser Software has the capability to not just hold unlimited alternate addresses, but also code them based on the type of address. Depending on the choices selected (date range or specific code) FundRaiser will then send to the alternate address instead of the main address on the record. Alternate addresses also have a few additional uses:

  1. Store old addresses
    When a donor updates an address, keep the old one on file so you don't lose it. Copy the current address to the alternate address space. It will be marked inactive, so you can keep the address on file just in case it's needed.
  2. Send mail to a power of attorney or another location permanently
    There may be times that you need to send correspondence to someone else, such as a power of attorney or even a family foundation's address. Using the alternate address field you can keep the donor's original address on file, while sending correspondence to another location.
  3. Keep an alternate address "just in case"
    For donors without a certain time for their vacation or summer home, or who may want some correspondence sent to a business address, but not all of it, then using the alternate address field is the perfect way to keep track of this information. Keeping the addresses coded correctly will ensure mail goes to the appropriate places.

If you have any questions about working with FundRaiser to manage your addresses: 

  • Sign up for the live FundRaiser Overview webinar. You can see the complete webinar schedule on the training calendar for the current month.  
  • Contact support at 800-543-4131 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Learning from experience makes you richer, wiser, & more hopeful

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In this space between the end of the Christmas holidays and the New Year, there's an opportunity to contemplate what has been and what we hope will be. It's a rare person who feels that everything has come to pass that you hoped for... (and if you are one of those people and this is one of those years, Congratulations!)

More often what we experience in the flow of life is a rich mix of events that can be difficult to categorize; whatever they have been, they have given us the opportunity to learn. Looking for what we've learned not only helps build on success, but also can take some of the pain out of events that have not gone as hoped. It lets us turn judgments of 'good vs. bad' or 'success vs. failure' into a much richer experience, an experience that contributes to the total forward momentum and appreciation of life.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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