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"Thanks!! I love the software and it has made our small charity a delight to manage. I also recommended it to a client, who then purchased the full package and has used it successfully to manage thousands of donors, create very professional letters and significantly improve their operation."
-- Michael D., Trident Consulting Group, Massachusetts
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First step toward successful donor relations

At that point, they purchased FundRaiser Basic. “We knew that, in addition to purchasing new software, someone needed to be specifically responsible for getting out responses to our donors. Jennifer Weiss, our database manager and in charge of donor services, took the job on, and in a few weeks, she was able to bring the response time down to twelve days,” says Caleb.

For Jennifer, the job went surprisingly easily. “I am the most computer illiterate person, but it was really easy for me. I came into the office and there were things everywhere that needed to be entered, but it all went smoothly and was fast. It was very easy.”

“Immediately, that made a difference to our ministry,” says Caleb. “We learned a very important lesson: the best place to put our development energy was into letters thanking people for their contribution or purchase. It made a night-and-day difference from simply delivering a product or sending out a tax letter at the end of the year.

“Over years, the positive trend that began with simply sending out prompt thank-you letters has continued to grow. We have built on that lesson, and have steadily increased our ability to respond in ways that let people know we are paying attention and value them,” says Caleb.

Recognizing Donors Appropriately

By Tony Poderis

Thanking donors is a private act. It is between the donor and the organization.  Recognizing donors is public, and because it is public you need to be absolutely sure you adhere to a donor’s wishes when you do it.

Obviously, you don’t publicly recognize a donor who has requested anonymity. But just how publicly does the donor want to be recognized? Does he wants his name ballyhooed from one end of town to the other, or would she prefer a discrete listing in the annual report?

Issue press releases when major gifts are received and be sure to cite both the importance of the gift and the generosity and leadership of the giver.

Another way to recognize a donor is to have naming opportunities. They can work well, but be careful that you don’t cheapen them. If every physical asset of an organization ends up with a name attached to it, the result is to lessen the value of truly significant naming opportunities.

Putting donors names on a wall in the lobby of a building is another way to recognize them. It seems obvious to me that a donor whose name is visible in the building is going to feel a greater sense of connection with that organization.

Recognize donors in your newsletter. Make absolutely sure that a donor is recognized in the annual report and that all gifts are accounted for. Remember to include the charitable portion of tickets to benefit events. Include a donor recognition component in your annual meeting.

Finally, establish a donor recognition program. Don’t let recognizing donors be an afterthought. If you are a one-person shop, give it a priority in your lists of tasks and develop a written program of what you will do. If you have a larger development operation, assign responsibility for donor recognition to someone. Donor recognition is a process. Manage it.

To learn how FundRaiser Basic can help you recognize donors well

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Donor Management Simplified!

By Larry Weaver

Kim Klein's blog on Steps for Raising $20,000 is a great article to use to show exactly how FundRaiser can simplify donor management.  If you look at the steps suggested to the student in order to raise funds for their trip to Costa Rica, you'll see how each step can be simplified and tracked using FundRaiser.

Database programs are for storing and using informaiton, and we suggest using FundRaiser to store as much information as you need to have for all the aspects of your fundraising efforts.  It's not just about donors, although that's certainly a big part, but look at the other aspects to this particular effort.

Form a committee, sure, and then enter them into the database.  Code them as committee members.  Enter the parents of club members.  Make certain they have full address or email information.  Use the word processor to create a letter template that will be personalized (using merge fields and function) with individual information from the name records.  Create the form that they will return to you, as well.

When the committee members make lists of people who might be supportive, enter THOSE people in the database.  Make sure you have addresses, emails, phones, etc.  This is the heart of your donor database.  Hopefully it will grow over time.

You'll be recording each and every gift, of course, with any appropriate comments or further information, in the gift records.  And thanking people for donating is quick and easy using another letter template to include gift amount, date, salutation, etc., that you've recorded either in the name record or the gift record.  And at the end of the campaign, or any time after that first gift comes in, really, you'll be able to quickly see how much has been donated using the built in reports.

If you know of someone who is struggling with tracking their donor activity, please mention us to them, and them to us.  Networking and sharing good ideas is key to building strong donor databases as well as strong donor management software.

To see how Basic can  help you with your donor managment

Download this Free Trial Version of Basic

Steps for Raising $20,000

Dear Ms. Klein:

I am the treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society at my local High School. My goal is to raise approximately $20,000 in order to have all our club members fly to Costa Rica. We plan to volunteer at an orphanage there where we will teach the children English and organize activities for them. The problem is, however, that I have no idea where to start. I know a project of this scale requires more than a bake sale, but what? I understand that you are probably more used to dealing with things of a larger scale, but do you have any tips for the penniless high school student?


~Never Too Young To Start Fundraising

Dear Never:

Actually, your project is bigger than many I deal with, and it sounds like an important learning experience for your Club.  You will want to do this in phases:

1)   Form a small committee of club members, maybe your teacher and a couple of parents to help you.  Do not attempt this on your own!

2)   Start with the parents of the Club Members.  Send a letter home with each club member describing the trip and why it is so important, not just for the children you will be helping, but also a chance to become much more fluent in Spanish and to experience Costa Rican culture.  Note that your club wants everyone to be able to participate, and so is not leveling a price for each student, but rather raising a lump sum that will pay for everyone.  However, to get started you need to know what parents may be able to contribute. The form should indicate that each student costs $1000 (or whatever is true) and ask parents to note what they can afford.

3)   While that is happening, ask any one you know (or look on the internet) for scholarship sources in your community that might be available from Zonta, Rotary, or other service clubs.  If a local merchant is known to be supportive of high school activities, approach her or him.  Given the nature of this trip, I would approach travel agents, recreational equipment stores and bookstores.

4)   Also, your committee should make a list of people they know in the community who they think would be supportive of this kind of trip.  Think about people who went on trips like this when they were in high school or college, people who travel a lot, people who speak more than one language and think that is important, people who volunteer with children, and people who graduated from your high school and loved it, etc.  The key here is that the person must be known by someone on the committee. Send this list an e-mail or letter, which you will follow up with a phone call. These people should be approached for gifts in the $50-$250 range.

5)   Finally, keep track of the money as it comes in.  Once you are at about $18,000, consider a bake sale or other similar event, but make sure you have a banner with your goal on it, and ask people to donate to your trip rather than selling each cookie for $.50.

6)   On the back end, you will need to thank everyone who gives, and after the trip is over, send them a report about it and another thank you.  You should consider having a group blog during the trip that donors can subscribe to.

For more ideas of ways to raise this kind of money, see the book, “The Accidental Fundraiser” by Stephanie Roth and Mimi Ho (Jossey Bass Publishers).  It has 11 strategies in great detail, with forms, templates and lots of examples.

And good luck!  I think these trips are wonderful and I wish your club all the best.

~Kim Klein

Originally published in the Grassroots FundRaising Journal. FundRaiser users can subscribe at a special rate of $30/year by entering is "$30" in the coupon code field on the second page of the subscription process.

To learn more about how FundRaiser Basic can help with keeping track of donors and donations:

Try a Free Trial Version of Basic


Using Basic to target mailings

Targeting is done through segmentation of your list. Some information is built into the address and giving history on each donor record in Basic-- such as using zip code, or date of first or most recent gift. Other information has to be customized for your specific organization and donors. You can do this through the category fields.

In FundRaiser Basic there are two fields that you can use to define anything that is important for defining "segments" of your donors. These fields are just below the salutation field. They can be used to record a donor's interest in a certain aspect of your work, or the message that the person first responded to. For example, there are likely to be big differences between donors who first joined in response to a friend's request, and those who were recruited by mail.

As your organization grows, you may find that you want more than two category codes. This is a common indicator that it is time to upgrade to FundRaiser Select and Professional. Both of these programs have a much greater ability to segment data than does FundRaiser Basic.

The most important information to use when making decisions about who gets what are:

  • how recently a member joined or donated
  • how often that member donates
  • how much the member donates
  • the means by which the member was originally recruited

FundRaiser Basic helps you set up a targeted mailing through the Query function. The query button can be found on the tool bar right above the "last name" field. It can also be accessed through the "search" drop down menu.

One of the most important segments is Lapsed Donors - those who have given in the past, but not in the most recent 9-12 months. It’s much easier, and less expensive, to win a donor back than to find a new one.

To create this segment, click on the Query button, and go to the Gift Fields page. Enter a date range where you see the  label “Gave during this date range, but not since then”. You might enter a range that includes the month you are in, but a year ago. People who gave during this date range but not since then are your prime renewal candidates. Send these people a letter reminding them of what you do, why it is important, who it helps, and how it can only continue with their continued support.


Why target mailings?

Donor solicitors and FundRaiser Basic

by Larry Weaver

Major Gifts, part 2, takes a look at major donor solicitors: those people in your organization who can, will, should be working with your major donors to build stronger relationships with them and/or ask them for donations. FundRaiser Basic can help with some of the aspects of the relationships discussed. One of these aspects is simply associating a donor solicitor with the donor. For that, one of your three (two, prior to version 2.x) donor-based codes could be used very effectively. By default, these three codes are labeled in Basic as “Category”, “Donor Source”, and (in 2.x) “Newsletter”. These labels can be changed, so you may want one of them to be “Donor Solicitor”, or simply “Solicitor”. You can change the label by going to Options, then General Preferences, then to the General tab. The “User-Defined Category Captions” section is where you change the label names.

If you use one of the category code options for solicitor names, you can simply create them as they happen. For instance, your volunteer, J. Smith, agrees to work with prospect A. Jones because they know each other socially. On A. Jones’ record in FundRaiser, you would create a new code for “J. Smith” in the newly-labeled “Solicitor” code drop-down. It might look something like this:

This can help in a couple of ways, in that you will always be able to pull a query that includes all donors assigned to any of your solicitors, and that you can easily print any of those lists with information pertinent to soliciting donations. So, if your solicitors need to know not only who they are to work with, but also how much those folks have given in the past, when they gave, why they gave (based on donation source/motivation codes), and so forth, you’ll be able to provide that info.

You can use the donor notes section to enter any personal contacts your solicitor has made, based on their feedback or notes, etc. And, when someone gives a gift that comes as a direct result of a solicitor having asked for the gift, you may want to code the gift to reflect that, using the “Source” code on the gift record. In fact, you may want to have gift Source codes that are identical to the donor “Solicitor” codes, but it’s certainly up to you. If you do it this way, you’ll be able to pull a report of all the gifts that have been attributed to a particular Solicitor in your organization. Great to be able to do when you get ready to thank all of your volunteers for their hard work, and to show what monetary benefit they’ve had directly through solicitation of gifts.


Major donors and FundRaiser Basic by Larry Weaver

Major gifts, part 1: What makes a gift major by Tony Poderis

Major gifts, part 2: Working with donor solicitors by Tony Poderis