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"I sent out about 600 letters in December, thanking people for their gifts that year and asking for a year end gift.... We generated $4,500 in less than a month, with more coming in. FundRaiser Basic makes it so much easier to track and work on these kinds of 'personal' fundraising approaches."
-- Jenifer S., Bogus Basin Lifetime Sports Education Foundation, Boise, ID
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Tributes can be made for people or pets, a fact to which many animal-oriented nonprofits will attest. Tributes to the living are the "in honor of" kinds of gifts, while tributes to the deceased are the "in memory of" gifts. "In honor" of gifts may be motivated by an event such as a wedding, anniversary, birthday, graduation, or other important moment for congratulations.

For each tribute, you will need to keep track of three categories of people--

  • donor, who gives the gift.
  • honoree, who is being honored or memorialized with the gift
  • family members or whoever should be notified that such a gift has been given. This is often the spouse of a deceased person, but may be another relative or close friend. In addition, there may be more than one person in this category.

Many of us have experienced giving a gift in honor of a friend, only to stay on the mailing list of an organization for years and wind up costing the organization way more money than we ever gave. Be sure to segment those donors and pay attention to whether they renew their gift or not and take them off your mailing list if they do not renew.

Kim Klein, Grass Roots FundRaising Journal

The person being honored may not be one of your donors or prospects, and so may not exist in your database. The person being notified of a memorial gift may not exist in your database, either.

FundRaiser Basic

In Basic, there is no easy way to keep track of all these things, but you can use the Gift Source code to indicate that a gift is a Tribute, and you can use the Gift Note to hold a phrase like "in memory of John Smith", or "in honor of John Smith", which can be brought into a gift thank you letter. The Gift Source code will allow you to separate those types of gifts to use with the thank you letter that also takes advantage of those gift notes.

In FundRaiser Select and Professional

The Tributes Module allows you the control and record-keeping needed for these special gifts. A list of people being honored or memorialized is kept in the Windows | Tributes section of the program. You can fill out a tribute listing "in advance" for those times when someone has requested that donations be made to your organization in lieu of flowers, as an example. It can also be accessed "on the fly" when entering a new gift, just by clicking on the Tributes button on the Gift’s "Edit" page. In this area, you list who the person is, and whether it is an in "honor" or "memory" tribute. You also list to whom you want notification sent when any gifts are given as a tribute to this person. Along with the notification person’s name, of course, you list the address, and can also store phone number, relationship to the honoree, which letter template you want to use for the notification, and more.

An Example

The general flow of tribute gifts can be explained better, perhaps, with an example. Let’s say that a prominent citizen of the community has passed away, and that the family has requested that donations be directed to your organization. You might first enter that citizen’s name as an honoree in the Windows | Tributes section, along with the family member to whom notification should be sent. Over the next week or two (or more), you receive gifts in their name. You enter these gifts just as you would others, by adding them to the donor's name record in the Gifts section, but you additionally will mark them as Tributes by clicking on the Tributes button on the gift Edit page, choosing the honoree, and choosing who is to be notified. Thank you letters are sent as they are for all gifts, through the Automated Correspondence section of the Print menu, although you will probably want a special template prepared to make use of the specialized information that is a part of the Tribute record.

Every so often, depending on how many gifts come in for that honoree and how long you expect to receive gifts for that honoree, you will send out a notification letter to the designated notification person. This letter usually will tell them who has sent you gifts in the honoree’s name. It will also usually give them the full name and address of these people, so that they may thank them personally, if they so desire.

Notification Letters

Give some thought to when you send this letter. Our users have emphasized how important it is to notify family members of the honoree promptly about memorials. A single letter can include any number of people who have sent gifts, and it isn’t intended that you send this letter more than once or twice. The person being notified will appreciate a couple of letters over a course of time that indicate 20 people have donated, for instance, but they may not feel the same if they get 20 individual letters from you. Some of our donors have solved the problem of prompt but not excessive notification by sending out the first notification letter quickly by mail, and then using email after that.

Special Features for Tribute Acknowledgment Letters

In the case of tributes, often you will be sending out two letters:
-- Gift Thank You letter to the donor
-- Tribute Notification letter
-- to the honoree, in the case of an "in honor of" gift
--to family members, in the case of an "in memory of" gift

The word processor gives you special features, fields, and functions to be able to reference every aspect of a tribute when creating templates, whether they are used as Gift Thank You or Tribute Notification letters. The Tribute tab of the Merge Fields window will show you some functions at the top of the list that can pull in the "in honor of So-and-So" phrase, or "in memory of So-and-So", depending on whether it is an honorarium or memorial gift. You can pull in a list of donors into a paragraph, showing only the names, separated by commas, like: "Gifts in honor of your husband John Smith were given by Jim Johnson, Kathy Smith, Tom Thumb and William Tell.", and you can use that same function to pull in those names in a columnar format complete with addresses, such as:

Jim Johnson
123 Jay Lane
Sometown, OH 45405
Kathy Smith
321 Tinsel Way
Smallburg, VA 44444
Tom Thumb
333 Small St.
Miniature, CT 88888
William Tell
888 Arrow Dr.
Appleshead, MD 22222


For newsletters and other publications, you can use the Tribute Listing report in the Print menu to show who has given in honor/memory of whom. You can limit this to a certain time period of gifts. You can even show gift amounts, if you like. And you can send it to an RTF (Rich Text Format) file, which you can then use to copy/paste it into any other program you like for creating those newsletters, etc.

A few things to keep in mind about Tributes in FundRaiser:

  1. The Tribute lists of honorees and notification people are completely separate from your Master list. You may find that a person in your Master list becomes an honoree, but you still need to fill out a form in the Tribute list area. Likewise, just because a person is listed in your Tributes, that doesn’t mean that they are listed in your Master list. If you want them there, also, then you’ll have to do an "Add", just like you did with the other names in your Master list.
  2. If your organization has a large number of tributes, the list of people being honored can become long and unwieldy. Tribute entries are "Active" by default, but you can trim down the size of the list by unchecking the Active checkbox. The information remains intact, but is not viewable, by default.
  3. Consider having a special gift thank you letter for those people who are giving to you for the first time. It may be that you can encourage them to continue giving to your cause, since a person they admire was instrumental in securing that first gift to you.

Okay, so this isn’t really a techy-type article, but the truth is, once you understand how all of this information interrelates, there isn’t much that’s very technical. It’s a fairly simple module, but it can be used to great advantage.

Larry Weaver is an A+ certified computer technician, a Microsoft Certified Professional, as well as the training manager here at FundRaiser Software. He has worked with FundRaiser Basic software off and on since the mid-'90's.  When not operating computers, he enjoys operating motorcycles and musical instruments, and watching his grandchildren grow and prosper.