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29. Fundraising - With Computers

 With the advance of technology, some fundraising groups have discovered that technology can in fact help significantly with their fundraising efforts, but for those unfamiliar with computers, it can be very challenging. Whether you decide to use a computer to help your fundraising or not, there are some things you should take into consideration :

Fundraising Software

This is software that helps many non-profit groups fundraise more effectively than ever before.  Fundraising software basically manages all the components of  fundraising, and it can help you manage your time more effectively.  This software can be custom-designed by a software developer to take into account the specific the needs of your group.  Fundraising software can do many things (depending on the actual program) including:

  • Keep track of grant applications and remind you when to apply or start applying
  • Keep track of your donor list (no matter how large or how small) and remind you when to contact specific donors.  The software will also allow you to print out address labels for part or all of your donor list and the word processing software will allow you to print personalised letters to your donors from your selected database.
  • Easily keep track of all donations, expenses, and bills. Some software will even graphically represent financial data so that you can see from a glance at a chart how successful your fundraising is to date.
  • Keep track of volunteers and workers and print off to do lists for all your volunteers.
  • Keep track of your fundraising efforts and "remind" you (you program the software when you want to be reminded of certain things) when specific tasks must be done.
  • Provide virtual files where you can keep your receipts, research, and other data.  
  • Store the latest version of your group's flyers or letters, or anything else you may need again

 

This type of software can be expensive, but if you are not great with keeping organized the user-friendly software can easily help keep you on track.  If you can afford it, it can make a lot of sense for your non-profit organization, especially if your donor list is getting quite large (which it hopefully is).

If you decide to use fundraising software, shop around for a company who has created software for non-profit organizations with similar needs to yours.  Also make sure that the software has safety features that will keep your donor's personal information safe and secure. However you keep your records, you need to make sure that personal information is very safe indeed, especially those credit card numbers and expiry dates. If this information is ever stolen from your organization, it would be a huge blow, not just to lose the information, but also in the resulting loss of trust from your donors.

If you make the decision to move to fundraising software make sure that you have enough time to learn to use the software properly, because this will help you in the long run.  For many non-profit organizations, this effort is well worth it.


The Internet

The Internet is a great initial resource for all non-profit organizations. It is amazing the kind of information you can research online, and you can even run a trial copy of some fundraising software. You can research other non-profit groups and their fundraising successes and failures, you can research all your fundraising options and the companies that support these ideas, and you can even look for volunteers online.

 The Internet can be accessed at your convenience and can be a quick way to get a basic understanding of specific fundraising concerns.  Just be aware that not all the information online is completely accurate.  You should treat any of the information you find online in much the same way you would treat information offered to you by an acquaintance -  use your own good judgment to decide what is credible and what needs to be checked.


Web Pages

If you are a non-profit organization, you should set up a web page. Don't panic, these are quite inexpensive to set up, especially if someone in your group already knows how to design one, and they can be very simple to do.  These online pages will give your donors and potential donors a history of your group, with your aims and hopes and your beliefs. You will be able to use these pages to give the public a great deal of information about your group and your work, as well as details about your fundraising events, and your volunteer opportunities.  In general, your web page should contain:

  • Full contact information, address, phone, fax, email
  • Current and upcoming fundraising events
  • Full details about the cause your group is working for - including pictures related to the cause, stories and anecdotes, and why the cause is important
  • Visually appealing details (art or photographs that makes the site attractive to look at and easy on the eyes)
  • Information about how to make a donation
  • Any good press your group has received
  • Any evidence you have that your group is legitimate
  • Any celebrity endorsements your group has received
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Details about your group - how it got started, what programs it runs
  • Ways to support the group besides cash donations (e.g.. information about letter writing campaigns or other volunteer opportunities)
  • Information about your volunteers (no personal information)


Email

Nowadays, you will find that some of your donors will contact you by email, especially after they have seen your website.  You need to make sure that your emails are informative, prompt, and short.  Email tends to be a more informal style of communication, even though in some ways it is similar to letter-writing.

 It is best to keep email short, as they are used to mostly give specific information.  Be sure to respond to emails quickly, as it is expected that emails are acted upon faster than letters.  You can set up your email program to automatically add a signature to your emails.  This signature should contain your name, your non-profit organization's name, and full contact information.  When using email during fundraising, avoid using special fonts (which cannot be read by all email programs) or graphics (which are large files and do not always load well).  Simple, plain text email is often best.

Some non-profit groups are tempted to use email as an alternative to direct mail, and there are some email marketing companies who will suggest  using email to solicit donations as  they consider it to be very effective.  However, you need to be aware that unsolicited email is called "spam" and is generally hated by those who use email.  Spam is considered intrusive and dangerous, as it can spread computer viruses. It is often filtered out or deleted, and when it does get delivered there are many of us who simply do not look at spam. 

No matter what forms of modern technology you use, you will need to work hard to keep your organization safe online.  Just as you would not leave your purse or wallet on a desk in your office, so to you must make sure your office space is secure after hours when you are not present, you must also take steps to ensure that your technology is not being used by people who may harm your computer or group.

The first step to keeping your technology safe is to install and regularly update antivirus and firewall programs on any computer in your non-profit group's database.  These programs will keep out hackers and viruses that can damage your computer and your computer's systems. You may also want to use passwords to ensure that no one can access your computer without your knowledge.  After hours, lock up your computer so that thieves cannot steal your actual computer and extract donor information that way. It may seem like a chore, but to lose all your hard work and donor lists would be even more of a chore!

Even if you are very cautious, computers can fail.  That's why it's very important that you have a paper backup of all your paperwork and important information, kept in a very safe place of course.  You do not want to lose your financial information and your donor lists just because your computer broke down. And remember to do these computer backups regularly, and store them in a safe place that no one can access.

Next page: 30. Fundraising - Secrets to Success

Practical Fundraising Ebook - Table Of Contents

  1. Fundraising - The Basics 
  2. Fundraising - Terminology
  3. Fundraising - Money
  4. Fundraising - Where to Find Donors and How to Reach Them
  5. Fundraising - Targeting Your Donors
  6. Fundraising - Research
  7. Fundraising - Your Donors' Needs
  8. Fundraising - Ideas
  9. Fundraising - Donated Products
  10. Fundraising - Bought Products
  11. Fundraising - Marathons
  12. Fundraising - Lotteries, raffles and more
  13. Fundraising - Fairs, Auctions and Bazaars
  14. Fundraising - Fun Events
  15. Fundraising - Drives
  16. Fundraising - Services
  17. Fundraising - Tips for Choosing a Fundraising Idea
  18. Fundraising - Your Plan
  19. Fundraising - Your Team
  20. Fundraising - Staying Organized
  21. Fundraising - Communicating With Your Donors
  22. Fundraising - Advertising
  23. Fundraising - Letters
  24. Fundraising - Emails and more
  25. Fundraising - Person to Person
  26. Fundraising - Thank You Notes
  27. Fundraising - Grant Proposals
  28. Fundraising - Press Releases
  29. Fundraising - With Computers
  30. Fundraising - Secrets to Success
  31. Fundraising - Problems
  32. Fundraising - Conclusions

 

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