Author Archives: deanna

Are you providing your donors with tax summaries?

The fundraising industry is a very cyclical one. With the year coming to an end it is important to start thinking about your donors in more detail. Specifically, how can you make their lives easier now that their fiscal years are ending? Well in a little over a month they’re going to start getting their W-2’s, 1099’s and other forms that they’ll need to file their taxes in April.

Taxes are a big responsibility, usually with a lot of moving parts. It’s critical that your organization not be the one to throw a wrench in a donor’s potentially already complicated tax process. However, to leave it at that would be missing out on a huge opportunity. This is a great opportunity for you to accomplish some good old fashioned stewardship by actually making their lives easier come tax season. If donors have to go chasing down records of their donations to your organization they’re going to be annoyed.

This is where the Tax Summary report comes in.

While there is a canned report in Raiser’s Edge that is pretty simple to use, it is possible to create custom reports that feature an intro letter or your organization’s logo (which helps them associate you with the positive emotions of ease and convenience).

The more custom you can make these reports the better they will be, under one condition: They are accurate. If the reports aren’t accurate then you can have all the customization in the world and these reports will do more harm than good. You have to have a plan in place to ensure the accuracy of these reports.

The first step in this process is timely and accurate data entry, but there are more ways to get there! Periodically spot checking your reports against donor giving profiles will help you produce more accurate reports that make your donors’ lives easier and help you steward them for future fundraising!

Raiser’s Edge Pop Ups

Did you know you can set up pop-up alerts on Constituent, Gift or Action records?

While entering gifts in batch, for example, you want a notification alert when a board member or volunteer gives a gift.

These are called ‘user defined rules’ and Blackbaud describes them as:

“A user defined rule is basically a query that runs automatically when opening a particular type of record: Constituent, Gift, or Action. If the record satisfies the query’s criteria, a pre-defined message appears to notify the user.”

To set up pop-up alerts that a Constituent is a major donor, you can build a query looking for everyone who has given at a certain level, or has the specific attribute you may use to denote major donors. Using the instructions below, set up your pop-ups, then anyone who meets the criteria in your query will have an alert come up when you open or try to add a gift to their record that can say “This constituent is a Major Donor.”

From the Blackbaud support site, setting up pop-ups:

How to add a new User Defined Business Rule:

  1. In Configuration, select Business Rules

  2. At the bottom of the list, highlight User Defined Rules and click Constituent, Gift, or Action

  3. Click New Opening [Constituent] Rule for a constituent rule or New Adding [Gift/Action] Rule for a gift or action rule. For example, if selecting Constituent in step 2, click New Opening Constituent Rule

  4. Enter the rule name

  5. In the Query Name field, search for the query or create a query of the records that should have the rule.  This query should be dynamic

  6. Enter the message that should appear when the record is opened

  7. Select any other options and click OK

Want a more in-depth tutorial of how user defined rules can help you? Or how to set them up?
Contact me today!

Let’s Not Overlook the Data Entry Position

I tend to harp on the critical importance of professional data entry and gift processing. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s important that I reiterate this to each and every one of my clients going through database staff turnover.

The knee-jerk tendency when rehiring database positions can be to see an opportunity to cut costs. It can’t be that hard, right, why not hire it as a relatively low-wage, entry-level position and save some money?

Let me offer my two cents. After 16 years of fundraising database consulting, the single most important piece of wisdom that I can impart on my clients and colleagues is to take the data entry and gift processing position seriously. It is certainly not a job for someone inexperienced or under-trained.

We all know, and are probably sick of hearing, the old adage: Garbage in, garbage out. I’ve come to realize over the years that many of the Directors looking to hire this position tend to take that to assume that the garbage is coming from a sloppy typist or no attention to detail. But let’s take a closer look at just some of what it takes to be an ace gift processor:

An understanding of tax laws and how they apply to different types of gifts.

  • For example, there is a very specific protocol for stock and property donations. Matching gifts also get a specific treatment. In accordance with your 501(c)3 status, there are legalities involved in choosing which fund to apply a gift to. How and when is it OK to use soft credits? What is tax deductible and what is not? How do I calculate partial tax deductibility? And then there’s workplace giving, which I’m sure many of you are nervously chuckling about as you read this.

Experience coordinating and reconciling with the Finance Department.

  • A good gift processor should be able to identify red flags and keep the data flowing smoothly between your fundraising database and your accounting software.Is your database setup to communicate effectively and reconcile with your Finance Department? How should event gifts be tracked when a portion of the proceeds goes to a certain fund? And if a donor calls and wants to change their gift, what happens next?

Confidence in maintaining and utilizing a gift code structure that achieves your organization’s goals and reporting needs.

  • Fundraising databases are built to be flexible enough to accommodate many types of nonprofits. You need a gift processor who understands your unique needs and can reflect that in the coding of your gifts: consistently, accurately and with vision for tracking this information past, present and future.

There is a decision making process involved for every gift entered. The ability to think critically and thoroughly about each gift, using a breadth of knowledge of nonprofit management in addition to understanding the unique needs of your organization is what it really takes to maintain a clean and highly functional database. The ‘garbage’ isn’t sloppy typing or poor attention to detail. We aren’t talking about a simple typist, data input job. The garbage usually comes from well-meaning employees who just don’t have the experience, knowledge or training to understand the consequences of their inputs.

I have long been, and will always be an advocate for professionally managed data, including data entry. The integrity of your data, the cornerstone of your fundraising efforts, starts here.