2023 Best Practices for Raiser’s Edge™ Gift Entry: Strong Fundraising Campaigns, Funds, and Appeals

Feb 17, 2023
fundraising campaigns, funds, and appeals

Your gift entry for fundraising campaigns, funds, and appeals set the tone for all of your reporting and analysis. The key is coming up with a smart, logical gift architecture and then be consistent in using the codes. If your codes are all over the place with different abbreviations and descriptions, it will be difficult to run any reporting or understand your philanthropic landscape. 


Fundraising operations professionals take campaigns, funds, and appeals very seriously. I'm going to lay out how I like to code gifts, but know that there are many ways to code. As long as you're consistent, there's no wrong way. Campaigns and appeals are real estate in your database specifically for fundraising. These codes allow you to understand how each solicitation method is performing. The fund codes are finance's real estate in your database.

Campaigns are the broadest codes and are fairly high level. In databases that I manage, the campaign codes match the budget codes. This allows you to always know where you are to budget. Campaign codes are all-encompassing, and every appeal must roll up into a campaign. Here are some examples of campaigns: Capital, Annual, Endowment, Events, and Grants. Based on your fundraising program (and budget), you might have additional codes. These rarely change and I prefer to keep these codes evergreen (i.e. Annual instead of FY24 Annual.)

Funds are the donor designation areas. These should exactly match finance's funds because it's important that both departments understand where a donor has designated their funding. These are typically the names of your programs or specific initiatives within your programs. Here are some examples of funds: Unrestricted, University Scholarships, Athletics, Athletics-Volleyball, Campus Life, Chapel, Chapel-Renovation, etc.

Appeals are the actual method of solicitation, like FY24 Year End Mailing, FY23 Giving Tuesday, FY24 Workplace Giving, FY24 Golf Tournament Sponsor, etc. As you can see, these are not evergreen because they have the fiscal year associated with it. There's a method to my madness here! Typically appeals do not change that much from year to year but it is nice to have a report that breaks down how the appeals did by fiscal year.

This is where we clean up a lot of databases because the appeals get messed up over many years. For example, one year the appeal might be FY24 End of Year Appeal, but the year before was FY22 EOY. The year before that was FY21 Year End. Always be consistent with your code names and only change the fiscal years.

Standards for Fundraising Campaigns, Funds and Appeals

Let's start with some standards so we're calibrated on the why, when, and how to code your campaigns, funds and appeals. These standards ensure that we're coding gifts in the right way. Please take the standards below and update them accordingly for your fundraising department.

  • Every gift, including pledges, will have a campaign, fund, and appeal.
  • Any new campaign or appeal codes must be approved by the database administrator before they are added to the database.
  • Campaign codes will be evergreen and will not include a fiscal year.
  • Appeal codes will include the fiscal year.
  • The fund codes in the fundraising database will exactly match the funds in finance.
  • New fund codes will be generated in finance and then implemented into the fundraising database.
  • The fund ID with match in both the fundraising database and the finance database.

Every Organization is Different

It's hard to give advice on fundraising campaigns, funds, and appeals because every organization has different ways of raising money and capturing those efforts. But, what I can tell you is that you need to think about what reports and analytics you want, and build backwards from there. Additionally, try hard to avoid duplicative coding. Here's an example:

Campaign: Scholarships

Fund: Scholarships

Appeal: Scholarships

That is terrible coding because you learn nothing about what inspired the gift. Your campaign, fund, and appeal codes should all be different and have no duplication between any of the fields.

Oftentimes, I do see where organizations will switch campaigns and appeals. Here's an example. An organization might think of a campaign as a set of solicitations like FY24 Year End Campaign. Then, the appeals would be the different mailings and emails associated with that larger fundraising effort. Appeals in this structure could be: Giving Tuesday, Lapsed Donor Mailing, Long-Lapsed Donor Mailing, Acquisition email, etc. If this works for you, that is great. Just be consistent!

I hope this gives you some food for thought as your structuring your fundraising campaigns, funds, and appeals. It takes forethought and careful planning to build out your architecture, put it into place, and stick to it!


About Mary Hackett

Mary Hackett is a vibrant and engaging powerhouse in the world of major gift expertise, with a sparkling career steeped in the intricacies of fundraising operations. Residing in the picturesque town of Bend, Oregon, Mary's professional journey is as lively and inspiring as her scenic surroundings. Her extensive experience in fundraising is marked by a unique blend of strategic insight and a contagious enthusiasm that has consistently propelled organizations to new heights of success. With a knack for connecting with people and a deep understanding of the nuances of philanthropy, Mary has become a sought-after expert in her field. Her approach to fundraising is not just about meeting targets; it's about building relationships, weaving stories, and creating impactful experiences that resonate with donors and communities alike. In Mary's world, every fundraising campaign is an adventure, filled with opportunities to make a meaningful difference while having a whole lot of fun along the way. Want to work with Mary? 

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Learn more at www.maryhackett.co

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