Donor-Centered Fundraising – Essentials for Acknowledging Gifts

Donor Centered Fundraising

With April just around the corner, now is a great time to ‘spring clean’ your gift acknowledgment policy. According to Grant Space, gift acknowledgment serves two purposes: 1) substantiates donations for donors who require documentation, and 2) thanks donors personally and sincerely. 

Consider these 3 essentials when creating a donor-centered gift acknowledgment policy for your organization.

1. Be Timely

Your acknowledgment policy should specify time frames for phoning, sending an email, or mailing an acknowledgement letter. Acknowledging a gift or pledge within three days is considered best practice, but whittle that down to 24 hours, and you’re a superstar!

2. Cover Your Bases

A phone call can be a very effective way to personally and sincerely thank a donor. Donors know that a call takes more time and effort than mailing a letter – and the connection you can make on the phone is invaluable. Calls are especially suitable for first-time donors, major donors, and donors who are close to your organization (for example, board members).

Regardless of whether a donor receives a call, they also need to receive written acknowledgment. Written acknowledgment (letter or email) provides the necessary documentation referenced above, including required IRS tax language

I recommend a tiered approach that outlines which donors receive calls, emails, letters or a special gift. For example, all donors might receive an acknowledgment letter. In addition, donors of $250 and above might receive a call from you or another development officer. Donors of $2,500 and above might receive a call from your CEO or Executive Director. For donors of $10,000 and above, an appropriate board member could be involved. Higher levels might receive a special gift, e.g., a framed photo of your students, clients, or others as relates to your mission.

Of course, the tiered dollar levels should be adjusted to coincide with gift levels typically received by your organization.

3. Personalize and Ensure Accuracy

Acknowledgment letters and emails should be personalized as much as possible. At the very least, try to update your letters quarterly. Sending your donors the same letter year after year will not inspire them to be more involved. The best acknowledgment letters share how a donor’s gift is making an impact on your mission and work. A handwritten note and a real (not electronic) signature are nice personal touches.

Double- and triple-check the accuracy of your donor’s name (check out my tips for how to avoid mistakes). Also, be sure you are acknowledging the correct amount and purpose of a gift. It would be awkward to thank a donor for a capital campaign gift when their donation had been intended to purchase a table to your annual event.

Gift acknowledgment is often the first step in your overall stewardship program. Acknowledgment – when done properly – sends a donor-centered message, fosters a positive relationship with your donor, and sets the stage for future support and more money raised for your organization’s mission.

Please comment below to share your suggestions for donor-centered gift acknowledgment. I would love to hear your ideas!   

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