Say Thank You…and More

“Thank you.” Two simple words, but they mean so much in the world of nonprofit fundraising. Effectively acknowledging donor contributions recognizes donors for their present generosity, provides opportunities for ongoing communication and a deeper connection to your organization, AND sets the stage for future gifts. 

Your gift acknowledgement process doesn’t have to be complex. Keep it simple if you’re just getting started – and to help ensure you can maintain the system! Here are 5 areas you’ll want to pay attention to.

Gift Acknowledgment vs. Tax Receipt

To deduct charitable contributions from their taxable income, donors need a letter containing formal tax language from you. This differs from the thank-you card you might drop in the mail when their check arrives on your desk. Understand the difference and in the interest of efficiency, craft thank-you letters to serve both purposes. 

You can find tips from the IRS about charitable contributions here.

Acknowledgment Timing 

This is second on the list only because I can’t quite manage to put it above IRS rules! Prompt acknowledgment of a gift sends so many good messages to a donor¬ – new or renewing. Aim to get thank-you letters out the door within 72 hours (or less!) of receiving a donor’s gift.

Who Signs the Letters?

Who signs your thank you letters can speed up or slow down your ability to get them out the door quickly. That said, it is worth some extra effort to make sure major donors receive a letter signed by a “major” personality at your organization – i.e. a board member, the Executive Director or CEO. Set a threshold that makes sense for your organization – if a major gift in your world is $5,000 or above, have your CEO sign those letters.  Acknowledgment letters recognizing lower-level gifts can be signed by your development director, a program director or another upper management staff person with whom the donor has connected.

Customizing Letters

Again, for major donors, the thank-you letter is a springboard to so much more. For really significant gifts, spend some time creating a more personal letter. Trust me – it’s okay to deviate from the template! A customized thank-you letter is just another opportunity to keep your major gifts work donor-centered.

Document Your Process 

Write down the steps you’ve designed for acknowledging donors. Everyone on your development team will likely pitch in to execute the process so it’s helpful to invite them to be part of creating the process. Plus you never know where good ideas will come from – you may hear tips for execution that you hadn’t thought of. 

By documenting the steps, everyone will understand expectations and deliverable. Plus putting it all in writing will often lead to further streamlining your process.

What other key issues drive your donor acknowledgment process? Please share in the Comments box below.

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).