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If you’re a nonprofit organization that accepts charitable contributions (donations, in-kind items, etc.), formally acknowledging gifts is a necessity. But what should you include in your donation receipts, and when should you send them? Plus, aren’t there some legal requirements to be aware of?
In this article, we’ll teach you everything nonprofits need to know about the process, including how a free donation receipt template can save you time and keep you organized.
What is a donation receipt?
Also called a gift acknowledgment letter or a donation receipt letter, a donation receipt is (you guessed it) an acknowledgment of receipt for a contribution made to a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status—whether the donation came through a fundraising page, a live event, or even an online donation form or website widget.
Similar to a thank you letter for a donation, receipts typically express gratitude and summarize the details of a particular gift. Not only are donation receipt letters good practice for ongoing donor stewardship, helping to build connections with supporters, but they’re also legally required by the IRS. Nonprofits, by law, must acknowledge a gift of $250 or higher (don’t stress—more details on this later!).
Nonprofits will often have an automated donation receipt set up via email, and then follow that message with a more detailed and heartfelt donor acknowledgment letter, personal email, or even video message.
When should you send a donation receipt?
There are a couple of different timeframes to be aware of when considering when to send donation receipts. In general, charitable organizations typically send this kind of message at these times:
- Immediately after a donation is made ⏰ Automation tools like Givebutter’s donation receipt generator make it easier than ever to send an instant acknowledgment of a gift or ticket purchase.
- Upon request 💌 Nonprofits that don’t use automatic receipts often send an acknowledgment of a gift when requested by a supporter for a tax deduction. Your nonprofit CRM can streamline searching and filtering contacts and transactions and keep you organized by marking gifts as acknowledged.
- For annual reporting 🗓️ End-of-year giving reports are often used to compile a donor’s yearly gifts for tax purposes.
- After special gift contributions 🎁 Aside from one-time donations or fundraising event ticket purchases, nonprofits also send receipts for recurring donations, matched gifts, in-kind donations, and other unique situations.
What to include in a donation receipt
As mentioned earlier, donations of $250 and above require a formal acknowledgment or receipt of the gift. While nonprofits can certainly include required tax information in their receipts on an ad hoc basis when it’s applicable, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of sending these details along with all receipts—just so nothing slips through the cracks.
When creating your donation receipt template, be sure to abide by IRS requirements by including the following information:
- The formal name of your nonprofit ✅
- The donor’s full name ✅
- The date of the donation ✅
- A description of non-cash donation (if applicable) ✅
- Acknowledgment that donors didn’t receive any goods or services in exchange for the donation ✅
How to create donation receipts (plus, real examples!)
Follow these five steps to build a donation receipt that checks all the boxes.
Step 1. Automate 🔁
Automating your donation receipts saves time and keeps you organized. Donation receipts can come in many shapes and sizes, each with its own form of automation:
📩 Email: Especially for donations made online, email is a practical medium for sending donation receipts. Many organizations save time by setting up a donation receipt template for automatic donation receipts through a CRM.
📨 Direct mail: Donation receipts also travel via snail mail. And, with a letter builder, you can also create a free, printable donation receipt template to use again and again.
🤳 Text message: For tech-savvy donors, a donation letter via SMS can work just fine.
Craft your donation receipt with texting tools to send immediate yet personal thank-you blasts when donations come in.
Step 2. Personalize 💛
While donation receipt letters can feel like just another item on the to-do list, it’s essential to remember that acknowledgment of gifts is more than just a hassle of running a nonprofit. Donation receipts, if done well, are a prime opportunity to connect with supporters and make them feel important. That’s where personalization comes in.
In your CRM, organize supporter data with filters, labels, and tags so you know who you’re thanking, and why. With merge fields, you can automatically address each supporter by first and last name, include specific donation amounts, and even the specific campaign they contributed to.
Step 3. Make it yours 🎨
Great donation receipts should always include branded elements in order to remind supporters of who you are. Plus, a little branding always helps stick out from run-of-the-mill spam. Just like creating custom donation forms, specific design elements reinforce your organization’s identity and serve to bolster your connection with supporters.
Create a donation receipt template that speaks to your organization by including:
- Your organization’s logo
- Your brand colors and fonts
- Branded illustrations or graphics
Step 4. Show your gratitude 🙏
Donor stewardship involves lots of gratitude every step of the way. When creating your donation receipt, be sure to emphasize the impact of a donor’s gift with specificity. Instead of only including the factual details of a contribution, create a custom thank you message that mentions specifics around the impact of a donation.
Provide details about specific groups or beneficiaries that were helped by the donor’s contribution, how a donor’s gift helped pay for crucial operating costs, or why their contribution is particularly relevant during a specific time or season. It’ll make all the difference! Plus, you can really make it pop with embedded video testimonials, photos, and even gifs.
🌟 Check out a sample 501(c)(3) donation receipt letter: For their campaign to provide diverse books at free libraries around their Massachusetts community, Tri-Town Against Racism created this branded, simple (yet powerful) opening message with Givebutter’s automated donation receipt template:
Step 5. Inspire 💪
While donation receipt templates are all about acknowledging past gifts, they can also be used to inspire future giving (stick with us here). Once supporters are thanked and appreciated, they’re more likely to give again. That’s where strategic call-to-actions (or CTAs) come in.
To maintain the giving momentum, great donation receipt templates often include:
- Your nonprofit’s contact information for further communication
- Social media icons and links for following
- QR codes (if sent via snail mail!) for supporters to scan-to-donate, which link to your campaign, donation page, or form
Here’s what the rest of the donation receipt from Tri-Town Against Racism looks like, starting with a record of the message the donor shared on their supporter wall, followed by all the transaction information, and ending with one-click social buttons for sharing the campaign further:
Use Givebutter’s free donation receipt templates for smooth donor appreciation
Take the stress out of donation receipt letters—whether email, snail mail, or text—with Givebutter’s all-in-one fundraising solution.
Every time someone donates through Givebutter, they receive an immediate email confirmation of their donation or ticket purchase with all the tax information they need—donation amount, EIN, campaign details, reference number, and more. You can even add your branding, logo, and a heartfelt thank-you message to customize donor receipts to reflect your mission and express your gratitude in a meaningful way.
Set up automatic donation receipts with Givebutter
With dozens of free, world-class tools for creating donation forms, managing events, and automating all of your supporter communications (including donation receipts!), you can kick your feet up, and focus on what’s really important (like changing the world). Create your free account and start generating free automatic donation receipts today!
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