How to Create an Amazing Donation Receipt for Your Donors

When it comes to fundraising, sometimes the small things make a big difference.  This is certainly true of your non-profit’s donation receipt.  When donors make a gift, the donation receipt is one of the first things they will see, and it will set the tone for how they feel about having made the gift.

Donor stewardship is extremely important for your non-profit.  The way you treat your donors after they make a gift – and how you continue to build relationships with them – will determine whether of not they continue to give to your organization.  And donor stewardship starts with your donation receipt and thank you letter.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to create an amazing donation receipt that helps you steward your donors the right way and keeps them giving year after year – and give you a sample receipt you can use as a template for your organization.

The 4 Rules for Great Donation Receipts

Remember, your non-profit receipts have two primary purposes.  First, you need to make sure the donor has a record of their donation that they can use at tax time.  Second, you want to use your receipt as an additional “donor touch” that helps build a stronger relationship between you and your donor.

Following these 4 rules will assist you in creating a donation receipt that helps you meet both of those goals:

#1: Keep Your Donation Receipts and Thank You Letters Separate

Many non-profits try to combine their donation receipt with their thank you letter.  This is a mistake.  Your donation receipt has a job to do: it needs to include the information that the donor needs to file their taxes.  Your thank-you letter doesn’t need to include any of that financial information.  You can use your thank you letter to focus on showing your gratitude and explaining how important the donation is to your work.

For that reason, you should always keep your receipts and your thank you letters separate.  That being said, you can send them in the same envelope.  They need to be on two separate pieces of paper, but you can mail them together (the letter on top, with the receipt on the bottom).

If you want to learn more about how to write a great thank you letter to include with your donation receipt, read How to Write a Great Donor Thank You Letter.

#2: Always Send a Snail Mail Letter, even  if You Sent an E-Mail Receipt

If someone makes a gift online, you should send them an e-mail that is a combined donation receipt and thank you letter.  (Many non-profits will send the thank you letter in the body of the e-mail, and attach the receipt as a PDF, but you can also include both in the body of your e-mail).

That being said, even if someone makes a gift and you send an e-mail thank you letter and receipt, you should still send the person a snail mail thank you letter.  You don’t need to include another receipt, since you already sent one by e-mail – but sending a snail mail thank you letter gives you another opportunity to steward your donor and to add another great “donor touch” to their donation experience.

#3: Make Sure Your Receipts are Donor-Centered

Just because your donation receipt includes some legalese and tax information does not mean that it should be all official-looking mumbo-jumbo.  On the contrary, you should do your best to make sure that your receipts are as donor-centered as possible.

Thus, you should still show gratitude in your non-profit receipts, and still make your donor the star of the show.  Both your thank you letters and your donation receipts should highlight how important the donor is to your work and to the people that you serve.  Far too many non-profits think their donation receipt needs to look like an official government document… it doesn’t!  Make it donor-centered and easy to read, just like your thank you letters.

#4: Remember to Include the Legalese

Your donation receipt should be donor-centered, but it also needs to include some “legalese” and tax information.  You should check with your accountant or tax attorney to determine exactly what information you need to include in your donation receipts, but for most non-profits, it will include your contact information, a note that you are a registered 501(c)3 organization, the name of the donor, the amount of the gift and the date it was given, and whether any goods or services were received in return for the donation.

Remember, if someone received something of value in return for the gift (such as tickets to an event, or an item they won in the silent auction), that usually needs to be disclosed on the donation receipt.  Again, talk with your accountant, lawyer, or your organization’s treasurer for more details.

Common Questions about Donation Receipts

Before I give you a sample donation receipt for your non-profit, I wanted to answer a few more common questions that I get about non-profit receipts:

Should We Send Receipts Even for Small Gifts?

While some non-profits only send thank you letters and receipts for gifts over a certain threshold (often $50, $100, or $250), my recommendation is that you send donation receipts and thank you notes to all of your donors at every level.  Remember, your receipts and thank you letters are an opportunity to continue to build a relationship with your donor, and donors at all levels love to be acknowledged and recognized for their gifts.

Note that if you have limited resources for donor follow-up, you can elect to only send an automated e-mail thank you letter and donation receipt for small gifts made online, while still sending snail mail acknowledgements for larger gifts made online.

Should We Send a Consolidated Year-End Statement of Donations?

Yes!  I highly recommend that you send thank you notes and donation receipts after each gift you receive, as well as a year-end statement to each of your donors that lists all of the donations (amount, type, and date) that they made throughout the year.  This will help your donor prepare their taxes, and will provide you with an additional positive donor touch at the year-end.  Remember to also include a nice thank you note with the year-end statement.

Where Can I Find More Information about Acknowledgement Rules?

The rules for sending out donor acknowledgements, including for in-kind gifts, gifts, of stock, and other complex gifts, can be found on the IRS website here:  Charitable Contributions – Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements (PDF).  The information provided on our website is not meant to be legal or financial advice.  Please consult your tax advisor to learn more.

A Sample Donation Receipt for Your Non-Profit

Every non-profit’s receipts will look different because each has a different mission, and different states / countries may have different information that you are required to include in your receipts – so be sure to check your local laws and regulations first!

Click here to download a sample donation receipt.

If you’d like to see a sample thank you letter that you can include with your receipt, click here.


Photo Credit: Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

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