How best to acknowledge and thank donors

Showing appreciation to donors is integral to a fundraising campaign.
Date Published
11/08/2013

In the multifaceted process of nonprofit fundraising, much of the attention gets placed on outreach and appeals for donations. After all, one of the motivating factors for a fundraising campaign is to generate contributions from donors.

At the same time, nonprofit organizations shouldn’t lose sight of the the entire scope of the project and forget about thanking donors for their support. However, there are governmental rules in place that nonprofit groups must follow to make sure all actions are accounted for. Consequently, a prompt written acknowledgement of a donor’s gift should be sent within a few days of the contribution. It lets the donor know their funding has reached the organization, which helps build a sense of trust between the two parties.

Recordkeeping is a must
This can be a significant matter for donors, especially those who have given gifts in excess of $250. The National Council of Nonprofits explained the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires donors to provide a receipt or written acknowledgment of their donation at this level of giving. In addition to thanking individual donors that pledge this amount of money, organizations also need to provide documentation of their contribution. Similarly, contributions of $75 or more for which the nonprofit provides a gift of substantial value – such as event tickets or electronics – are identified as “quid pro quo” gifts by the IRS. This also needs to be documented by the nonprofit group and submitted to the contributor.

Making the most of video to say thanks
Charitable groups must also remember to thank donors. As nonprofit management philosophy has gone through phases about the ideal way to recognize individual donors for their contributions, technology has been a force for change. The Internet has become an excellent resource for developing creative ways to do this. Video messages are an excellent way to thank donors and establish a clear understanding of how their contributions have been used.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted several thank you videos that hit the mark. Of the various examples, the University of South Carolina created a production that covered all bases.

  • First, there was a clear voice presenting the message: one student, instead of 10 or 15. The student immediately identified herself by name, major and mentioned the university’s name. By putting a face to the multiple recipients of donors’ contributions, an organization can establish a stronger relationship.
  • What’s more, the student in the video went to great lengths to explain how she has benefited from donations – naming her scholarship specifically – and highlighting the opportunities she had been able to take advantage of at school. This way, donors know what their contributions have accomplished for students.
  • Finally, the production is concise, coming in at 60 seconds. If the video is too long, the people watching may begin to lose focus of the message.

Certainly, many donors have altruistic motivations for participating in a fundraiser, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be recognized for what they’ve done. In addition to paying attention to the legal matter involved in acknowledging donor gifts, providing a clear and concise video thank can go a long way toward building relationships with donors.

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