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The Dos and Don'ts of the Nonprofit Gift Acknowledgement Letter

Lacey Jackson
March 13, 2019
Min Read

Your organization strives to make the most out of every gift, regardless of the donation amount. All gifts make an impact on your organization—from buying office supplies to organizing events. When donations are made, it’s important to show donors how much their contribution means to the success of your organization.

Reaching out and engaging with your donors is a great way to cultivate a list of people who give regularly. But sending a good thank you letter is about much more than simply encouraging additional donations. When people make a donation to a nonprofit, they care about seeing how their gift is being used to benefit the organization.  

If your organization is lucky enough to receive many donations each month, sending out personalized thank you letters to every donor may not be feasible. This is where thank you letter automation comes in. Automating your nonprofit gift acknowledgement letters doesn’t mean sending out impersonal responses that address donors as “dear friend”. Formstack Documents makes it easy to send out personalized thank you letters as soon as donations are made to your organization.

Here are some dos and don’ts of adding thank you letter automation to your nonprofit organization’s workflow.

DO send timely responses.

When donors make a contribution through your website or online form tool, make sure to send a prompt response. It needs to include information about their gift so they can keep a file for tax purposes. By law, any public nonprofit organization is required to send a formal acknowledgement letter to anyone making a donation of over $250. The donor will need your formal acknowledgement letter as proof of contribution to claim a tax deduction.

Promptly sending your contribution acknowledgement letter helps your organization meet legal requirements. Plus, you’re donors will appreciate that they don’t have to worry about reaching out to your organization for paperwork or hunt for physical documents when tax season comes.

Chocorua Lake Conservancy, a small, all-volunteer land trust in New Hampshire, uses Formstack Documents to automatically send prompt thank you letters when they receive donations.

According to Chocorua’s board president, before Formstack Documents, they had to “run a report of all recent new donations, run a mail merge with a form gift acknowledgement letter, then print out, sign, and mail 30-40 letters in a batch. Formstack Documents has made it MUCH easier for me to automatically generate personalized, mail-merged gift acknowledgment letters to donors within days of their donation.This saves me many hours of drudgery every month, and gives me a way to spread the workload to other board members.”

DO Share how a donor’s gift serves your organization.

Help your donors enjoy their donation by sharing photos of how their contribution might be used. This builds a connection between you and your donors and gives them an opportunity to celebrate the great work your organization is doing. Photos are a great way to update your charitable donation acknowledgement template and give a tangible result of donor contribution. Donors will truly appreciate seeing photos that share how their dollars are helping your organization make a difference. The donations you collect leave a lasting impact on your organization—continue to share that impact with your donors as much as you can.

DO make it personal.
Personalize, personalize, personalize! Sending a plain acknowledgement from an impersonal donor thank you letter template doesn’t make your donors feel special or important. Make sure the form donors complete when they make a contribution gives you enough detail (like their name, location, and donation instructions) to send a letter that is highly personalized. Thank you letters give a face to your organization, help you engage with your donor base, and encourage future contributions.

- Formstack Documents helps you to personalize your letters using many of your favorite tools. Even if you use spreadsheets to house some of your donor information, - - Formstack Documents can help! Instead of going through your spreadsheet line by line to plug data into your donor thank you letter template manually, you can use - - - Formstack Documents to pull data from your spreadsheet for you. Formstack Documents will automatically populate your template and deliver it as a PDF to your donors!

Read More: Read the full tutorial on generating personalized letters using CSV data.

DON’T forget to include links to your social media.

Continue to add a face to your organization by including links to your social media sites. Links to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram encourage donors to follow your story and make future contributions. Encourage donors to follow your social sites and share about their contribution. If you’re using an online form builder to collect donations, consider creating a thank you landing page that includes your social accounts and the option to instantly share information on their pages about how to donate.

If you haven’t already set up social media accounts for your nonprofit organization, now is the time. It's never too late to get started!

DON’T limit thank you letters to only donors who gave large amounts.

The IRS only requires you to send nonprofit gift acknowledgement letters when donors make a gift in the amount of $250 or more. But it's important to emphasize that every gift helps. Anyone making a donation to your organization cares about the cause you are trying to support or the change you’re working to effect. No matter the amount, make sure to explain how your donor’s gift impacts your organization, advances your cause, and improves someone’s life. Providing ALL of your donors with a warm, personalized thank you letter that explains the impact of their donation keeps people engaged with your brand. Who knows, they could sign up for a continuous contribution or make a larger secondary gift in the future!

Keep your nonprofit organization focused on your goals by  eliminating manual data entry and paper processes from your workflows. Formstack Documents is an as easy-to-use, customizable letter automation tool. Now, you can automatically generate and send personalized thank you letters as soon as donations are made. Formstack Documents has even created some customizable examples to help you build your own custom charitable contribution acknowledgement letter template.

Simplify your nonprofit workflows with our donation receipt template and many more by starting a free trial today!


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Lacey Jackson
Lacey is a Product Marketing Manager at Formstack who is dedicated to creating content that showcases the power of the Formstack Platform. When she’s not creating Formstack Builders tutorials, she can be found reading, playing board games, or strolling with her dog. Lacey is a graduate of Franklin College.
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