There are two parts to any donation: 1) the donor gives and 2) you receive the donation and thank the donor.
We call it the cycle of giving.
It doesn’t matter if the donation is made online, through the mail, in person, or by carrier pigeon, you need to thank the donor and provide them a receipt.
Why? Because thanking the donor well not only is polite, but it lets the donor know their gift arrived safely and that you appreciate it. AND it sets the stage for the next gift.
Think of it this way: Your donation receipt is an Ambassador from your nonprofit to your donor to thank them for their support.
So, what makes a good Ambassador?
- They’re friendly
- They’re professional
- They build trust
- They’re helpful.
It makes sense then that your donation receipt should be the same.
Unfortunately, for most nonprofits, the donation receipt is full of default text, boring to read, and off-brand.
Think about it: if your nonprofit is a friendly, compassionate organization, it’s a mismatch when the language in your donation receipt is stiff and unfriendly. I got a stiff, dull note recently from a nonprofit I support and I thought “what the heck?”
So, let’s make your donation receipts so good it makes your donor say “wow!”
It’s not hard to do – it just takes a little thought and a little time.
By the time you finish reading this, you’ll know how to create a flawless online donation receipt to better represent your organization and meet the needs of your donor.
Almost every online donation processor offers you standard text for a receipt. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
But it’s not the right text for your nonprofit.
Dull is not your style. THIS is not your style:
Notice there’s NO thanking language. At. All.
As a donor, that feels yucky when I receive a receipt like that. It wouldn’t take much to warm it up a bit.
Here’s one that has some thanking language, but it’s very generic. In fact, it’s SO generic, I literally have no idea what nonprofit this came from.
I’m not sure what’s worse – the receipt number in the subject line, the “no-reply” email or the fact that the nonprofit has not identified themselves in the email. This is a HUGE missed opportunity to connect with the donor.
Now, here’s a really good one:
Notice the difference?
A well-done receipt will meet the donor’s need for documenting their donation and also make them feel good about giving, which is CRITICAL in building the all-important donor relationship.
Other reasons why you need a flawless donation receipt because:
- First impressions are everything. For first-time donors, this is their first interaction with you and will have a huge impact on whether or not they decide to give again. If they perceive your nonprofit as organized and friendly, they may want to be involved again. A dull, boring receipt may make them shy away.
- Donor knows their gift went through. Everyone who purchases someone or donates online has one question after they click the ultimate button – Did it go through? Did it process correctly? Your receipt lets your donors know that you received their donation and all is well.
- Make it easy for the donor at tax time. For donors, receipts really serve several purposes including financial record keeping and tax preparation. By providing a well-done receipt with easy-to-find info, you make their life easier as they gather their records for tax time.
Here in the U.S., the IRS requires some specific information in gift receipts. Don’t mess around with these – failure to provide proper documentation to a donor can result in fines up to $5,000 per incident, though receipts for in-kind donations are trickier than receipts for money. For our purposes here, let’s focus on receipts for donations of money.
Your flawless online donation receipt should include any government-required pieces you are required to provide. On top of that, add in other pieces that are considered best practice if you want your donors to give again.
Here’s what you should include in your online donation receipt:
Here’s another good example of a well-done receipt from Best Friends Animal Society:
Now that you’ve seen some really good ones, here are some tips for creating your own flawless online donation receipt:
- Don’t send a thank you message and receipt separately. It’s confusing to the donor and they may not understand that you have 2 separate systems. Remember, the donor’s interaction with your nonprofit is about how they feel, not about your convenience.
- Provide receipts for every donation. Receipts are required for donations over $250 but providing one every time is what you want to do. You should be able to automate this process so it doesn’t require any additional time from you to create and send email receipts.
- Provide an annual summary. In addition to providing a receipt for every donation, send the donor a summary of their giving each January. This is not a requirement, but it sure makes the donor’s life easier as they gather up their tax information. Plus they’ll be super grateful to you for giving them a list of their donations for the year.
A donation receipt is proof that a donor made a charitable contribution to your nonprofit. It’s your responsibility to properly thank the donor and provide an accurate receipt, AND make them feel good about giving — all at the same time.
If you want your donor to fall in love with your nonprofit and give more frequent and larger gifts, give them a good experience and get the receipt right.