Guide to Charitable Donation Receipts

 
Are you making the most of your charitable donation receipt? They aren’t just about giving your donor a tax exemption. Your donation acknowledgement email can be a place to tell your story, thank your donors and build your relationship with them. 

Charitable donation receipts are essential. They help you cover your bases with the IRS or CRA, track your donations, and are crucial to successful donor relationships. Prompt, accurate and thoughtful gift acknowledgments are central to effective fundraising.

There is a lot of information on donation receipts, but we are here to break it down for you with examples, graphics, and valuable information. So stay tuned! 
 

Table of Contents 

[Tip #1] What should you include in your donation receipt? 
[Tip #2] Storytelling in your donation receipts
[Tip #3] 3 Terrific Examples of Donation Receipt Emails
[Tip #4] When should you send and follow up on your receipts
[Tip #5] general tips and best practices 

What to Include in a Donation Receipt

If you have just received your charitable status, double-check with your country’s revenue agency or discuss it with your accountant or attorney for more information. 

Generally, your receipt should include: 
  1. The name of your nonprofit and the full name of the donor
  2. The date the donation was made
  3. A detailed description of in-kind donations
  4. Donation amounts for monetary donations (donors should provide the monetary value of in-kind contributions)
  5. Clearly state whether goods or services were exchanged for the donation
  6. The value of goods or services provided to the donor
To avoid expensive fines or reassessments, hold on to copies of official donation receipts for two years from the end of the calendar year in which the donation was made. Sending receipts through a centralized donor management software will make filing a lot easier as it will automatically collect and store data.
 

When Should You Send and Follow Up On Your Receipt? 

There are two ways we recommend sending your receipts: immediately and in an annual summary sent in January. Receipts are required for donations over $250, but it’s best practice to decide what that minimum would be based on your ROI and process. 

Another rule of thumb is to send your receipt along with a thank-you. Having an automated system will do this for you, so you can customize your emails to include an image, a quick (but sincere) thank-you and, of course, your donor’s receipt. Donor Engine sends receipts right away and automatically segments the correct receipt for the right donation. You can have separate receipts for offline, online, tribute or in kind-gifts so you can be assured that the right receipt is going to the right donor. 

When you begin to get into in-kind donations, donations made through an anonymous donation bin do not require a receipt but a gift made by a donor. Here are the basics for both Canada and the USA: 

Canada (According to the CRA)

  • Services are non-deductible unless it is a consulting service.
  • If the gift is valued over $1000, it is advised that the property be professionally appraised by a third party not associated with either the donor or your charity.
  • Gifts under $1000 still need to be accessed for fair market value. However, a member of your registered charity, or another individual, with sufficient knowledge of the property may determine its value.
  • Description of the property, date received and the name and address of the appraiser if the gift is valued over $1000.

USA (According to the IRS)

  • Each gift and service should be recorded at the fair market value by your organization.
  • For any contribution of $250 or more, including in-kind gifts, you must keep records of a  written acknowledgement from your organization indicating the gift’s value and a description of the property. 
  • An appraisal is required if the value exceeds $5,000.

Tell a Story Using Your Charitable Donation Receipt

Never miss an opportunity to connect with your donors. Charitable donation receipts are the perfect chance to send a thoughtful thank-you and prove to your donors that they made the right decision in supporting your organization. 

You don’t have to include an ask like a "donate now” button, but you can ask them to continue the journey by watching their impact through your Instagram or Facebook feed. Or maybe you have an album with pictures showing how you have been living out your mission.  You could even ask them to amplify their impact by announcing their gift on social media and asking their friends also to donate - include a share button to make this as easy as possible!  

Now, this doesn’t have to be a stressful task. You don’t need to make new content specifically for your receipts. Instead, look at the content you already have available and pick a piece that highlights how your donations will be used to make the world a better place. 

Some examples you can use are: 
  • Short 1-3 minute videos that deliver a message from your Executive Director, Founder or another executive staff member. You can also send an event recap or a short informational video. This is a great way to link your YouTube channel if you have one! 
  • First-hand testimonials from those your organizations served explaining how you’ve impacted their lives. 
  • A high-quality photo, graphic or infographic, or link to an album. 
  • Blog posts, you can choose to feature your more recent post or one that best represents your organization’s recent accomplishments. 
A good subject line and call to action is a must! Here are 5 top tips to make your subject lines stand out: 


3 Exceptional Donation Receipt Emails To Learn From

So now that you learned the importance of storytelling, what does that look like in action? We found 3 of our top donation receipt examples and compiled them below to share how they added value beyond a tax-deductible receipt. 

1. SickKids


If you haven’t heard of SickKids, you should take a second to Google them. They have one of the best marketing campaigns and websites and a great example of branding a campaign. 

The image in the email is part of their SickKids VS campaign, where they feature patients in their hospital and showcase them as heroes conquering their illnesses. I love their email copy because it’s short, informative and creates a personal connection by sharing Cierra’s story. They also offer a contact number and email if I have any concerns with a signature from their CEO. 
 

2. Pawsitivity Service Dogs


I love this email because it is so effective and isn’t very long. I donated to the Pawsitivity Service Dogs in support of Australia's fires. The image with the kangaroo in burnt terrain communicates precisely what their donation is for and why it’s important. A picture can speak 1000 words and express emotions that words can’t. 

If they added a signature from their CEO or DOD, it would make this email a 10/10!

3. CAMH

 
 

CAMH is a fantastic organization, and their Vice President of Philanthropy Megan Tregunno joined us on the Fundraising Superheroes podcast to talk about the impact their organization has been making. Their email copy provides a lot of opportunities for the donor to read more about the impact of their donation, but they miss one crucial thing- show it don’t say it! 

I would suggest less text and more images or a short video sharing the stories of their clients or showcase their hardworking volunteers and staff. 
 

Charitable Donation Receipt Best Practices 

  1. Have a valid "from” email address from your Director of Development, CEO, Founder or another executive member. Your email should also have a personal signature that matches the sender’s email. Bonus points if that signature includes a photo and digital signature of the signer!
  2. An intriguing subject line that pulls your donor in! Be creative and use it as an opportunity to thank your donors.
  3. Use their name and any specific information about their donation (are they a monthly donor, is it towards a particular campaign?)  when possible! Address them directly in the email and if you mention their gift amount, make sure it is all accurate.
  4. Use "hero” language and a warm tone throughout your email. Let them know that their contribution made a difference in your nonprofit and that they made the right decision in supporting you. 
  5. Add a relevant photo, image or short video that illustrates the impact their donation makes.
  6. Store copies of your donation receipts and use a unique serial number or donation ID.
  7. Provide contact information that the donor can use if they have any questions or concerns about their receipt. Providing an open line of communication shows that you value their input and are interested in hearing from them. 
  8. Finally, you need to include your receipt! Include all the necessary information and be sure to use proper tax language, you can always consult with your Accountant or Attorney for help. 
 

In Conclusion

Your donation receipt is more than just a receipt. It’s a way to steward donors and show your appreciation for their support of your cause. After making sure your receipt covers all the necessary guidelines that your country, province or state requires, you can get creative by adding  = copy demonstrating authentic gratitude, an intriguing content piece and a flawless receipt. 

A sufficient donation receipt will:
  • Leave a lasting impact on both your new and returning donors
  • Communicate that their gift went through successfully 
  • Include an error-free receipt 
  • Leave them with the feeling that they made a difference


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