In This Article:

    Summary Letters: Best Practices

    In This Article:

      When and Why

      US-based non-profit organizations that effectively manage donor interactions are more likely to generate leads and raise more money in the future. This is especially true during Tax Season. The question is, what are some of best practice steps and Salsa CRM tools you can use to astutely manage the interactions that you have with your donors?

      According to IRS Publication 1771:

      • Donors must have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contribution before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
      • Donors are responsible for obtaining a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
      • Charitable organizations are required to provide a written disclosure to a donor who receives goods or services in exchange for a single payment in excess of $75.

       Written statements must contain the following content:

      1. Organization name
      2. The "cash" contribution amount
      3. A description (but not the value) of non-cash contribution
      4. A statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization in return for the contribution if that was the case 
      5. A description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution 
      6. A statement that goods or services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits if that was the case

      It is not necessary to include either the donor’s Social Security number or tax identification number on the acknowledgment.

      A separate acknowledgment may be provided for each single contribution of $250 or more, or one acknowledgment, such as an annual summary, may be used to substantiate several single contributions of $250 or more. 

      Leverage the Interaction

      Think of every letter as an investment. It is important that with every letter created, there is a call to further action or clear next steps included in the mailing/email. If you spend money on paper, envelopes, stamps, and ink to send a mailing, you had better include marketing material in the mailing inviting them to participate, or to continue participation. If you only send them a summary of contributions, it’s a wasted opportunity!

      First Contact Rule

      You can save money by waiting until a donor contacts your nonprofit first. It is not required by law to send a year-end summary of giving. If not contacted, don’t send. Save the forever stamps and use the paper and envelope on someone else. The flip side of that is — sending a contribution summary is an opportunity to fundraise. If you don't ask, you don't receive.

      Valuably Serve Valued Clients

      It is important to document in your donor database all those donors who are deemed “valued.” Once all valued donors are determined by your organization, it is important to treat them as valuable. Once your organization has realized a need to establish valued donors, the next step should be determining exactly what a valued donor is. A good general rule to follow: red-flag donations over $250. If these valued customers request contribution summary letters it is absolutely paramount to deliver such information. You should also handwrite a letter to your largest donors.

      Mail or Email: What Works Best For Your Nonprofit?

      There are benefits to using both general mail and email when submitting summary letters to donors. The email route is of course cheaper, faster, and all around more efficient. However, there is something of value to be said about attaching a handwritten note to your summary letter in the mail.

      In Philip Hensher’s essay The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note published in the Wall Street Journal, the author argues that “there’s no denying the wonders of electronic messages, but nothing captures a moment like putting pen to paper.”

      So here is the challenge, keep track of your data and learn from trends. If your organization’s “valued donors” pool is impacted (in future donations) by the extra effort of a handwritten note, then put in that extra effort. If not, an email donation summary letter gets the job done just fine!

      What's nice with Salsa CRM is that the same letter you use to print summary letters can just be added as an attachment to an emailed letter (converted to PDF) so you only need two documents, the letter and the body of the email notice.

      Finally, always test and learn to develop new communications channels and tools.

       

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