As a consultant for nonprofits and as a contributor to nonprofits myself one of my biggest pet peeves is writing a check to a nonprofit or donating goods or services and not getting a receipt for what I gave.
What should this receipt look like or say?
The written acknowledgment required to substantiate a charitable contribution must contain the following information:
- Name of the organization;
- Amount of cash contribution;
- Description (but not value) of non-cash contribution;
- Statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization, if that is the case;
- Description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services, if any, that organization provided in return for the contribution; and
- Statement that goods or services, if any, that the organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, if that was the case.
You generally can deduct your cash contributions as well as the fair market value of any property you donate to qualified organizations. The fair market value of most household or personal items is generally much less than the price paid when new. You should claim only what the item would sell for at a garage sale, a flea market, or a second hand or thrift store.
If you have a donor calling you at the end of the year as they prepare their taxes to get a receipt for a contribution they made during the year then, shame on you, for not doing your job! Also, realize a receipt is just that a receipt it is not a meaningful thank you card. Do not try to combine them as if they were both receipt and thank you.
If you are serious about building a relationship with your donors then you need to be thinking about how you can properly thank them! This may mean sending a separate written thank you note or card, or make sure in your next newsletter you say thank you. If you publish an annual report that is also another good opportunity to let someone know you appreciate them by listing their name under donors or supporters. At your next fundraising event, have a display board that has written out the words “thank you” and have a list of all your donors. Think about giving your donor a little memento to say thank you. Post-it-note cubes with your nonprofit logo work great and look nice on your donor’s desk at his or her office and will keep your image in front of him or her daily! A coffee mug full of mints or chocolates can be inexpensive and a nice touch, etc. Be creative, but most of all be genuine!
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.