4 Best Practices for Nonprofits in the New Year

The decorations are all packed up, the parties are over and the kids are back in school.  January is a time when what we need most is rest, but the to-do list yells, “Let’s do this!”  So take a deep breath and look at 4 things successful nonprofits tackle each New Year and see how you compare:

  1. Year-End Receipts
    If you’ve been in the nonprofit world for any amount of time, this is a no-brainer. Based on the types of donations you accept (cash, check, eChecks, IRA transfers, clothing, cars, etc.), your reporting may come from a variety of places and in many formats.

First, make sure that you know what counts as a donation and the year it qualifies as a deduction for your donors. Start with this helpful article from the IRS and then follow up with a call to your tax professional.

For any last minute gifts the IRS offered this guidance in 2013:

Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2013 count for 2013. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2014. Also, checks count for 2013 as long as they are mailed in 2013.

Now that you know what gifts require receipts, gather all the relevant data that should be included on your giving receipts. Receipts can be as simple or as complicated as you want but they need to include at least the following data:

  • Name of the organization
  • Amount of cash contribution
  • Description (but not the value) of non-cash contribution
  • Statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization in return for the contribution, if that was the case
  • Description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services, if any, that the organization provided in return for the contribution
  • Statement that goods or services, if any, that the organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits (described later in the publication), if that was the case

Most importantly, however you choose to format the receipt, remember that receipts should be delivered no later than January 31st.

  1. Value vs. Value
    The value of a donation goes far beyond the dollars and cents, and this is a great opportunity to remind your donors why they give to your organization. Be specific about how their donations have been essential to your success this past year and the type of impact it had in helping you fulfill your mission.  Share personal stories of those you serve and how their lives were changed.   Your donors believe in your ability to help others; give them reasons to continue to support you.

The year-end receipt might be the place for this but here are a few more options to consider:

  • Hand-written notes: email is great but a hand-written note says that you took the time to thank them in a personal way. Large donors are easily the first donor group to come to mind to receive a hand written thank you note, but consider those that may have given sacrificially or made a difference in other ways.
  • A phone call or personal visit to speaks gratitude in a very intentional way
  • Newsletter (either email or snail-mail) great to recognize your donors as a group
  • Message on your website is also great for group recognition
  1. Data Housekeeping: Get Neat and Tidy
    The New Year is a great motivator to try new things and to clean up the old. Here are some suggestions you may be able to tackle to start the year off neat and tidy:
  • Take some time this January to clean up your donor data – make those address changes you’ve been putting off, or other updates that may have been put off until year-end.
  • Consider updating your email lists and removing email addresses that have been bouncing back as of late.
  • Review your past recurring donations which have ended and contact those donors and invite them to restart their gift.
  • Consolidate any duplicate donor profiles so each donor has just one record in your database
  1. Giving Page Face Lift

It’s always a good idea to take a look at your online giving page and make sure it’s still looking fresh and current. Does it match the look and feel of your website, is it simple and easy to navigate ensuring a smooth experience for your donors?

Check the follow and see how your giving page stacks up:

  • Is your giving page easy to find from your home page? It should be one-click away from any page on your website. This is important because you never know when a visitor will decide to become a donor.  You want to make it as easy for them to make a donation as possible.
  • Does your giving page match the look and feel of your website?  Colors are in sync, logo is current?
  • Are your categories/funds current? Remove old campaigns and add any new ones that might be missing.
  • Ensure that you’re offering recurring giving, that donors can choose their donation’s start date, and all payment options are enabled.

You just finished a great year, start this one off right and follow these steps to free yourself to focus on your passion and ministry.  If you have any questions, just let us know in the comments below, we’re happy to help out!