Gift Acknowledgement Ideas For New Donors

Everyone in fundraising knows that we are quickly coming up on the season of giving. So if you are like most of the groups in our Meals on Wheels Cooperative fundraising campaign, you are using this calm before the storm to get ready.

Before you know it, the holiday giving season will open its floodgates and charitable donations will start rolling in.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the deluge of contributions. Why wouldn’t you — you’ve been working on it for months. So celebrate!

Yes, do celebrate, but put the effort in now to make sure that everything is in place. Don’t forget about the donors — especially those new donors — or good database management.

Be Ready To Thank Your Donors

  1. All donors should be sent a timely thank you letter — preferably within 48 hours — but up to one week is acceptable. While we believe that all charitable gifts should receive a sincere thank you, note that as a 501©3 organization, you are required by law to acknowledge all gifts over $250 for tax purposes. A good thank you letter is both heartfelt and brief (no more than three SHORT paragraphs) and should never ask for money. However, it should also include an envelope for a donor to respond if they choose. Although you should never ask for money, most organizations do get some second gifts from the acknowledgements, and it can help cover the cost of postage. 

  2. Gifts of more than $250 from new donors should receive special attention. This special handling could be a handwritten note of “Welcome” or “Thanks again” to personalize it.

  3. Gifts of $500 or more from new donors should receive a “Thank you and welcome” call. For some groups, thank you calls can happen at the $250 level depending on the volume. Figure out what you can manage and go from there. This is a great time to get board members involved in the donor cultivation. Your new donor will love that a board member took the time to call them and say thank you.

You may want to request additional volunteer help in advance to assist with donor acknowledgments.

Be Prepared For Questions

Make sure all of the staff is aware that a campaign is out in the mail and that you may be receiving calls from donors and prospects. This is an important time to educate staff and volunteers about how to handle the communities’ response to your campaign.

You may get a call or complaint from a prospect who received the mailing and wants to know “Where did you get my name?” It’s simple to explain to the caller that as you look for new supporters, you purchase lists to help expand your donor base. You’ll have to explain that you do not physically have their name and that another company is the source of their name. You should maintain an internal “do not mail” list to ensure you can eliminate these people from future campaigns.

For people who want more information, you can refer them to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) website where they can add themselves to a mail preference file. This will ensure that they receive no mail from organizations that use this data before their mailings to delete anyone who has requested no outside solicitations.

It’s important that they understand that most (but not all) mailers use this service and that it usually takes about 3 months for them to notice a decrease in mail.

The address for the website is By visiting this website, a donor will have all the information they need to remove themselves from outside solicitations. They can also call the DMA’s privacy information number at 212.768.7277 x2408.

Maintain Consistent Data Policies

If you do not have a data management policy in place, now is the time to create one! A data policy should outline what information is input on new donors versus existing donors and routine updates of existing donor records that have changes. It’s also critical to accurately track gift dates and gift amounts by appeal or source. Good data management and consistent inputting of data is critical to being able to contact your donors in the future with correct information.

Good stewardship of donors will help solidify the relationship and ensure donors have a great experience with your organization.Great data management will assist you in contacting the donors again with the correct information. Now go celebrate your success!