Category Archives: Communications

Donor Acknowledgement – A Single But Critical Step

The donor acknowledgement or thank you letter is one of your organization’s most important communication pieces.  This is only one piece of the overall donor cultivation process, but a well-crafted thank you letter is an important step to creating lifelong, loyal donors.

Acknowledgement can also be a legal requirement.  Nonprofits are required by the Internal Revenue Service to formally acknowledge single financial donations of $250 or more and must also confirm whether or not any goods or services were received by the organization in exchange for the donation.

It is a best practice to receipt and acknowledge all donations to your organization, regardless of the amount.  Certainly, a great letter can continue to tell your organization’s story, set your organization apart and is an important step towards getting the next gift to support your mission.

Below are four thank-you letter best practices to ensure your nonprofit makes the most of this important communications opportunity:

 1. Send a thank you letter.  For every gift. Every time.  Regardless of the amount.

Also, if using an online donation processing partner,  don’t let the emailed receipt be a substitute for a personal connection with donors.  A more personal gift acknowledgement should also be sent by the organization.

2.Make it prompt!

A thank you should be sent promptly after the donation is made – within 48 hours if possible.  Nothing is worse than a supporter wondering if an organization even received their gift at all.

3. Make it personal.

Address the supporter by name in the greeting line, and write directly to the supporter.  Kivi Leroux Miller suggests thinking of the best thank you letters as like “Hallmark cards – They feel personal, even though we know they were written for thousands of others.”  Keep your letter warm, friendly, personal and short, just like a greeting card.

4. Share progress.

Supporters want to know that they matter to your organization and that their contributions make a difference.  Show them – through photos, statistics, or compelling stories – how their gift is bringing about real change.

Share with us – what tweaks to your thank you letter has your organization found successful?

Other Resources:

IRS Charitable Contributions: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements

Nonprofit Thank You Letter Dos and Don’ts

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

KNN Resources:

29 Days is a Long Time

KNN fundraising resources page

Generating and Diversifying Revenue Webinar


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Annual Reports

It’s that time of year for many nonprofits – developing the annual report.  This can be one of your organization’s most important communications pieces and keeping your constituents updated is a recommended nonprofit management best practice.  It’s a way for your nonprofit to tell its story and share important information regarding activities and performance in ways your supporters will understand and appreciate.  But how you best communicate this information is not always an easy decision.  Printing and postage costs have caused many nonprofits to give serious consideration to the format of their annual report.  One large nonprofit found that only half of the 29,000 printed annual reports it sent were even opened, let alone read!  Below are some suggested ways to keep your costs down and still share your accomplishments:

  • Create a visually appealing, easy-to-access report, but publish it as a PDF document on your website.  Even better, publish an ePub version so people can flip through the virtual pages on their tablets.
  • Want to impress your supporters?  Use a short video to share information about your programs; videos are impactful because they allow organizations to convey stories with more emotion.  They can also be used as TV spots and community presentations, making it more cost-effective.
  • E-mail the link, and mail printed reports on demand only to those who request a paper copy.
  • Worried that not all your supporters utilize e-mail?  Mail them a postcard with the PDF link to the electronic copy.  Include your contact information so they may request a printed copy should they want one and then print in house, on demand.
  • Utilize a new format, such as postcards or other smaller, more affordable options.

Whether looking for ways to tweak your annual report or are doing a report for the first time, check out these resources containing ideas and thoughts about making the most of this important communications tool:

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Hot Topic from the Principles and Practices Guide: Crisis Communication Plans

If you ever thought these Twitter and Facebook things were passing fads or merely ways to pass time, you’d only need to look at posts to both in recent weeks about Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision regarding grants to some Planned Parenthood organizations to recognize the enormous influence of social media.  Regardless of one’s feelings on the funding issue, there are certainly some lessons for nonprofits; ranging from how organizational decisions are made and policies applied, the impact decisions made at the national level can have on local affiliates, the power of social media and perhaps the most important of all, the critical need for a crisis communications plan.  The Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Kentucky tools note that a communications plan and, more specifically, a crisis communications plan is a best practice.  Recent events with Komen and Planned Parenthood as well as some recent challenges facing charities in the Bluegrass region would indicate plans like this are not a best practice luxury, but a requirement.  The last thing your organization wants to do in a time of crisis is risk your good name, reputation and hard work by making a potentially damaging public relations move .  Or even worse, making no move at all – being paralyzed and allowing others to dictate and frame the discussion.

This was on our long to do list at KNN, but it just got a good bump to the top!  How about your organization?  Have you developed a communications and/or crisis communications plan?  What challenges have you experienced in creating the plan?  Have you ever had to implement the crisis component?  Please comment below!

Learn More:

The Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Cure

3 Nonprofit PR Lessons from the Susan G. Komen Debacle

Susan G. Komen’s Problem Wasn’t Communication

The Komen Backlash – Why You Need an Emergency Communications Plan

KNN Resources – Communications

Crisis Communications Plan – Nonprofit Toolkit

Nonprofit Risk Management Center Fact Sheet on Crisis Management


Filed under Communications