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Tax Season & Donation Summary Letters: Never Waste an Opportunity

Nonprofit organizations that effectively manage donor interactions are more likely to generate leads and make more money in the future. This is especially true at the beginning of a New Year, aka Tax Season. The question is, what are some of best practice steps and common tools used to astutely manage the interactions that you have with your previous year donors?

Leverage the interaction
Think of every summary 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 an additional sheet in the mailing inviting them to participate, or to continue participation. If you only send them a summary of donations, it’s a wasted opportunity!

First contact rule
When creating summary letters, it is a good practice to wait until a donor contacts your nonprofit first. Because your nonprofit sent the donor a receipt with each donation, it is not required by law to send a year-end summary of giving. If not contacted, don’t send. Save the $0.46 on stamps and use the paper and envelope on someone else.

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: If your nonprofit is anywhere from $5,000,000 to $20,000,000 in revenue size, red-flag donations over $250. If these valued customers request summary letters it is absolutely paramount to deliver such information. You may even want to 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 take put in that extra effort. If not, an email donation summary letter gets the job done just fine! Finally, always be testing and learning to develop new communications channels and tools.

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Blog Post By: Isaac Dallas