Best Donor Management Practices: Recording Donations
by Gene Weinbeck
Let's assume you have a stack (a BIG stack) of contributions in front of you. It is your job to record each one, print receipts or thank you letters, and then make a deposit at your bank. Remember, "Thank before you bank."
Regardless of which FundRaiser program you are using, there are 4 basic steps (and an optional 5th for users of the FundRaiser QuickBooks® integration module) to follow that will ensure that everything goes smoothly:
- Enter Contributions and add new donors as needed
- Check your Work
- Print Thank You's
- Mark Thank You's as Done
- Optional- Post to QuickBooks®
1. Enter contributions and add new donors as needed
- Add new donors, or for an existing donor make any necessary changes to name, address, or phone number. Compare the return address on the envelope with the address on the check. If there are any discrepancies, make a note of them in Donor Notes.
- Enter Gifts. Enter the amount of the contribution and the date of the contribution. In the US, the IRS uses the postmark on the envelope for the contribution date. This is most important at the end of the tax year, when the donor may write a check in January that is dated December 31, hoping to have it included on last year's tax return. (As you might expect, many nonprofits give the benefit of the doubt to their donors.)
- Optionally, enter a Source Code (in Basic) or Motivation Code (Select/Pro) to indicate what activity (if any) prompted the donor to give this donation.
- Check "Send a Thank You Letter or Receipt" if you want to print a thank you letter or receipt (highly recommended -- in order to help build a relationship with the donor).
2. Check your work
- Run a deposit report (called donation report in Basic) to make sure that the total recorded on the computer matches the total when you added up the checks. This report lists donations entered during the specified date range, typically the current day.
- There are some differences in how dates are recorded in FundRaiser Basic and in FundRaiser Select and Pro, which have an impact on checking your work on the deposit report. For Basic you will use Date of Entry to create your deposit report. For Select and Pro you will probably want to use Date of Deposit. For more information on that, see Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Your Daily Routine. In Select and Professional, you can designate a batch number when entering big batches of checks. This allows you to have more than one person entering checks on a batch and still run a single deposit report. (Go to Options > Contributions > General to activate batches).
- Next, manually add up the amounts on the checks. The total given by the report should equal your total. If it doesn't, find your error on the report and make corrections in the Donor's Screen. Then print another Donation Report for your files, or to hand to your bookkeeper.
3. Print Thank You Letters or Receipts, and matching labels or envelopes as desired.
Once you've determined that the checks have all been entered accurately, it's time to print your thank you letter.
- All three FundRaiser programs run the same way, as far as printing thank you letters. There is a check box for whether to print a thank you letter or not. Every gift that has a check mark on the gift for printing will be printed.
- In Basic, everyone in the batch must receive the same letter. In Select and Pro you can designate different letters for each gift and even have 2 thank you letters per gift. Select and Pro can also keep track of the date and time the letter was printed.
- If you need to reprint a single letter or envelope, that is easily done. In Basic, simply choose "current donor" instead of "marked gifts." In Select and Pro, just click on the "Print Now" button on the Gifts page to reprint the letter, then click on the label or envelope button on the toolbar.
4. Finally, Mark Thank You's Done in the Print Menu and deposit the contributions in the bank.
- Once the thank you letters all look good, and you have printed the labels or envelopes, the next step is to "mark the thank you letters done" (do so in the same place where you batch-printed the letters). That removes the check mark from each gift so that it is not there the next time that you print letters.
- After your thank you letters are ready to go, deposit the donations, following the often repeated fundraising advice: thank before you bank. Timely thank you letters, sent within a few days of receiving a check, are one of the single most important ways you can encourage donors to continue donating and at higher levels. See yourself dropping your thank you letters at the post office on the way to making your deposit at the bank.
5. Optional Posting to QuickBooks®
After you have checked your work, and made sure that everything is correct, post the donation information to QuickBooks®. That should always be done as final step, so that no editing is needed after the posting.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Your Daily Routine by Larry Weaver
Research Shows Importance of Saying 'Thanks'
Gene Weinbeck is founder, and CEO of FundRaiserSoftware. In his free time he enjoys drumming and geocaching.
FundRaiser Software offers non-profit organizations intuitive donor management software that is easy to learn and easy to use. Three programs, ranging from simple to sophisticated, let you choose the features you need now, while guaranteeing a built-in growth path for the future. Software flexibilty, budget options, and superb technical support make FundRaiser Software uniquely adaptable to the needs of non-profit organizations whatever their mission.