By: Arthur Drache
Each year in January and February we review our list of charitable donations made and start checking to see whether we have received receipts for the donations. Over the years we have found that inevitably there will be some problems though generally the issuing of receipts has become more expeditious with the advent of internet donations which usually generate fairly swift issuing of receipts by e-mail.
Generally we find that receipting practices fall into a number of categories.
The first is where a receipt is issued quickly, either as an e-mail attachment or by mail. We find that this is a hallmark of larger charities which have sophisticated systems of much smaller charities where the receipt is often filled in by hand. In either case, there is a kind of pleasure in getting the receipt expeditiously and noting the fact on our annual donation list.
There is a second group which is satisfactory but not as good as the first. With these organizations we often get a note saying that the donation has been received and that their policy is to issue all receipts at one time after the end of the year. In this case, we are glad to know that the gift has been received and make a note that if we haven’t received a receipt by late January, a follow-up in necessary.
If you organization follows such a practice, we’d strongly suggest that a thank you note be issued at once with information about when the receipt for tax purposes will be issued.
A third and more irritating group only indirectly acknowledges the payment, perhaps with evidence of “membership” but with no information about the receipt. We donate annually to one such organization and know that a receipt will be issued in January…though the organization never says so explicitly. Queries about this practice elicited the comment that they were hoping for further donations in the calendar year and thus would not issue a receipt before year end.
(We donate to a number of organizations which have issued us two, three and even four receipts in a calendar year where multiple gifts have been made. We and they seem to be able to cope with multiple gifts!)
The worst category…and we see at least one each year is where there is no acknowledgement of the gift and no immediate receipt and we seem to have at least one of these annually.
We made a gift by mail in response to an annual solicitation. We got no acknowledgement. The charge (which was in four figures) showed up on our VISA…so we knew it had been received. We went to the organization’s web site and sent an e-mail. No response. A week or so later, we sent another e-mail. No response (Great donor relations!) We sent a third e-mail saying that if we didn’t get a response and a receipt, we would never donate again.
That elicited a placatory phone call and a few days later, a receipt.
If we seem somewhat touchy about this, it may be that three or four years ago we did our annual check-up of receipts in February and found that we were shy one large receipt. The offending organization was the afore-mentioned one! It took us three weeks to get a “replacement” receipt as they claimed that we must have lost it.
We expect that almost all donors make their gifts because they want to support the work of the organization in question. But almost all donors also want and need the tax receipt and delays in sending them can only generate ill-will…which can be alleviated by informing donors about when receipts will be issued.
But the advice we give to all organizations with which we are involved is the sooner receipts are issued after getting a gift, the better. And the next best thing is a “thank you/acknowledgement” plus a promise as to when a receipt will be issued.
Board members should familiarize themselves about the practices followed by their organization and if necessary take steps to ensure that best practices are followed.