Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gift Letters or Statements of Contribution

Gift letters (also knowing a statements of contribution) have several purposes:
  • To acknowledge and thank donors for their gifts
  • To ensure the church received the gifts and credited them to the correct fund
  • To give members a chance to see how much or how little they've given to their church
  • To provide an opportunity to the church to include a letter explaining to donors how their gifts were used and the people whose lives are being changed because of the generosity of the givers
  • To instill confidence by donors in the integrity of the church's Finance Office so they can see that the staff is handling gifts accurately
Gift letters should have all of the following elements:
  • Name and address of the church or 501(c)(3).
  • Logo of the organization would be great, too.
  • Tax Identification Number of the organization. This is known as a TIN; sometimes it is called an EIN or FEIN (Employer Identification Number or Federal Employer Id Number)
  • Name and address of giver
  • List of checks which includes
    • Date of gift
    • Form of gift - check number, cash, online, or other description of manner of gift
    • Amount of gift
    • Purpose of gift - was it for the ministry budget, building, missions, etc.
  • (Pledge - if you use pledges, they should be on the letter, too)
  • Total of all the gifts by category and grand total
  • Thank you sentence from the Finance Office and who to contact if there are any errors
  • Sentence required by the IRS for tax-deductible gifts. Here is the one I use:
    • For IRS purposes, I must inform you that the gifts contained in this letter are based on intangible religious benefits. You did not receive any goods or services from _____ Church for this contribution. Please keep this letter as documentation of your gift.
Every time you send out gift letters, you should be accomplishing all of the purposes listed above and your giving statements should have all of those elements. Anything less means you're not getting as much value as you could.

Maximize the impact of your gift letters by including a cover letter which has several additional elements:
  • Paragraph 1 - several sentences thanking people for their generosity (please use that term - it doesn't have any negative connotations and is viewed very positively by people; people like to be told they were generous)
  • Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 - three brief stories that have happened at your church within the past 3 months where people were changed for the good because of what your church did, events that had an impact on children or youth such as a mission trip or Vacation Bible School, and/or activities that reached the community or world with the Good News of Christ. Tell stories - people remember stories; if parables were good enough for Jesus, they're good enough for you, too!
  • Paragraph 5 - conclude the letter with another acknowledgement of their gifts and generosity. Also, mention who and how they should contact if there is an error in the giving statement.
Finally, how should you send them: I like sending them out by email because it is free. Society has trained people that email is normal, so use what society has taught people. For people without an email you'll have to use snail mail. In a few instances, you'll have to use snail mail for some situations where people's giving needs to be kept confidential from another person in their home who has access to the family email - those are rare and sensitive, but you need to be aware of those. Snail mail costs about $1 for each letter (postage, envelope, paper, ink, and labor) whereas email costs just the labor (which you have to do anyway).

Lead On!

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