Donation Receipt: Everything Your Nonprofit Organization Needs to Know

Donation Receipt: Everything Your Nonprofit Organization Needs to Know

What is a donation receipt?

A donation receipt is a formal document that a nonprofit  will send to a donor to acknowledge that it has received a donation from the individual or organization. The letter will generally contain a variety of information about the donation and the donor, such as the donor's name, the value of the donation, the date of the donation, and a statement to confirm that the nonprofit operates under a tax-exempt status. This information is very important for both parties as it allows the organization to comply with regulations whilst helping the donor to claim deductions on their income tax returns. It is also extremely important for a nonprofit to express its gratitude to the donor through each donation receipt that it sends. Doing so will help the donor to feel appreciated, strengthen the relationship between the organization and its stakeholders, and inspire continued support.

Platforms, such as Paybee, make it simple for a nonprofit to send a donation receipt to all of its donors. Paybee is capable of sending automatic donation receipts after each donation received and can be manually triggered to send a year-end donation receipt to each donor. Making use of this kind of technology can help to streamline the donation receipt process.

What Constitutes a Valid Donation Receipt?

In the United States of America the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific requirements that a donation receipt must meet in order to be considered legitimate. The IRS requirements for a valid receipt of donation include a statement of tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the name of the donor, the donor's address (if the value of the donation exceeds $250), the date of the donation, organizational information, and an authorized signature. If applicable the receipt should indicate a good-faith estimate of the value of any goods or services received by the donor in exchange for the donation. If no goods or services were received then the organization should state this in the letter.

There are other essential elements of donation receipts that aren't a requirement of the IRS, such as a personalized salutation, donation acknowledgment and gratitude, and a tax disclaimer.

Personalized Salutation: The tax receipt should begin with a jovial salutation that is personal to each individual donor.

Donation Acknowledgment and Gratitude: Following the salutation the nonprofit should express its sincerest gratitude to the donor for their generous contribution.

Tax Disclaimer: Donors should be encouraged to consult with a tax professional for specific tax information and to maximize their tax deductions.

Different Types of Donation Receipts

Donation receipts can vary based on the type of donations made by donors to an organization:

Charitable Donation Receipt

  • Provided for donations to a charitable organization that are both monetary and non-monetary in nature.
  • Includes details such as, donor information, the date of the donation, the value of the donation, and a statement of the nonprofit's tax-exempt status.

In-Kind Donation Receipt

  • Issued for contributions that are non-cash in nature, such as property, services, or goods.
  • Comprised of a fair market value of the item(s) donated, a description of the item(s), and the date of the donation.

Cash Donation Receipt

  • Issued for donations made in the form of cash, credit card, check, or electronic transfer of funds.
  • Incorporates information about the donor, the date of the donation, the amount of the donation, and a statement of the nonprofit's tax-exempt status.

Stock Gift Donation Receipt

  • Issued for the donation of stocks or any other type of security.
  • Contains details of the securities that have been donated, including a fair market value, the transfer date, and the number of securities transferred.

Silent Auction Receipt

  • Sent to donors that have won an item at a silent auction where the highest bid is perceived as a donation.
  • Includes information about the item won, such as a description of the item, the date of the auction, and the amount of the winning bid.

End-of-Year Donation Receipts

  • Provided to donors as a summary of each contribution that has been made to an organization throughout the year.
  • Supplies the donor with a comprehensive record of their contributions, which assists with claiming tax-deductions on their income tax returns.

Creating a Compliant Tax Receipt for Donations

An organization must follow specific format and content guidelines to produce compliant donation receipts. The body of the document must contain important details, such as the nonprofit's information (including a point of contact), the donor's information, the date of the donation, a description of the donation, the value of the donation, a statement of goods or services exchanged, tax-exempt status confirmation, and an authorized signature. Many of these components are required by the IRS in order to comply with financial regulations. Failure to include them can cost an organization its tax-exempt status.

Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code is vital for donors to be able to claim deductions on their income tax returns. Only donations to a verified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization qualify when claiming tax deductions. Every nonprofit that operates legitimately as a tax-exempt charitable organization should include a statement of this fact in their donation receipts. Doing so will help the nonprofit to maintain transparency with its donors, meet the requirements of the IRS, and continue functioning as a tax-exempt organization.

Donation receipts can be a time consuming process for a nonprofit. Making use of templates and automation is a brilliant way to alleviate this time sink. As mentioned above Paybee is a great online solution for automating donation and end-of-year receipts. Paybee's platform allows a nonprofit to automatically send a receipt to a donor when a donation is received and can be manually prompted to issue an end-of-year receipt to summarize all of the donations made by an individual to an organization throughout the year. Using a platform like Paybee will save a nonprofit a lot of money and a lot of time.

Best Practices for a Nonprofit When Issuing a Receipt to a Donor

When issuing receipts to donors it is critical to ensure that relationships with stakeholders are strengthened and transparency in maintained. Here are some of the best practices to follow:

Timeliness in Sending Receipts

  • Prompt Issuance: IRS guidelines suggest that an organization should send a receipt to a donor no later than January 31st of the year following the donation.
  • Express Gratitude for Larger Contributions Quickly: For donations of a significant value a nonprofit should consider sending a swift expression of its gratitude. This thank-you letter can be followed up by a detailed donation receipt in the future.

Ensuring Accuracy and Completeness

  • Detailed and Accurate Information: Information contained in the document should be both detailed and accurate in order to comply with regulations and allow the donor to claim their tax deductions.
  • Assessment of Non-Cash Donations: Any non-cash contributions should be given a fair market value and this should be included in the letter.
  • Compliance Review: Nonprofits should frequently review their donation receipt templates to ensure that they are updated to comply with regulations.

Personalization and Donor Appreciation

  • Personalized Communication: Always personalize donation receipts with the name of the donor, specific details of their contribution, and how that contribution will be used to make an impact.
  • Inclusion of Success Stories: Testimonials and success stories can be incorporated into receipts to highlight the positive outcome of a donor's support.

The Impact of Donation Receipts on Nonprofit Transparency and Tax Compliance

Detailed donation receipts provide stakeholders with the necessary information to understand how their donations are being used. This assists an organization with strengthening donor relationships, being transparent in their operations, and building a reputation of trust. This will help the nonprofit to develop credibility and signal to donors that their contributions are being stewarded with diligence and care.

The penalty for not meeting IRS regulations when issuing donation receipts can be as serious as the revocation of a nonprofit's tax-exempt status. For this reason it is extremely crucial for an organization to produce compliant tax receipt documents. Upholding professionalism in this regard will benefit not only the nonprofit but its donors as well because they will be able to use the legitimate donation receipts to claim tax deductions.


Q: What is the minimum donation amount that requires a receipt?

A: In the United States the IRS recommends that a donation receipt be issued for every donation regardless of its value.

Q: Can I claim a tax deduction without a donation receipt?

A: It can be challenging to claim a tax deduction without a legitimate donation receipt. In some cases other documentation may be accepted, such as bank statements, credit card statements, or canceled checks. It is best practice to follow up with organizations that an individual has not received a donation receipt from.

Q: How do I value in-kind donations for receipts?

A: A fair market value should be assessed for all in-kind donations made to an organization. To come to a sensible valuation it is advised to make use of resources, such as published price guides, appraisers, and online marketplaces. A nonprofit should document the entire valuation process to maintain transparency and serve as support if questions are raised by tax authorities, auditors, or donors.


It is of great importance for nonprofit organizations to understand and issue compliant donation receipts. Upholding a professional approach to donation receipts will allow an organization to comply with financial regulations set by the IRS, maintain its tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, build a reputation of transparency, enhance the satisfaction of donors, and effectively manage their finances.

If your nonprofit organization requires support with issuing compliant donation receipts in a timely fashion then contact Paybee and sign up for a demo.

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Benjamin Mcquaid

Hello! I am Benjamin, a freelance writer from the United Kingdom. I have had a passion for writing since my highschool days and love to research and produce content on any topic. For enquiries, contact me via email: benjaminmcquaid5@gmail.com.

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