Helping Donors Choose You: Encouraging Charitable Deductions

Many nonprofit organizations rely upon charitable donations for their operating budget, to fund special projects, or to accomplish specific goals. Your organization can do a great deal to encourage donations by making it easy for potential donors to identify your tax-exempt status and receive receipts for donations that they can use with their tax returns. Here, we present a checklist of things you can do to assure the public of your organization’s tax-exempt status and facilitate their donations.

Valid Tax Deductions: Contributions to an Eligible Organization

To benefit from a valid tax deduction, contributions must be made to an eligible organization which is defined as a. nonprofit organization. Religious organizations such as churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship may qualify, as do some schools, war veterans associations and the like.

Provide Proof of Eligibility

Your marketing communications should provide proof of tax-deduction eligibility for potential donors. Your website should have a link to GuideStar, an organization that specializes in providing information on nonprofits to the public. A listing in GuideStar provides a great third-party proof point that goes a long way with the public.

Offer Receipts

Automatically offer any donor a receipt. The proof a donor needs to respond to a question from the IRS about a deduction includes the following: A letter on your organization’s letterhead, with the tax-exempt certificate number included, that identifies the donation amount, donor’s name, and date of the donation.

IRS Maximums

Although all donations are welcome, the IRS sets a limit on the amount of money that can be declared on an individual’s tax returns. Currently, cash deductions are set at either 50% or 30% of a donor’s annual adjusted gross income, depending upon the type of the organization.

Cash versus Non-Cash Donations

Cash and non-cash donations are also treated differently. Stock, for example, is treated differently than cash. Appreciated, publicly-traded stock held for more than 12 months must include information on capital gains as part of the donation. Donors can claim the amount, but not the capital gain, from the date of the transaction from their account into yours.

Other non-cash items may follow different rules. Household items, automobiles, furniture, and real estate can all be donated to a nonprofit organization. There are specific rules, timelines, and proof required for your donors to deduct non-cash donations of $5,000 or more. Non-cash donations of $5,000 or more may require a professional appraisal, by an IRS-approved appraising firm, to ascertain the value you can put on the donation receipt. Speak with the donors and discuss any potential ramifications before concluding the transaction so that both you and the donor have what you need to benefit from such a generous gift.

Giving Something in Return

If you give donors something in return for their donation as a thank you, whether something as simple as a tote bag or as wonderful as free tickets to the opera or ballet, the amount of the return gift must be deducted from the donation.

Let’s say that you receive a $500 cash donation from the Millers. In return, your charity, a local performing arts nonprofit, provides the Millers with two free theater tickets worth $100. If the Millers claim the deduction, they should claim $400, rather than $500, on their tax return.

Obviously, that’s up to the Millers. But you may wish to provide them with all of the facts so that they can make an educated decision about how to claim deductions on their tax returns.

The Bottom Line: Make It Easy to Give

The bottom line is a simple one: make it easy for people to donate to your organization. The easier it is for people to donate and receive receipts for their donation, the more likely they are to give.

About Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.