7 Tips To Make Your Year-End Acknowledgments Stand Out

While Year-End acknowledgments are a requirement for nonprofits, they’re also a donor stewardship opportunity. Here are seven tips for making them stand out.

Throughout the year, you find ways to thank your donors, including after participation in your events and following each donation. However, you also need to plan to send a Year-End acknowledgment. Year-End acknowledgments document a donor’s cumulative giving during the year. They should include:

  • Your nonprofit’s name
  • Your donor’s name
  • A list of dates when you received their donations, along with corresponding amounts 
  • A description of any in-kind donations received from the donor
  • Either a declaration that nothing was given to the donor in exchange for their donations, or an estimate of the value of what you gave them in exchange
  • A sum of the donor’s total contributions for the year

A Year-End acknowledgment differs from other thank-you notes because it must meet Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements for charitable contributions. You should plan to send your Year-End acknowledgments to donors no later than January 31, but as soon as possible following the new year.

While Year-End acknowledgments are a requirement for nonprofits, they’re also a donor stewardship opportunity. Make your Year-End acknowledgments more than something a donor will quickly toss aside by connecting with your donor on a personal level. Below, we share seven tips for making your Year-End acknowledgments stand out as a memorable touchpoint with donors.

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1. Send a Greeting Card

Rather than only sending a formal note on letterhead, consider including your Year-End acknowledgment within a greeting card. This can be a festive card that sends warm wishes for the new year. 

Donors are more likely to hang on to greeting cards, potentially placing them on their refrigerator or desk as a decoration for the spirit of the season. When they look at your greeting card, they’ll be reminded of the work you do and the time you took to connect with them on a personal level.

2. Include a Small Gift

Sometimes nonprofits use small gifts as incentives to encourage giving. For example, as part of your End-of-Year appeal, you might offer a festive beanie with your logo on it to supporters who make a donation of $500 or more. However, sending small gifts when they’re unexpected can feel particularly special to donors.

Consider including a small token of your appreciation with your Year-End acknowledgment. This could be a sticker, pen, magnet, or any other small gesture. When your donor sees or uses your gift in the new year, they’ll remember their commitment to your mission and be ready to continue their involvement.

3. Say Thank You Through Video

If sending your Year-End acknowledgement digitally as a PDF, consider embedding a video message into your email. Short thank-you videos don’t need to be professionally produced. They can simply be you talking directly to the camera like you would for a friend. Use the donor’s name and mention any updates from your nonprofit that might be of particular interest to them. 

Literally putting a face to your nonprofit and saying hello and thank you through a video can make a meaningful, personal impact. If you’re limited on time, you can also use this approach for certain cohorts of donors you’re looking to increase your connection with in the new year, such as mid-level givers.

4. Handwrite Your Addresses

Handwritten addresses stand out in donors’ mailboxes, which may otherwise be full of marketing materials and bills. Adding this small detail to your Year-End acknowledgments provides a human element to your note. Your donors are able to remember the people behind your mission and see the personal time you put into making a difference.

5. Use “You” Language

In addition to the required elements of your Year-End acknowledgment, you should plan to include some language around your nonprofit’s biggest accomplishments from the year. Show donors what their gifts allowed you to do and share what you’d like to accomplish in the new year. As you do, make sure to frame everything with gratitude to your donor. For example, you might include statements such as:

  • Your generosity is inspiring.
  • Your kindness helped provide food to over 1,000 families this holiday season.
  • Your support is protecting our public lands for generations to come.

6. Include an Action-Oriented P.S.

Keep your Year-End acknowledgment letter focused on gratitude and your donor’s generosity rather than asking for additional support. However, consider tucking in a call to action by including a “P.S.” message. Including this at the very end of your Year-End acknowledgment captures your donor’s attention at a point where they’re already feeling good about their past involvement and feeling inspired to continue supporting your work.

There are several ways to leverage your “P.S.” message to keep your donors connected to your work. For example, you can:

  • Ask them to complete a donor survey you’re conducting
  • Ask them to share your work with a friend
  • Ask them for a testimonial about why they give for use on your website or in a newsletter 
  • Let them know about your next upcoming event

7. Consider a New Voice to Write Your Year-End Acknowledgment

Rather than have your Year-End acknowledgment come from your Development Director or Executive Director, as donors may have come to expect, consider other individuals who could write it, such as: 

  • Past beneficiaries
  • Volunteers
  • Direct services staff

Having your Year-End Acknowledgements come from one of these groups provides a new point of view on your work and impact. These groups often have ground-level experience with your programs, which can really connect donors to the impact of your mission. 

If you do choose to engage past beneficiaries to help with this effort, however, ensure that they’re either being compensated for their time or have personally volunteered to help out. You don’t want to put anyone in a situation where they may feel exploited for having needed your services at one point.

Add a Personal Touch to Your Year-End Acknowledgements to Usher in a Strong New Year

Year-End acknowledgments summarize the cumulative donations and impact your donors made to your organization throughout the year. Each donor needs to receive one for IRS purposes. However, by adding a personal touch to your Year-End acknowledgments, you can turn a required document into a powerful opportunity to connect with your donors and nurture ongoing relationships with them in the new year.


Putting the finishing touches on your Year-End campaign? Don't miss a single opportunity to build relationships, maximize fundraising, and increase your impact with our Last-Minute Year-End Checklist!



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