A few months ago, I launched an experiment. Curious about how various nonprofit organizations acknowledge online donations, a couple of us here made donations to about 20 different organizations. The responses were surprising in some ways, not at all in others.

The first pleasant surprise was that all but one organization followed up with an email acknowledgement. Most of them went as far as saying “thank you,” but not all. Less surprising was that every one of the emails looked like a transactional document – an ugly receipt at best, the worst were made up of poorly formatted text, codes, and system output that appeared to come from a credit card processor, not the nonprofit.

Acknowledgement and tax receipts are an ideal opportunity to truly engage with donors. Show appreciation in genuine ways, be relevant – talk about the current appeal, geography, or gift amount – and be professional. Research shows that quickly reaching out to donors dramatically increases the chances of a second gift and exponentially increases long-term value of the donor. With attrition rates outpacing acquisition for many nonprofits, increasing the value and loyalty of existing donors should be a top priority.

Many organizations would submit that their CRM system generates email receipts automatically. Our experiment seemed to validate that. Even so, how effective are they? Will a donor feel good when they receive a system-generated response seconds after the donation? If they donate through multiple channels, will the acknowledgement and receipting experiences feel cohesive? Does the email receipt demonstrate the same care and attention to detail that the NPO’s direct mail appeal does?

I suspect the answer to most, if not all, of the above is a resounding “no.” Not surprising (or critical), though. Platforms don’t exist to address all of the above… until now. Our “experiment” several months ago led us down a path of innovation and development. Last week, we introduced e-Receipts for nonprofits – a fundamental change in the way we acknowledge and provide tax receipts for donations.

The e-Receipt platform is different in many ways. Some highlights include:

  • Timed delays in email delivery – schedule for immediate, if you want. Schedule for 12, 24, or more hours for a more “human” feel.
  • Fully personalized email – using the same platform as our donor marketing online messaging, your acknowledgements can include variable imaging, mail merge fields, complex logic for variable copy and layout, and even multilingual support for international audiences.
  • Trackable links to PDF receipts – your email includes multiple links to the donor’s downloadable PDF receipt. The receipt is just as personalized – layout, copy, logos, language, data “look-ups,” and more. In addition, the system knows who has and has not viewed their receipt. Imagine the power in following up with major donors or sustainers and confirming that they were able to download their receipt (knowing that they haven’t even clicked it yet!).
  • Print-on-demand fallback – in cases where email is undeliverable, the e-Receipts platform will automatically generate an alternate format PDF suitable for print and mail. Our fulfillment center efficiently prints small quantities daily using 4-color variable digital print. With a personalized explanation letter, it’s your chance to connect, acknowledge, and request an update to the email address on file. What a great opportunity for outstanding service.

The features go on and on. Basically, it’s reimagining the donation follow-up process, taking current barriers out of the mix, and replacing them with data-driven technology and marketing automation.

e-Receipts – it’s more than just a tax receipt… it’s an opportunity to engage, acknowledge, and cultivate loyal supporters.

– Matt Graham is Chief Technology Officer at Innovairre, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about e-Receipts, contact us at