Best and easiest way to generate tax-deductible receipts?
November 25, 2009 9:41 PM   Subscribe

What is the smartest and easiest way for a new non-profit society with limited financial and volunteer resources to create donation receipts?

I'm helping out a new non-profit society. They're just getting going and have had some donations given to them and hope for many more. There's very few people to do the work and they have limited knowledge of computers and software.

To begin with, I helped them create a member database in OpenOffice (spreadsheet). With their brand-new ability to give out tax-deductible receipts, I created a merge document in OpenOffice Writer and am going to suggest updating the member database with donation amounts, dates and receipt numbers. They could then use mail merge to create their receipts.

One potential problem is that they're still learning OpenOffice and have mistakenly deleted cells/moved one column of information up a row so that it no longer lines up properly and all the rows now have one cell that should be in the row below (it's happened more than once). If they're giving out tax-deductible receipts, it has to have the right information!

Is a merge solution the best way to go? I thought it would be easier than having to type the name/address/amount into the database and then again in a receipt but maybe it's too complex. If I create a stand-alone receipt, is there a way to have it generate a sequential number so that there won't be any duplicate receipt numbers?

They want to handle this themselves and only want help setting it up. Is there some other (free or very cheap) software that would be best? How do other small charities handle their receipts?
posted by nelvana to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The all-volunteer nonprofit that I'm involved with hands out paper receipts from a book we got at Staples. It creates carbon copies, so we give a hand-written paper receipt to our donors, and keep a copy for our records. We also maintain a member spreadsheet, but it is separate from the receipt book. This system isn't fully integrated and digital, but it's cheap, easy and effective.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:38 PM on November 25, 2009

Best answer: Total self plug here, but here goes:
I used to manage a couple of well known non profit, thrift-store type operations. Originally, we hand wrote receipts on carbonless copies, but that grew tiresome, so....

I developed/had developed a .net standalone application that databases donors and donations based on categories, and then automagically generates thank you letters of whatever caliber you want. Sometimes you want a froofy one, sometimes you just want a list---whatever, you can have an infinite number and you can include logos, etc. It also generates reports and exports to excel. Several of the many-hundreds of these thrift-like stores now use the software, but it's owned by me.

Not gonna self link or anything, but if you want to see how it works, here are the welcome-to-the-software links on youtube 1, 2, 3. (Caution my voice is irritating and the videos aren't entirely clear, but it'll give ya an idea.)

Feel free to memail me about it---and Mods, if I need to send this via memail instead that's fine. Really really not trying to spam or selflink here.
posted by TomMelee at 6:14 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and number dos:
Regardless of what you do or how you do it, you NEED to be SURE that your donation receipts include the approximate following text:

"This donor received no goods or services in exchange for this donation." And then ideally you tack on your org name and tax ID number. We also NEVER EVER gave advice about how to do the writeoff, instead referring them to IRS Publication 561, available here for your enjoyment. There's also a PDF somewhere online, which is what we put on the receipt. I mean a URL, not the actual document. It's long.
posted by TomMelee at 6:19 AM on November 26, 2009

Best answer: I've heard great things about CiviCRM (a free, open source software application for managing relationships with constituents/donors), and its CiviContribute component automatically generates receipts and tracks thank-you notes. The developers are quite responsive in case you have needs they don't cover.
posted by brainwane at 6:44 AM on November 26, 2009

Best answer: I'll second CiviCRM with a lot of real world experience with it. It's gotten so good that I can hardly believe people pay for such things.

It has to run within a web server, so that's one drawback for places with little to no computer knowledge.
posted by advicepig at 7:55 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers! I love the simplicity of the solution suggested by croutonsupafreak but they are wanting an electronic way of handling this. They're hoping for donations via Paypal (I'll be pointing them toward the Acceptable Use Policy after reading about Matt's difficulties) and want to be able to email receipts.

TomMelee, your software looks great but would be overkill for their use. Think tiny little local org with older volunteers who just need the basics. I really appreciate the information you provided though - thanks! (and your voice is not irritating btw). Ditto for CiviCRM - it looks very impressive but wouldn't suit their needs.

I do appreciate all the suggestions. I think I've decided to just use an OpenOffice spreadsheet, protect it except for the date/amount/name etc cells and then they can tab through to fill it in. It can then be exported to pdf and emailed. In this case, I think simpler is going to be better.
posted by nelvana at 10:32 PM on November 26, 2009

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