Cherry Blossoms

Acknowledgment Best Practices

Thanking our donors by sending prompt acknowledgments for their gifts is key to building a long-term relationship. A good, prompt acknowledgment lets a donor know that their generosity is appreciated, that we understand their motive for giving, and that we will be good stewards of their investment.

Below are general best practices for acknowledging gifts, as well as suggestions for how to acknowledge more complicated gift types.

General Best Practices

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  • Review EXPRESSthanks reports biweekly or monthly and send acknowledgments at least every month.
  • While customization is great, it is more important to say thank you sooner rather than later. Don't let yourself get bogged down trying to make every thank you customized.
  • For estate gifts, please contact CAS Advancement Services to confirm whether an acknowledgment is appropriate.

Names & Salutations

  • UW preference for salutations is First Name. However, you may adjust the salutation to match what the letter signer calls the donor (e.g. an appropriate nickname).

Content & Length

  • Keep acknowledgments short and concise; one page or less if merging into a formal letter.
  • Review and update language on a regular basis (recommended: biannually).
  • Do not indicate the gift amount (i.e. dollar total) in your acknowledgment. Tax information is delivered via receipts generated and sent by central Gift Services.
  • Consider including a contact person for the department in your correspondence; it does not need to be the signatory.
  • Acknowledgment examples


  • Have each acknowledgment signed by the chair or director, with their printed name and title (including appointed position information).

Customization Ideas That Make for a Meaningful Acknowledgement

  • Handwrite your note and/or your envelope.
  • Mention donor's philanthropic or academic relationship to your department (alumni status, years of giving, seeing them at a recent event) in the message.
  • Include details about an upcoming event in the message.
  • Consider different mediums for the acknowledgment: postcards, notecards, videos, or phone calls.
  • Include a photo or other small component with the message that would be meaningful to the donor.

Acknowledging Complicated Gifts

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Some of the gifts we receive are a little more complicated than a one-time gift, and require us to think differently about how we acknowledge the donor. Below are some examples of more complicated gift types, as well as recommendations for how to thank the donors of these gifts.

Sustaining Gifts

Sustaining gifts are those that are given monthly with no end date. These gifts will continue to come every month, until a donor reaches out to let us know they'd like to stop. Our recommendation with sustaining gifts is to choose one time of year to acknowledge all of your sustaining donors, rather than sending an acknowledgment to them every month. If you're able to recognize a new sustaining donor when their first gift arrives, that's also an excellent time for a special thank you!

Recurring Gifts

Recurring gifts are charged at set intervals determined by the donor (monthly/quarterly/annually) for a finite period of time. Because these are essentially a pledge made and then paid over a specified period of time, the initial gift will appear on EXPRESSthanks as a "Recurring Gift Pledge" and be fairly easy to recognize. As with sustaining gifts, we recommend choosing one time each year to acknowledge all of your recurring gift donors at once, rather than acknowledging each payment. But please use your best judgement - depending on the timing of the gift and the preference of the donor, it may make sense to acknowledge each gift as it arrives.

In addition, because recurring gifts have defined start and end times, there is a special opportunity here to acknowledge the first gift as well as the completion of the pledge with the last gift.

Payroll Pledges

These ongoing gifts from faculty and staff are taken directly from their payroll at the donor's direction, and an initial new pledge will appear as a "Payroll Deduction Pledge" on EXPRESSthanks. Similar to recurring gifts, these pledges have known start and end dates, and payment on these pledges will appear on the "Pledges & Payments" tab on EXPRESSthanks. We recommend acknowledging the initial pledge, as well as the completion of the pledge with the final payment.

Straight Pledges

A straight pledge is only entered when a caller from the Student Calling Program receives a verbal commitment from a donor. These are typically one-time gifts that donors pledge to make over the phone, rather than an ongoing gift. Our recommendation for these gifts is not to acknowledge the initial pledge, but to send an acknowledgment for the pledge payment when it arrives.

Combined Fund Drive

Combined Fund Drive donors already receive acknowledgments from the Combined Fund Drive team, but it is always meaningful for these donors to hear directly from your department or unit as well. We recommend choosing one time each year to acknowledge all of your Combined Fund Drive donors for their gifts.


This page last updated 12/2/2020.