ask an expert

Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity.

Today’s question comes from a fundraiser who isn’t sure whether or not a soft credit should be included in a donor’s level of giving on an annual report. 

Dear Charity Clairity,

When recognizing a donor in an annual report, should you include the soft credit in their level of giving? For instance, you have columns for donors who gave less than $100, and another with donors from $101 -$250 – If the donor gave $75 and it was matched, should that donor be in the $100 list or $101-$250 list?

— Softie Solution Sought

Dear Softie,

The short answer is your donor should be in the $101 – $250 list.

You must always think from the donor perspective. That’s the heart of donor-centered fundraising.

  • What would your donor like to see?
  • What would feel fair to your donor?
  • What would make your donor happy?

In this case, the donor feels personally responsible for generating a total gift of $150 (their $75 plus their employer’s matching $75). Were it not for them recommending the matching gift, you’d never have received it. Right? So they deserve the credit!

There are two considerations when it comes to soft crediting third party gifts (i.e., since the employer isn’t the donor, they are a “third party.” The same would hold true if the donor recommended a gift from a donor advised fund or a family foundation.)

Your Donor Database: Here and There

Third party gifts are double entered.

  1. First, in the record of the actual donor who wrote the check (HERE).  In this case it would be the employer.
  2. Second, as a “soft credit” in the record of the individual donor who recommended the matching gift be made to you (THERE). 

Your Donor Honor Roll: Twice is Nice

Third party gifts can be publicly recognized and credited to both involved parties. Here the trick is to think about cumulative giving.

  1. First, recognize the cumulative value of all the gifts generated due to your individual donor. Here it is $75 (from their checkbook) + $75 (from their employer’s checkbook) = $150 cumulative gift credit. Recognize a donation of this amount in your individual donor listings.
  2. Second, recognize the third party donor according to the cumulative value of all the checks you’ve received from them. For example, Wells Fargo may make half a dozen matching gifts spread out among different donors. Total these all up; list Wells Fargo in that giving category. If you have a separate “businesses and foundations” category, list this gift here wherever you publicly recognize your supporters. You can do the same for donor advised funds. Simply list them as “The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco” under a high-level giving category; then list the names of the individuals who recommended distributions from their funds housed there under your individual donor listings.

I hope this helps to ‘clairify’ things!

— Charity Clairity

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Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.