L&S Stewardship: How to Thank Your Donors

This document is a resource of best practices for thanking the donors that give monetarily to your program and department funds.


UW–Madison receives incredible financial support from individuals, charitable organizations, and industry partners that sustains vital campus and departmental operations. To maintain our relationship with these constituents, we want to celebrate and thank them regularly for their gifts.

 The Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association (WFAA) has several processes in place when monetary gifts are made to UW–Madison. Donors immediately receive an electronic receipt and a hard-copy receipt in the mail after their gift is processed (learn more about the gift processing procedure here). Additionally, stewardship (thank you) letters are regularly sent from the WFAA. 

 All campus departments and programs should personally and promptly thank donors, as their gifts directly impact students and programs. This guide provides a brief overview of industry-standard best practices and a step-by-step monthly procedure for stewarding donors.

Best practices for stewardship

Stewardship execution: step-by-step

Create a schedule
Create a rhythm for when you will send thank you letters to fold it into your regular business. This could be once per month, twice per month, etc. Best practice is to send thank you letters within 14 days of the gift being received but no more than four weeks after receiving a gift.

Run the Donor Acknowledgement Report (DAR)
The DAR allows you to see demographic and giving information for the donors within your department or program including

For instruction on how to run the report, click here.

Prepare letter
Write a brief, meaning message to your donors. If you are sending a hard copy letter, include a hand-written note of gratitude and signature.

View examples here:

Merge DAR and letter
Using mail merge in Excel, merge the appropriate fields from your DAR into your letter.

Complete DAR and email to WFAA
The DAR includes two columns that need to be filled out each time you send thank you letters: Acknowledgement Type (Column H) and Acknowledgement Date (Column I). This provides the WFAA with information to add to the donor record in our database, ABE. Once the report is filled out, attach and email it to help@uwadvancement.org with the subject “Acknowledgement.”

Who to Contact 

Creating a stewardship strategy: scott.carter@wisc.edu

Donor Acknowledgement Report: help@uwadvancement.org