Making the francophone donor journey a bit easier

publication date: Mar 7, 2019
author/source: Khalil Guliwala and Lea Hardcastle

It’s a little observed fact that most donors will get in touch with your charity twice within a year – the first time once they make their annual donation, the second time when they want a copy of their tax receipt! What this boils down to is that there are two key moments when you can retain or lose your donors.

If they’ve made their donation already, you can assume that your marketing and fundraising materials satisfice for donors to make their donation. Regularly monitor the breakdown of English to French donors and benchmark against year-by-year trends to ensure that fundraising materials are continuing to perform in both languages. If you compose your material in English and then translate it into French, have a French copywriter edit the translation to make it sound more natural and less stilted.

It’s the post-donation tax receipt section of the donor journey that proves trickier to handle.

Some donors tend to have a lot of questions about their tax receipts, some just would simply like another copy. And if the format (e.g. date) doesn’t match what they expect it to be, this can lead to questions and an additional pressure on the donor response team.

What some charities forget is that a tax receipt can sometimes be the only tangible reminder of a donor’s support for your organization. As a result, charities who view the issuing of receipts and getting it into a donor’s hands as only an administrative task miss out on this stewardship opportunity that can pay dividends if properly handled.

1) Ensure you have a staff member who is aware of all the technical vocabulary on receipting in French so that donors are reassured with their past decision to donate to you, and continue to donate to you in the future. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a very detailed website to learn the vocabulary: (

2) French date formatting is DD-MM-YYYY (or in French JJ-MM-AAAA), while most North American date formatting is MM/DD/YYYY. Donors are sometimes rattled to see what they believe to be an incorrect date on a donation, and this can lead them to unhealthily speculate to its cause: did I really donate then? I remember donating later? Should there be a second tax receipt? Is this a case of fraud?

As the date output is typically fixed in the donor database, there are two ways to handle this:

• On the tax receipt, near where the date appears, use a legend to indicate what format is being used for the date output. E.g. if the donation was made on December 5, 2018:




• Set the date output to YYYY-MM-DD. This is the most unambiguous and straightforward date format in existence, and is used by the military for its precision. While this is intuitive enough to not require a legend, do include one nonetheless E.g. if the donate was made on December 5, 2018:




3) French and English display monetary amounts very differently. E.g. the amount twenty thousand dollars and 25 cents is displayed as:

English = $20,000.25

French = 20 000,25 $

Note (1) the different placement of the $ sign; (2) the use of the comma in English as a thousand-separator, while a space is used in French; (3) the use of a point as a decimal separator in English while French uses a comma. Some would argue that these points are too small to require changing or correcting this output in French, and that’s a fair comment to make. But if the goal is to make the donation smooth, there will always be a slight dissonance when viewing a donation amount in a different format than one you expect.

The simplest way to handle this is for gift records on French constituent records to have a special field, e.g. , which has the French format of the gift amount. The more thorough situation is to have all gifts have this Gift field which is completed regardless of the language of the constituent record. This will slow down data entry, but is more complete. Either way, depending on how you produce the tax receipts, it’s this field that should be exported for the gift amount on tax receipts for French-speaking donors or the French-side of a bilingual tax receipt. Do have a quality control process in place to manually verify these receipts before they go out, because the worst thing than no receipt going out is an incorrect tax receipt.

4) Accent names!

This would seem obvious, but we’ve encountered records entered missing accents, which renders the donor’s name incorrect. François = correct, Francois = donor who requires a corrected tax receipt and might never give again. Appendix 1 lists the keyboard shortcuts for the most common accents, while Appendix 2 lists the most popular accented names. As Dale Carnegie put it, “a person's name is the sweetest sound”, and the correct spelling of it is the sweetest word. And your prospect researcher will thank you as well!

Ensuring we give donors the smoothest journey possible requires tracking important information, and ensuring that whatever the donor sees, hears, or reads from the charity has this information correct on their end. This is respect. This is donor love.

For more on this topic, check out the companion article to this piece "Centrée sur le donateur - are you truly donorcentric if your French-speaking donors are an afterthought?

Lea Hardcastle is the leading digital technologist at the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and one of the frontrunners in this country when it comes to the early adoption of technology for charitable purposes.



Khalil Guliwala is a bilingual data analyst/ fundraiser/ AFP Canada Fellow in Diversity and Inclusion (2018-2019) from Montréal, Québec.

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