This Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year.
So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!
Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.
Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.
Who, and what, do you count among yours?
I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year the company may be in real life for the first time in a while, so the gratitude for shared connection will be stronger than ever.
But not all connections are with family and friends.
A lot of connections for nonprofit workers are with donors, volunteers, clients and co-workers.
Who are you grateful to at your organization?
This Thanksgiving I encourage you to consider those who make your mission possible: your donors.
Don’t just consider who these folks are, but also why you’re grateful for them.
The more specific you can be, the more you’ll be able to authentically express your gratitude.
So shy away from simply saying “thank you for being a loyal donor.” That’s pretty general. Instead, consider adding in why you’re grateful for their loyalty. An impact story always helps. Something like “Without you, this program would never have gotten off the ground” is better — but only if your donor will honestly believe you. If they gave $25 to a $250,000 project, this won’t resonate.
With board members and major donors it pays to be honest and really specific.
For example, I like to add a personal note that says something like: “It meant so much that you brought guests to our recent event,” or “Thank you again for increasing your gift this year” or “I appreciate the article you sent me,” or simply “Your emails always cheer me up!“
NOTE: One way to make this easier is to begin keeping a Donor Gratitude Journal where you write what you’re grateful to individual donors for throughout the course of the year.
It’s easy for donor acknowledgements to become somewhat rote, dry and perfunctory. When that happens, they don’t end up meaning a lot. To us, or to those who receive them. They’re just tasks checked off a list.
This year, how about doing something different?
Close your eyes and visualize what your donors make possible. If you intend to send different emails to different mailing segments, close your eyes several times and picture what is special about (1) major donors; (2) mid-level donors; (3) smaller donors; (4) new donors; (5) monthly donors; (6) legacy donors, and (7) volunteers.
You could do worse than follow the advice of pioneering gratitude researcher Robert Emmons in his book, Gratitude Works! In it he cites a study finding writing one sentence about five things we’re grateful for is less beneficial than writing five sentences about one thing we’re grateful for.
Here’s an example of five things you could visualize, and write about, to a couple of donor segments:
- You keep us going all year long.
- We count on you more than any other group when budgeting for how many we’ll be able to help during the year.
- Your loyalty keeps us going through the tough periods.
- You’re never out of sight — or out of mind.
- Through thick and think, we know we can rely on you.
- Can’t wait to put a face to your name at one of our free events this year!
- Your gift is a real shot in the arm, showing we’re not alone in this fight.
- You already feel like family to us!
- Because you shared your love, we’re looking forward to sharing it back.
- So happy to know our mission resonates with you, and we promise we’ll keep you posted about the impact of your support.
Now YOU continue this exercise with all your relevant donor segments!
I was intrigued by a Seth Godin post where he said:
A modern Thanksgiving would celebrate two things:
The people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference, and…
The opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing to. The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.
Why not take a day this week or next to celebrate all the things your donors make possible?
All the reasons you are grateful to them for joining with you to create something better.
All the ways they are helping to build something larger than themselves.
All the ways, together, you are actively engaged to promote lasting and positive change.
Gratitude is powerful. Thinking about it and articulating it.
- For more on this topic, see Tara Sophia Mohr’s piece ‘A New Twist on Gratitude Practice‘.
- If you don’t yet have plans for #GivingTuesday, what about using the day to say thank you?
- If you’re engaged in a fundraising campaign on that date, how about using a day soon thereafter to show your gratitude?
- Consider showing your own gratitude in one of these eight giving ways.
6 Ways to Show Your Thanks
1. Thank you phone calls:
What about mobilizing your board, committee members or other volunteers (or staff) to just call and leave a pure, warm thank you message? Most people can handle calling a list of 10 – 20 people, since it’s likely they won’t have conversations with every person called. Messages count! Spread the calls out to lighten the load. And if you can’t call everyone, call those who are most important to you. Do it the day before or the day after Thanksgiving to let donors know you’re counting them among your blessings. Or do it a few weeks before the end of the calendar year, adding a special wish for happy, healthy holidays filled with joy and blessings.
2. Thank you videos:
It’s super easy today to make a simple video on your smart phone that you can email, text or share via social media. It can just be staff, or clients, saying thanks. Take a look at my Pinterest board: “Gratitude – Nonprofits Say Thanks,” for inspiration.
3. Thank you cards:
Folks don’t get a lot of genuine, “good” mail these days, so receiving a thank you note – especially a handwritten one — can be a delightful surprise. If you’re an organization that works with kids, seniors, animals, or anyone who can write a note or dip a toe or tail into paint to create a piece of art, why not share this as a thank you with your supporters? (Note; you can copy and reprint the artwork; every note need not be original).
4. Thank you impact notes and letters:
Don’t let too much time pass between the donor’s gift and your ‘gift’ of an impact report. Donors need to know the outcome of their philanthropy. And if you want gifts, you must give them. Letters written by folks your donors helped and stories showing how donors created a happy ending are, truly, a welcomed gift.
5. Thank you gifts:
Any thank you is a gift, as long as it’s warm and genuine and not just a transactional receipt. But sometimes it’s nice to go the extra mile and send something tangible. It needn’t be expensive. I’ve asked local cafés to donate coupons for coffee or a free pastry, for example. You just add a note that says: “Our friend, Cup o ‘Java, wants to thank you for your support and perk up your day – just as your generosity has perked up the lives of those who rely on our communal caring!” [For other creative thank you ideas, check out my e-guide].
6. Thank you events:
Gather supporters together (it can be virtual!) for no reason other than to say thanks. This is not a fundraising event (although folks who attend will be inclined to say “yes” next time you ask). Begin with your own expression of gratitude. Then maybe ask supporters what they’re grateful for. If the group is large, use break-out rooms so everyone has a chance to participate. Consider putting a facilitator from your organization in each room to call on the shy folks. Even if not a lot of people show up, just receiving the invitation makes your supporters feel special.
Gratitude is Powerful
On Thursday… show gratitude to your family and friends. And don’t forget to thank yourself too. You’ve done a lot of good for others this year. You’ve earned your acknowledgement.
The day… and week… and months after Thanksgiving, show gratitude to your donors.
They’re your blessings too.
And remember — thank you shouldn’t go without saying.
Please enjoy these selected quotations about gratitude:
Many come from The Thanksgiving Reader, which you may be interested in checking out:
We are never as alive as when we are together.
Speaking together, as one, amplifies our spirit.
Generosity and thanks bind our community together.
— The Thanksgiving Reader
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into
a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the
unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.
It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations
into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our
past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melody Beattie
May you experience happiness. May you bring light to someone else’s life.
May you abide in joy. And may you allow yourself to feel gratitude, and
to multiply that feeling by sharing it with those around you.
— The Thanksgiving Reader
I think that we can’t go around measuring
our goodness by what we don’t do—by
what we deny ourselves, what we resist,
and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to
measure goodness by what we embrace,
what we create, and who we include.
— Robert Nelson Jacobs
Want to Keep More Donors with Gratitude?
You may want to get my Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook. It’s six companion guides filled with everything I’ve learned about donor acknowledgement over the years, with emphasis on the powerful practice of gratitude. You’ll get lots of ready-to-use samples and templates. Plus it includes the Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors E-Book — with 72 ideas for you to steal! If you prefer, each Companion Guide can be purchased separately.
All Clairification products comes with a 30-day no-questions-asked, 100% money-back guarantee. If you aren’t happy, I’m not happy. Especially since I’m so grateful to you for the important work you do to make our world a better place.
May that for which you are grateful continue to grow and blossom .
Photos by Quino Al, Pro Church Media, Aaron Burden, Cecile Vedemil, Kevin Curtis