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What Can Gratitude Do For You?

main.jpgIf you work in nonprofits, then at some point you will bump into the people that fund nonprofits. What is the most important thing you can do in that moment? Thank You! It does not matter if you are at a gala, touring a site, or working on a project for your executive director, take a moment to express true gratitude to that partner. Donors are much more than a fiscal sponsor. They are (if you treat them right) lifelong advocates for the same mission you are passionately working for day-in and day-out.

If you work in nonprofits, then at some point you will bump into the people that fund nonprofits. What is the most important thing you can do in that moment? Thank You! It does not matter if you are at a gala, touring a site, or working on a project for your executive director, take a moment to express true gratitude to that partner. Donors are much more than a fiscal sponsor. They are (if you treat them right) lifelong advocates for the same mission you are passionately working for day-in and day-out.

Before you (or your organization) do anything else, acknowledge that a donor donated! When you buy something on Amazon you don’t have to wait days or weeks to know they appreciate your business – there is a email in your inbox the very minute you make the purchase. When someone buying toilet paper in bulk gets more acknowledgement than a donor trying to change the world does, there is something seriously wrong. So talk to your co-workers and figure out how you can prioritize that recognition. 

Then say thank you – and say it with sincerity. This doesn’t mean just putting a “we appreciate your support” on a gift receipt, this means making a phone call, writing a note, and/or sending an email, with the express purpose of conveying your gratitude for the donor’s partnership. So round-up some co-workers or volunteers and write some thank you notes!

The acknowledgement and the thank you note style gratitude should really be a baseline for organizations; creating a culture of gratitude and donor stewardship is the next step. Let me be clear – this does not mean get a bunch of mugs with your logo and start sending them out to donors. In fact, that kind of bland thank you gift can negatively influence charitable giving. Instead, share stories and experiences that are unique to your mission. Moreover, before you ask again, be sure to tell them exactly how their last gift has made a difference.

So why is this so important? The first answer should be because donors are the lifeblood of the community and enable nonprofits further their missions. However, if that does not fly with your accountant, thank you not only increases the chance that a donor will give again, but increases their lifetime donor value.

Here I will reference a study done by Penelope Burk using the Canadian Paraplegic Association donor registry. Over the course of the study, thank you calls were made (in addition to a regular thank you letter) to a group of donors. When the donors were asked for a second gift later that year, the test group ended up more likely to give again, and after 14 months, the average gift for the test group was 42% higher than the control. Think about that this way – if a donor would typically give $100, they are instead giving $142. If you have 100 of those donors, you are now talking about a difference of $4,200… if you have 1,000, that's difference of $42,000.

When it comes down to it, nonprofits should be showering their donors (and every other kind of supporter) with gratitude but, if the “should” argument isn’t convincing everyone, then point out that by not saying thank you there is money being left on the table.

Many great resources are out there to help you get on the right track:


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