Thanking donors starts with practicing gratitude in all areas of our lives, not just in our development work.
It sounds cliché right? Gratitude changes everything? I’ve tried keeping a gratitude journal with lists of 5 things I’m thankful for each day. I have a nice collection ranging from a warm cup of coffee, to snuggling with my dogs, to protection for a child on a trip halfway around the world. I can think of things to be thankful for, but if I have to stop and think to make these lists, perhaps gratitude isn’t my attitude at all.
Search the word “gratitude” and you’ll find all kinds of articles. Tips, tricks, and steps to be sure you “do gratitude right.” Honestly, I don’t know the “right” way to show gratitude or be thankful, but I do know that it is important. So, as I travel this journey alongside nonprofit leaders, I want to share some ideas that may spur thoughtful action.
Gratitude is a heart issue.
I’m a list maker. Yes, I even add things to my list that I’ve already done just so I can cross them out. The issue is that the state of my heart doesn’t fit on my list; I can’t check it off. But it matters more than any list or accomplishment.
1 Chronicles 29:11 says, “Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.”
That’s where it begins. Understanding that everything we have – the big year-end donation, the new smaller monthly gift, the completion of the capital campaign – all comes from him. When we realize that while we “do” a lot of things, it really is all about him and his provision, our hearts must take a posture of gratitude.
Gratitude is a cycle.
The more we show gratitude, the more we recognize things we have for which to be thankful. Perhaps this year is a record-breaking year; perhaps it is a year where a nonprofit budget is just barely met. Maybe a major donor is unable to give, or maybe someone falls short on a pledge. If the heart’s posture is to be thankful, we are focused on the Provider, not the provision.
Author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer says, “When we choose thankful prayer over wallowing in anxiety and worry, we are demonstrating an unwavering trust in God.”
Gratitude requires activation.
The late respected pastor Tim Keller said, “It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”
Nonprofit leaders, take note. Feeling gratitude in your heart and consciously choosing it is one thing. Showing it is very much a separate thing. Make sure you show your appreciation.
I sit on a donor panel with a generous man who invests in lots of different organizations. He often tells leaders there are two important aspects of a thank you: timeliness and frequency. He goes on to share he expects some variety of appreciation in texts, emails, phone calls, letters, and handwritten notes. While this may seem like a lofty goal for a nonprofit leader, you can slowly integrate it in your rhythm.
Ensure that your thankfulness to donors is expressed – not just once, but in different ways so they know they are a valued partner in the work. And, please, don’t ask if you haven’t yet thanked (more than once in more than one way).
Don’t start with a list. Gratitude doesn’t fit neatly on a list with a box to check it off. Instead, begin with the heart. Ask God to give you a heart of appreciation and awareness. Practice being thankful in all things. Express that thankfulness to those partnering in the important work of the nonprofit ministry.
Donor Communication at All Stages
Finding the right rhythm to communicate with donors of different ages and engagement levels can be a challenge! Our Nonprofit Success team has put together a number of resources, including videos and written guides, for nonprofits seeking a deeper connection with donors.Find resources
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