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Gratitude and Stewardship

Guest Blogger: Patrick Kirby – Do Good Better Consulting

Ok, we all get it. You have to say thank you for gifts.

Your parents and teachers probably drilled that into you as a child, or somebody along you’re the way let you know that it’s just plain polite to say thanks when someone gives you something.

As a nonprofit leader you’re probably salivating at the prospect of hopping on the phone or firing up your favorite social media platform to get your gratitude on this time of year.

It easy, expected and downright built into how our culture has designated this as the season of gratitude.

But during the time where gratitude is the name of the game, how do you stand out from every other organization who is ALSO vying for the attention of supporters and communities to show how grateful they are for support…right before they make another ask at the end of the year.

Who knew that an entire industry could weaponize thankfulness and create a Hunger Games-esque display on who is Lord of Gratitude in the nonprofit realm?

Well, like most things, the bigger, well funded and well known organizations and businesses will pull out all the stops. From platters of treats to logoed Christmas tree decorations, the sky is limit for them to share thanks through gifts and bells and whistles.

How do you combat the large scale gratitude carpet bombing to show you care about your donors?

Get Small.

Get Specific.

Get Nichey.

Get Personal.

Listen, Netflix knows your donors better than you do. Don’t believe me?

Binge watch a show, and wait for the algorithm to suggest another series or movie for you.

You’re gonna love it. Because the robots are winning.

And this is a major problem.

We’re not trying to get to know our donors as well as we should. Including how often, what medium our donors enjoy being thanked, or shown gratitude for their support of our nonprofits.

So, let’s play the same game by creating a few ways you can out-pace the machines when it comes to being grateful and thankful in ways that your organization, whatever the size, can rise to the top of a very crowded and, for some reason, very competitive gratitude space.

Here are 3 Unique Ways to Ramp Up Your Gratitude!

1. Random acts of Gratitude

Did you know that you don’t need a transactional reason to say thank you? It’s true! I looked it up on the internet! You can actually, in the most random and out of the blue sort of way, call up a donor, volunteer or board member and say “thank you” for their cheerleading and support!

Everyone EXPECTS you be grateful for a gift when you get a check, online donation or they purchase a ticket to attend an event you hosted. But the best surprises and delights you can give those who love you and your mission are the ones that are unexpected. Those are the notes, voicemails, and emails that individuals remember more than any bulk sending of thank yous to everyone who participated in said fundraising activities.

Here’s a quick way to show your gratitude – that has maximum randomness, maximum eyeballs on said thank you, and maximum simplicity to pull off:

Random Thank You Text.

Take out your phone, right now. Scroll down to the 20th person in your text message app. Start typing. Don’t be shy – tell that person how much they mean to you, how much you appreciate them for the impact they have made on your life and press send.

Oh, the responses you’ll get. From “are you ok?” to “what you do want?” to “Oh my God that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever received over text!” you’ll get an array of them. And that’s awesome.

It’s also good practice for showing you that you don’t NEED a reason. Just because.

And that randomness will keep those in your database on their toes for the next touchpoint you prep.
And I guarantee they pick up the phone or respond to emails a helluva lot faster for those who show their gratefulness in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.

2. A Multitude of Seasons for Thanks

Did you know you’re allowed to say thank you to those who support you even if it’s not around the time when we’re all programmed to be grateful? It’s true! You’re allowed (and I did research to make sure this was legal in all 50 states) to say thanks and show your appreciation to those who love you whenever you want!

A really great way to make sure you keep up with gratitude is build it into your calendar of events and activities throughout the year. Like most organizations, you probably have a “slow” or “down” time where gifts slow, and anxiety rises.

What a great opportunity to actively channel your inner Gratitude Superpowers and spend time in the field and on the phone saying thank you instead of wishing upon our Amazon Overlords to send you a check for one half of one percent of toilet paper orders from random humans in your database. Control and prioritize the seasons of gratefulness as you control and prioritize the seasons of giving.

Here’s an easy way to make sure you stick to this plan.

Plan for it. Period.

Don’t just strategize about when you are going to reach out, actually put this in your annual giving plan at the beginning, and schedule your thank you calls, thank you letters that talk specifically about how much impact your supporters have made, and do it all without soliciting for a single dime.

Does putting all this in a calendar and scheduling out gratitude make it any less authentic or impactful?

Nope. You’re doing 10,000 things all day, every day. This is about cadence, and rhythm and consistency. Its about building the habit about being grateful to those who are you biggest cheerleader.

In fact, carving out time weekly for to communicate how appreciative you are (May I suggest Fridays?) will begin to ingrain this attitude into nearly every aspect of your nonprofit leadership.

Pretty neat to have that as part of your nonprofit DNA. And practice makes perfect.

3. Better Questions Equal Better Appreciation

Did you know that you’re allowed to ASK your donors how they like to be thanked? It’s true! I actually created a very unscientific poll of 3 phone calls with 100% affirmation that a conversation about the type of acknowledgement, public celebration and private adulation is a thing that donors don’t mind chatting about!

In fact, what a nice way to engage in a touch point that has nothing to do with soliciting them for cash! That’s right. An actual conversation with an actual person about what their likes and dislikes are to more accurately engage them in a more personal kind of way. Soon, you’ll be able to say with the confidence of Elon Musk that you know exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want all things gratitude.

That’s some nonprofit powers my friends.

It is exponentially harder and more expensive to win a donor back, or capture the attention of new individuals who are aligned with your nonprofit’s mission, vision and values than keeping the ones that love you already.

And if you’re not using gratitude to draw your supporters closer to you with every random or strategic thank you note, you’re using a lot of energy to chase, rather than enjoy the fruits of your appreciation.

So how do you even begin to have a conversation like this?


Simply. Ask. Oh, need an example of a script? I got you.

Pick up the phone and say THIS:

“Hey Patrick, thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me this week! One of the intentional projects I am working on this year, is being very purposeful with my gratitude towards individuals like you who carve out time during their day to connect, chat and share their perspective with me on what our organization does in the community. So, I am curious on your favorite way to be thanked! Sure it’s an odd question you probably don’t get asked a lot, but really want to make sure we’re as unique in the way we approach gratitude as we are about approaching they way we strive to achieve our mission.”

Too formal and fancy? Try THIS:

“Hey Patrick! Curious – how do you like to be thanked by nonprofits you support?”

That’s it! Simple conversation, and simple questions that lead to a VERY personalized way to be memorable when showing how grateful you are for those that bless you with the gifts of time, talent or treasure.

And it sure makes you stand out in a very crowded gratitude space…while making sure the robots stay on their toes.

You got this!

Patrick Kirby is the Founder of Do Good Better Consulting, author of the Amazon Best Selling book Fundraise Awesomer! A Practical Guide to Staying Sane While Doing Good, and the host of The Official Do Good Better Podcast.

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