Express Gratitude to Your Donors Daily

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By Richard Perry

One of the difficult things for me to do is focus on the positive things people do. Jeff tells me regularly that I am too problem-oriented. There are good and bad aspects of this reality.

The good side is that I am always focusing on what needs to get done and what needs to get fixed. The bad side is that I have a harder time noticing or spending any time praising and thanking others for what has been done well.

Those who know me well are, thankfully, forgiving and understanding.

This truth about how I am wired has led me to figure out how to repair the problem, i.e. figure out ways to improve in this area. So, I have committed myself to seek and find the best in others and tell them I have noticed this on a daily basis. I think I am getting better.

But the journey has also had me processing two things:

1. Why We Focus on the Things We Need Versus Other People

Call it a wound or damage, but the focus on self, in my personal journey, is my recurring effort to establish value, and prove that I am OK and have worth. You may be able to relate to that. If we do enough, others will see that we have value.

2. How That Focus Affects Our Thinking About Major Donors

In the major gift field, this self-focus expresses itself in an obsession with getting the money and reaching goals. We often just cannot help ourselves. Not only is there pressure from management to get the money, but we are also wrapped up in the same trap that I personally am: “If I get the money and reach the goal I will have proven to myself and others that I am successful and valuable.” And the result of that kind of thinking is that we subtly begin to forget about the donor. And our focus moves to solving the problem of how to get the money.

All of this is very subtle. You often do not perceive it is going on. You mean well. Your heart is right, but your behavior is more money-oriented than donor-oriented. I know. That is what I have been doing personally. I truly am a caring and thoughtful person, but my behavior is showing that my predominant need is to show value and self-express. This, over time, excludes others, which is not a good conclusion.

My point in bringing all of this up is so that you will stop for a moment, and have a heart and behavior check. Are you really focused enough on the donor and what they need? Are you expressing thankfulness and gratitude at the level and frequency you need to?

Jeff and I have, repeatedly, said that the major giving thing is not about the money, is not about goals and is not, fundamentally, about anything we teach as it relates to strategies and technique. It is about helping a donor do what they want to do with their gifts and talents. All the strategies and techniques are a means to that end.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are each one of my caseload donors getting to do what they want to do through my organization?
  2. If not, what can I do about that? If so, am I thanking and expressing gratitude for what the donor has done? Am I doing it in the right way? Am I doing it frequently enough?

Regardless of how you answer the two questions above, my suggestion to you is to make a commitment to express gratitude to one or more donors on your caseload every day — yes, every day. This kind of commitment will force you to remember that all your efforts are about the donor. And it will have the positive effect of wrapping each of your donors in the love, respect and thankfulness they deserve at a level of frequency that truly fills their hearts.

Try it and see how it affects them and you!

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