Rev up your gratitude!

by Marcy Heim on February 13, 2017

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Each morning, right after you proclaim, “I create my life!” pause to consider next, “What am I grateful for, thankful for, and sincerely appreciate in my life today?”

In this, Part 1 my two-part series on being grateful, I want you to consider who you have to become to sincerely be “grateful.”

Next time, in Part 2 we’ll explore ten specific actions you can apply to ensure your donor’s know just how much you appreciate their investment.

Yes, I always start with you. Who do you need to become to be sincerely grateful?

In my over two decades of managing development team members, and now almost another decade of coaching them, I can spot the people who will excel in this honorable and noble profession. They are genuinely grateful. How they interact and behave may be completely different, but you get this feeling from them that they are grateful for what they have in their life right now and what others do for them. 

In my Cycle of Successful Relationships, “Invoking the Grateful Recipient” follows “Making an Artful Ask.” In this use, “invoke” means “activate” or “call upon” the Grateful Recipient.  In other words, this is kicking in our gratitude for what has happened for our institution or organization based upon our ask.

Often this piece of our giving cycle is called, “stewardship,” and is declared important because it “leads to the next gift.”  “Stewardship” in the simplest sense, means as non-profits we are managers of the generosity of others. Not owners. We steward land that is part of planet earth for all generations to come. We steward the gift, but really we are managing these resources for our donor.  Thus, how effectively we use these gifts, how well we manage or “steward” the gift does set the stage for your current donors to invest again. You are managing the gift they gave you according to THEIR wishes.  You are the steward.

Being a Grateful Recipient takes this all one step deeper. It’s everything that happens after a gift is made that says, “We are grateful you have chosen to invest in us.” And successfully communicating that gratitude begins with FEELING it and then making time to EXPRESS it.

Two fundraisers can do exactly the same thing – one deepens the bond between the donor and the organization and one simply takes an action, completes a task that has been outlined as “good stewardship.”  Maya Angelou’s oft-used quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” is at the core of expressing genuine gratitude. Why?  How can you possibly make someone feel what you don’t?

How do you bring more genuine gratitude into your life?

1.       Start by focusing your attention on what you have in your life every day that you take for granted.  What you focus on grows

You are healthy today, you have family today (warts and all), you have meaningful work today, you have faith today, you have a car that runs, food to eat, a cozy bed, a child to hug, a donor to inspire, contact screens to enter and a cat box to clean today. Research has shown that when we are intentionally grateful for even those less pleasant tasks in our life we are more joyful, living in the moment and others feel more appreciation from us.  And, the more we focus on what we are grateful for in our lives, the more we will have to be grateful for.

2.       Take judgment out of the equation

We have done a relationship action plan and are exploring a specific gift level with a donor, we engage and educate, we feel a good connection, we ask, and they say, “no” or “Not exactly this.”  When we are grateful for what they DO contribute, even if it is only their willingness to listen to our request, we blaze a trail for their future connections. Our feelings of disappointment or judgment can be the biggest barrier to continuing a relationship.

“Don’t tell me what I should give.” This came from a board member at a recent board educational program I was conducting for the Rugby Club.  He was clearly a member who had the capacity to make significant gifts and shared that often he begins with a smaller gift just to ‘see how he is treated.’  At times, he shared, he is almost scorned for making a “token gift” and not “stepping up” to the level expected. When we are grateful for the gift the donor gave, we simply modify our long-term relationship action plan to see this gift as a step in a longer plan to a more major gift.  Often major donors are attracted to smaller organizations where they feel their gift is “really needed.” This is all about how we communicate appreciation.

3.       Practice gratitude

Throughout the day, say, “thank you” and instantly reflect, “Am I actually thankful?” Be the person whose thanks feels sincere because they are not on automatic pilot.

4.       Decide to be grateful for the unpleasant things that happen to you

You are stuck in traffic, the toilet plugs, the donor cancels your appointment, kitty misses the box, the computer snafus, you get a hurtful email, a donor says, ‘Not now.”  See these all as opportunities to learn, experiences to grow from, and contrasts to all that is good and right in your life.

5.       Think about how your actions and words impact others

Are you the source of joy or the bastion of complaining and sour grapes? Gratitude helps you shift your frame of reference from the whining, complaining group, and those people who have a sense of entitlement or deservingness to those expressing a lighter, happier more satisfied journey through the day.  Who do you want to be?

When you FEEL sincere gratitude, you express sincere gratitude. It begins with you.  It turns the obligatory thank you note into a meaningful communication moving past the predictable language that’s nice and all that, but somehow leaves you a bit flat. It infuses sincerity to expressions of gratitude that otherwise are over-the-top. It spurs the creativity that continues the relationship and leads to new giving interests in a remarkable and organic way.

The expansive aspect of gratitude makes you more adventurous and more inclined to try the new things that make life invigorating. The new experiences give you memories that, when recalled, lift you up even more.

I appreciate this opportunity to challenge you to bring more gratitude into your life. Indeed, I am grateful to you for considering my messages. I am grateful to you for believing that my purpose is to expand the positive relationships you have in your life – personally and professionally. It’s an upward spiral that all starts with “What am I grateful for, thankful for, and sincerely appreciate in my life today?”

 Invest in Joy!

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