Gratitude and Appreciation

Recognition, gratitude, and appreciation.  Three words that are similar but their difference matters to your nonprofit’s fundraising.  Recognition is the public acknowledgement of something that a donor or other supporter did for your nonprofit.  Its purpose is to draw attention to what the donor did, use the donor as a role model for others to emulate, and publicly express your gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude lets the supporter know that you are grateful for something that was done (donation, recruited a client, spent hours organizing an event, etc.).  Appreciation tells the person you value who they are independent of their action.  It is best to express gratitude and appreciation privately first and follow with recognition when appropriate.

Every donor needs to know they are appreciated and you are grateful for their support.  Recognition is a great way to motivate some supporters to do more.  Other supporters would prefer to remain anonymous.

Saying “Thank you!” through words or gifts are common ways of expressing gratitude.  Thank-you gifts are a more durable form of gratitude but only if they are retained.  A coffee mug, tote bag, or key fob that is put in the junk drawer at home has the potential to be seen as poor stewardship (wasting money on junk), which will annoy the donor rather than gladden them.  However, asking the donor to go on a fishing trip with a group of your school-aged clients from the south side has the potential to create memories that last a lifetime.  In short, the thank-you gift must be something the donor thinks of fondly.

Your cultivation of the donor must include discovering how to express gratitude in a meaningful and durable way.  It often takes creativity to find the most meaningful way to thank a donor.  Inviting a donor to be a chaperon on a fishing trip is inexpensive.  It might even provide a cost savings.  Since it will increase the donor’s loyalty, generosity, and engagement, it will provide long-term dividends at any cost.

Appreciation demonstrates how much you value the donor.  Gratitude is connected to the gift, while appreciation is connected to person.

If, as part of the fishing trip, the donor is asked to teach the youth how to cast, bait a hook, or refine other skills, you will be able to demonstrate to the donor that they are appreciated for who they are.  When a donor feels appreciated, they realize that they are valued for more than their money.  Their contribution of their talents has the potential to deepen and broaden the client’s experience and long-term outcomes.

In many cases, asking a donor to become a volunteer is a great way to show your appreciation.  Like gratitude, appreciation must be tailored to the individual.  It takes creativity to find the right way to show your appreciation (employ the donor).  The cultivation process provides you with many opportunities to discover how the donor wants to engaged.

As your donors develop a deeper relationship with your nonprofit through your acts of gratitude and appreciation, you will be cultivating their generosity, loyalty, and engagement.  The result will be a highly sustainable funding stream and an increase in sustainability for your nonprofit.

After each expression of gratitude or appreciation, determine how to do it better next time.  The increase in donor loyalty, generosity, and engagement are ways to measure the success of your gratitude and appreciation efforts.  Donor loyalty, generosity, and engagement are also the dividends your nonprofit receives that justify the effort needed to cultivate the donor’s engagement.  In addition, gratitude and appreciation are more likely to increase the donor’s generosity than asking a donor to give more.

Next Step:

Use cultivation to determine how each of your donors wants you to express your gratitude and appreciation

Find mission-centric opportunities that  show your gratitude and make your donors feel your deep appreciation for each of them as individuals

Use the change in donor loyalty, generosity, and engagement to determine the success of your gratitude and appreciation efforts

Using mission-centric activities to express your appreciation and gratitude never feels like exploitation to donors.  It feels like a reward.  Your mission is important to your donors.  They want to be more involved than just giving.  Listening to their feedback and acting on it when appropriate strengthens the relationship and emotionally rewards donors.  Listening and acting on their feedback tells the donors their thoughts and insights are as valuable as their funds.

Interacting with donors beyond asking for support is another way to tell donors they are more important than their money.  It makes participation more enjoyable for them.  It changes their focus from supporting your nonprofit into supporting something they care deeply about.  The more they care, the more generous they will be.

When you give donors an opportunity to experience your mission, they will give you the support you need to expand your mission.

Take It Further:

Ask donor who have had an opportunity to experience your mission to describe the experience then share their experience with all of your donors

Ensure that board members experience your gratitude and appreciation through their board service


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