The importance of gratitude

Article by Clare Bridle
AskRIGHT / 11 May 2021

Gratitude: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
We hear a lot about gratitude these days and it is something most of us strive for; to be grateful for what we have, making us feel happier and fostering physical and mental health.
And for those of us working in fundraising it is a constant focus for another reason; how can we express our thanks and gratitude to our donors in a meaningful way? If we do this well, our donors will feel happy about the gift they made and more engaged with our cause.
It has been heartening to see a focus on supporter care over the last year, during challenging times for organisations and individuals alike.
One such example is this video shared by the RNLI (UK) with its donors – it is a genuine message to supporters of the charity thanking them and recognising that they are facing difficult times too:

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Here in New Zealand, the Gratitude Day held by St Cuthbert’s College last October is a wonderful example of placing the focus on donors, sharing the stories of how their contributions have shaped the College over more than 100 years. Holly Palmer, Director of Development explains:

Staff and students arrived on Monday morning to the campus decorated in giant red bows and gift tags showcasing the buildings, artworks, special features and curiosities gifted to the school since 1911. An accompanying map allowed girls to go on a ‘treasure hunt’ throughout the day to explore and learn about the impact that donors have had at the school.

Students wrote thank-you cards which we’re mailing to our supporters this week, and many wrote notes of gratitude to each other, their families and their favourite staff members. Students also wore stickers that read ‘Ask me what I’m grateful for’ to start conversations about thankfulness wherever they went.

Gratitude Day was a true team effort, with staff and students leading many of the activities and lending a hand to decorate the school. We’ve had incredible feedback, and this will now become a fixture in the school calendar.”

The greater focus on thanking and communicating impact at St Cuthbert’s is benefitting not only donor numbers, which have more than quadrupled in the past three years, but also staff and student awareness of the value of fundraising. Staff are approaching the school Development Office to let them know about objects and equipment that could be featured in Philanthropy Tours in future years, and they are more proactively getting involved in fundraising for their departments and programmes. There has also been an ongoing reverberation of the positive message of gratitude throughout the year — people were genuinely touched by the concept. The school hopes the event and its message will be easier to bring to life in 2021 now that everyone knows what it’s all about.

The St Cuthbert’s Gratitude Day stands out as a great example we can all learn from. Why? Because it was simple, had a clear and compelling purpose and made a positive impact on everyone involved.

So, what can you do within your school to demonstrate gratitude and thanks to your donors, volunteers and other supporters? Maybe you will communicate directly with them like the RNLI or hold your own Gratitude Day.

Whatever you decide, make it genuine and authentic; talk about your organisation openly and honestly to engage with your supporters in a genuine. Think about how things are for them, many schools have taken the time to touch base with their alumni and donors over the last year, simply to ask, ‘how are you doing?’, and in turning building genuine connection. These actions will move your supporter care from a purely transactional approach to one of genuine gratitude and relationship building.

Be a storyteller and demonstrate impact; let your donors know what their support has achieved. They will only worry about how their money is being spent if they do not hear enough about the difference or progress being made with it. Sadly, there are many examples where donors have donated to a cause they feel connected to, but never received a response or only a very transactional one such as an impersonal, emailed receipt. These donors have no idea what the impact of their donation has been and will most likely never donate again.  Use every opportunity to tell your story rather than focusing on the immediate recognition of a donation.

When you find your fundraising activities moving back to business as usual, remember how important genuine gratitude is and you will reap the benefits of increased donor engagement.

About the author

Clare Bridle is Principal Consultant, New Zealand at AskRIGHT. With over twenty years’ experience in fundraising and marketing in the not-for-profit sector, Clare enjoys working with organisations of all sizes to maximise their success.

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