Why fundraisers need gratitude.
I firmly believe we need more gratitude in this world, full stop. Not only fundraisers, but everyone. So, my post starts from there. But here are the reasons I believe we fundraisers need gratitude:
Nonprofit work is challenging. We do more with less (not always by choice). Whether you work on the fundraising side of the nonprofit or you are serving clients at the front lines, whether you sit behind the scenes in the engine room or are leading the charge, we tend to have fewer resources than our for-profit peers. There is less money for infrastructure or staff development. And the stakes can be huge for our communities and projects. This all adds up to a stressful environment.
Practicing gratitude facilitates better management of people and projects, increases workplace productivity and helps us be more relaxed by lowering stress. And practicing gratitude increases self-esteem – bonus!
The work of fundraising is emotional. Fundraisers work in an emotional zone. It can feel emotional for us. Our chosen careers reflect who we are and what we stand for. And often it is even more emotional for the donor; she is deeply connected to the cause. Our solutions represent her values, commitment and leadership. What’s more personal than that?
Practicing gratitude increases your energy, which is especially helpful if you find this work emotionally draining. And practicing gratitude creates deeper relationships – in social settings, in friendships and even strengthens marriages/ partnerships.
Nonprofit work invites supporters to make big investments and take big risks. Big investments in solutions can lead to big wins – or big risks which fail. Sometimes we ask a donor to support what she knows will work: new hospital equipment, emergency housing for the homeless, conservation of an ancient forest, demanding human rights where they aren’t being practiced. Other times we ask her to join our leap into the unproven: leading edge health research, radical education alternatives, or investment in an entire community. That takes trust, optimism and courage. Donors bring resources, connection and funding, nonprofits lead with knowledge, experience and instincts. It takes nerve on both sides.
Practicing gratitude builds resiliency and creates optimistic feelings. It makes us more social and improves our networking capacity.
Donors receive many more asks for money than they do “thank yous for giving”. Not only many more asks in the form of direct marketing, proposals or multiple asks from one nonprofit. But straight up ingratitude. I’m not going to sugar coat this: I’ve heard nonprofit founders, colleagues or board members say at one time or another:
- “That person could have given more.”
- “I don’t know why that person just doesn’t give us more.”
- “I saw that person gave charity X a big gift – they don’t need it as much as we do.”
- “It was a first gift, but I asked him to double it… I know what that person is worth.”
These comments made me shudder. And end up leaving. Fundraising isn’t hunting, fishing or trapping. It’s relationship building. Our first step as fundraisers is to speak with a donor about the solutions our nonprofit has identified, then invite her to be part of the change (or revolution even!). When the donor gives/ invests/ believes/ commits we must then THANK HER! Now we are in a relationship, not going through the motions of a transaction.
Gratitude closes the loop that begins with donor interest, continues to commitment and involvement, and leads to thanks and appreciation. Gratitude also is the door opener to the next stage in this hand-in-hand relationship.
Fundraisers need gratitude for all the proven ways that thanking and appreciation brings our donors closer to us and holds them in a relationship. Donor retention in our sector is low. And that is a symptom of an unhealthynonprofit.
Fundraisers need gratitude because of all the proven benefits we receive physically, emotionally, and socially. Hey, I want and need every advantage I can get in this rough-and-tumble world.
Is it too much to say that gratitude makes the world a better place? No.
And we definitely need more of that. So get out and practice your gratitude.
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- Accomplish anything with grit, grace + gratitude.
- Navigate a successful career + balance your personal life.
- Create deeper relationships between supporters + your nonprofit.
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