An attitude of gratitude

I’ll never forget this story.

A while back I was facilitating a workshop on donor and member renewals. To get started, I asked the room — board members and staff of environmental organizations — to explore their own personal giving by sharing their own experiences as donors or members. I asked them to think about experiences that really stood out, good or bad.

Bob’s* wife, an artist, was interviewed by the local newspaper. In the article, she shared her fondness for a particular repertory theatre which she said was one of the things she loved best about her State.

Not too much later, the couple attended a play at the named theatre. As they arrived, they noticed an envelope on their seat. Inside the envelope was a note to his wife from the theatre, thanking her for mentioning her love of this theatre in the newspaper article.

Also inside was a gift certificate for coffee and dessert after the show at a nearby restaurant.


An unexpected and lovely thank you. A real show of gratitude. Needless to say, this particular act made a lasting impression… and really cemented the love of a fan.

I just finished reading the recently released report Growing Philanthropy in the United States. The report summarizes two think sessions held with top leaders in the nonprofit world this past year.

While I’ll have more to say about this report in coming posts, it’s worth underlining the major problem the report seeks to address:

While overall, the dollars given to charity have increased, individual charitable giving in the USA as a percentage of after tax income  (2%) has remained stagnant for the last 40 years.

The report noted low retention rates, especially for donors new to a cause. It recommended that charities need to do much, much more to understand the individual behind the giving and build relationships that matter.

So what does this all have to do with saying thanks?

Past studies have shown that a top reason that donors say they stop giving is indifference by the charity they give to – a feeling that they and their giving don’t really matter.

In her book, Effective Donor Relations, my friend Janet Hedrick CFRE, eastern region development manager for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, strongly pushes the attitude of gratitude as an essential factor in building donor loyalty.

What is gratitude? It’s meaningful, thoughtful, heartfelt and individualized appreciation.

And when that appreciation is unexpected, it packs a powerful punch.

What thank you has taken your breath away lately? I’d love to hear.


*Not his real name. But definitely a real person.

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