Thoughts

Got ABS, bro?

Abs are great and all, but have you ever tried being a great steward of the trust your donors put in you by contributing to your organization?

See for me, that’s abs: Always Be Stewarding. It’s somewhat of a lifestyle for me, the way exercise might be for others. I write about it a lot, though I’m not sure it can be overstated.

Over 15 years in and around nonprofits, one sees myriad ways of demonstrating appreciation. Some organizations barely scratch the surface (thank you letters/emails) while others are utter rockstars with full stewardship programs (donor newsletter, event invitations).

Forever I worked in arts and culture, before transitioning to other types of nonprofiteering. Different sectors appreciate their donors differently, though I’ve consistently found a foolproof practice of sharing what you might consider “mission moments.” In this way, rather than telling donors what they get for their giving, show them how their generosity makes a difference.

I tried this at the end of last fiscal year a simple one-page letter with five short paragraphs, each spotlighting a different area of our work. I titled it simply, “impacts and benefits.” Nowhere in the letter did it ask for anything, rather, it was straight appreciation. This wasn’t novel, and in fact, it was a lightbulb idea after talking with a friend who’s a donor to the organization. And something funny happened.

A few weeks later, we started getting checks in the mail. And most of them were additional gifts beyond what the donors had already gave — not renewals of previous gifts, but increases. Again, we reinvented no wheels, but we put some gas in the car. This was sort of wonderful, and rather affirming to know people felt strongly about our efforts.

So how are y’all getting your abs?

Standard
Thoughts

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Most of us are familiar with the classic holiday Andy Williams song. But the song was actually co-written by George Wyle and Edward Pola. Behind the scenes, the two crafted possibly one of the most well-known Christmas songs, ever. A lot of great things happen behind the scenes, and the movers and shakers often get less credit than they deserve.

As a nonprofiteer, I think about that a lot during the holidays. I think about all the terrific things happening throughout the year, and I certainly think about the equally terrific people who make those things happen. In our world of fundraising — especially as it relates to corporate and foundation partners — those people are not always the top figures. They might be coordinators, executive assistants or other complementary collaborators.

Each year, at some point between Thanksgiving and December 31, I always make it a point to set aside a good chunk of time to not only reflect on the past year’s meaningful experiences, I make sure to thank each and every one of those complementary collaborators. I pick up the phone, I write notes, I send e-mails. Some I’m closer with, and some I’ve never met, but in no small way, they have all made my life easier and better, and they deserve exceptional appreciation.

So as we inch closer to December 31, won’t you all join me in sharing thanks with these superheroes? Because really, it IS the most wonderful time of the year.

Standard
Thoughts

The Calligraphy of Gratitude

Note: This is an update from a 2017 piece on the topic of being thankful, sharing again under the guise of Thanksgiving!

In my last office kitchen there was a microwave. This wasn’t a special microwave, though when your food was ready, the screen flashed: ENJOY! Not DONE or FINISHED—instead, it displayed a warmer sentiment. It was a light touch, though every time I warmed my food, it was a pleasant surprise.

For me, it’s the same when someone shares a “thanks” when you hold the door, or a “gesundheit” after a sneeze. Expected? Maybe. Typical? Not so much. It’s 2018 and things are only moving more and more quickly — like Brooks said in Shawshank Redemption, “…the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” We sometimes forget, while these little social graces are pleasant, they are meaningful.

If we think in terms of business, like a meeting, a donation or any transaction, we have a tendency to rely on quick, standard, electronic-only gratitude — a “thank you” e-mail, a social media post or the dreaded e-newsletter auto-signup.

I challenge that we give thanks in a more personalized way.

This can be difficult with today’s pace. We get so fixated on quantity over quality,  at times we feel fine with complacency. Truth be told, our stakeholders (defined however you do in your industry) are generally fine with it, too. Though, who ever really shined in their efforts by being “fine?”

Thank You

Matt Jones (Unsplash)

So, what can we do? You can start by spending a few moments more when you show your appreciation:

  • Sending one of those “thank you” e-mails? Personalize the header from “Dear Mr. So and so” to “Dear Bill” (if appropriate) and make it an actual letter or card. Mailing addresses are pretty easy to find these days.
  • Posting some social media love? Share the appreciation more publicly in a way that stakeholders will see, like in-office, in-store or elsewhere.
  • Auto-signing someone up for that flashy e-newsletter? Pick up the phone and share some exciting news about a program or product.

And another thing, while we’re on the subject…

  • Something not go exactly your way? Take the opportunity to travel the high road and—even in response to an unfortunate experience — share your gratitude.

I believe these are things we can do with ease, and even begin to enjoy. Think about calligraphers and how they spend their time meticulously crafting their words in a creative, meaningful way.

So, be calligraphers of gratitude. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Standard
Rants

Thanks But No Thanks

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

I knew that quote long before I knew the name of its author, Elie Wiesel. Wiesel seemed like a pretty stand-up guy — activist, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor — one of those people who make you feel really unaccomplished on your best day.

I think Wiesel’s quote can relate to work. In terms of nonprofit work, it might read: “The opposite of good work is not bad work, it’s indifferent work.” What really anchored this for me was an experience I had last year as a donor.

I made a modest gift to a friend’s organization, not just to show encouragement, but because I believed in the work. The online donation form was easy and clear, but after clicking DONATE… nothing. No e-mail confirmation, no word from my friend. Radio silence. I actually had to check my bank statement to make sure the payment went through. In my mind, this was bad. But more than that, as the days, weeks and months went by — and I heard absolutely nothing from the friend or organization — I thought more about how it was simply indifferent.

This was a missed opportunity. My gift wasn’t going to make or break the organization, but the indifference was wholly off putting. About eight months later, I eventually did hear from someone at the organization, but this person wanted to visit and “talk about considering deeper support” of the organization. LoL, no thanks.

HowAboutNo

I’ve said before how the nonprofit sector is the field of feel. And while we should be involved — volunteer, attend a program, donate — for logical reasons, quite often we are driven by passion for a cause. With that kind of engagement there’s a lot at stake, and indifference creates an unnecessary hurdle. If we treat our inner-circles poorly, what’s to be said for those further from the center? Read more on that, here.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Heck, it’s really, really difficult to be thoughtful, and a lot of organizations would benefit from stepping up their stewardship game. But friends… we all have a lot of competition out there, especially as it relates to funding. It’s become somewhat of a constant drone in these blog posts, but y’all… hear me now:

BeBest

Standard
Thoughts

…Thank You?

It’s a simple enough thing, saying “thank you.” It doesn’t even need to be those exact words — Thanks so much! Appreciate it! Xièxiè! With much ease, there are myriad ways to show gratitude. It’s the only sentiment I know in nine different languages, because I wholly believe it’s that important. And it’s one of the most glaring missed opportunities I’ve found in nonprofits.

I had a manager once who seemed allergic to the words. Even some of the worst bosses feign being grateful… sociopathically. However, I can count on one hand the number of times this particular one actually took a moment to thank me, or anyone for that matter. I can’t tell you how crappy that made me feel on almost a daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not (entirely) needy. Not every single thing done needs an overwhelming display of recognition. But I tell you what… in all my years seeing people disenfranchised with, or because of nonprofit work, never once was it the result of too much appreciation. Have you ever known someone who left an organization because they were thanked too often?

There’s no great mystery to it, and I once neatly heard the concept phrased as an attitude of gratitude. And I really do think it can be an attitude or, more specifically, a behavior.

I have really fond memories of a peer who really lived this attitude. He was the organization’s tech/AV/guru-of-all-things; you know, one of those positions that works 100-hour weeks with little praise. He approached every single interaction with grace, even (and especially) if it didn’t go smoothly. He would always thank me for my time and my input, and it made me value his time and input even more.

All this is to say… approach your work and your colleagues as if their support is welcome, and makes a difference, even if it’s that one boss who never does the same for you. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Thanks

Morvanic Lee (Unsplash)

Standard