What if gratitude made you and your donors feel great?
What if gratitude made it much more likely your donors would remain your donors?
Smart fundraisers understand that giving is personal and emotional. They understand that there is much more to raising money than getting money.
But I was surprised about how much more is at stake.
First, we know retention levels are just awful. As a whole, we’re doing a crummy job of keeping donors around. And while I’m sure you understand how important it is to thank your donors, you might not know how powerful gratitude can be.
One road block seems to be a concern about how to say thank you. We feel unsure of ourselves, awkward about expressing so much emotion.
The result is usually a business-like, formal, canned thank you. Ick.
Too worried about how to say thanks? Do you think it doesn’t matter much?
I happened on an interesting article that looked at our tendency to worry about our competence in creating a thank you note. And our assumption that saying thank really doesn’t matter much.
This study says we’re probably wrong on both counts.
This research wasn’t about fundraising. It was broader than that – about just plain human expressions of gratitude. Researchers found that we “underestimate the positive impact on others (and ourselves) of expressing gratitude, meaning that we miss out on a simple way to improve our social relations and wellbeing.”
Expressing gratitude might not buy everything, but it may buy more than people seem to expect.
For the study, hundreds of participants were asked to write a simple email to someone who had touched their life. Most participants underestimated how recipients would feel about the thank you. They also assumed they would be seen as awkward.
But while those sending thanks felt their message wouldn’t be important and they would be seen in a bad light, the recipients felt anything but.
When we feel incompetent about expressing gratitude, we tend to avoid it. But the power of a sincere thank you, expressed with feeling, is huge.
So what is the power of gratitude?
This article in Forbes offers some gratitude benefits:
1. Gratitude helps you make new friends.
When you thank a new acquaintance, they’re more likely to want to continue the relationship. (Which of course, goes right to those bad retention numbers.)
2. Gratitude is good for YOU.
Seriously. “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.” Expressing gratitude also makes us feel better emotionally. And encourages us to take better care of ourselves.
3. Gratitude makes us more empathetic, less competitive and better able to handle trauma. Plus, you’ll sleep better!
And while you’re not looking to marry your donors, this study of married couples was also interesting. “Researchers found the effect of giving a little gratitude kept couples happy over the course of six months. In fact, hindsight showed that a sincere response at the time of the study could nearly predict just how satisfied the couple would be six months down the road.”
Hoping to keep your donors around? Keep the gratitude coming!
Finally, consider the effect of well-done gratitude beyond the gift.
In a 2011 Network for Good article, Katya Andresen wrote about research from Taiwan that examined the social impact of gratitude. They analyzed social networks and how someone’s gratitude would spread.
Gratitude broadens individuals’ perspectives of their current environment and causes them to transfer the goodwill that they received to other people they will encounter in the future. Furthermore, the action of transmission will replicate itself and eventually influence the structure of a given social network.
So basically, gratitude is contagious.
Isn’t that great to know?
Do you feel like saying thank you is hard? Or that you’re not good at it? Or you don’t know where to start…
Here are some fabulous resources for you:
- I recommend this often, because it’s so good. My friend Lisa Sargent has generously created a whole thank you letter clinic on SOFII.org. Free.
- I wrote this piece about what to do when you feel stuck writing a thank you letter.
- And this post contains links from all kinds of experts about saying thank you.
The biggest take-away?
Worry less about saying thank you perfectly. It’s so much worse not to say thank you at all.
Instead of chasing perfection, chase sincerity. Practice saying thank you with feeling.
Gratitude will help you keep your donors. It will also help you feel good. Make it your every day celebration!