In the nonprofit world, we survive on the generosity of our donors, volunteers, staff, and everyone else who contributes to our organization. Without the time and money they give, we wouldn’t be able to create change and better our community.
But as we dive passionately into mission-based work each day, sometimes those pesky little tasks–like saying thanks–fall to the wayside.
It’s time to move gratitude to the top of your to-do list! Here are the top seven people you need to show appreciation to regularly and why:
Volunteers are the backbone of nearly every nonprofit organization. They keep things running and do so for free. Did you know that just one volunteer hour is valued at $24.69 according to Independent Sector? So for every 20 hours a volunteer commits to your organization, you’re saving nearly $500. If that’s not worth saying thank you, we’re not sure what is.
Betty Stallings, the professional who set the standard for volunteer management best practices (which we teach in our annual Volunteer Management Certification workshops) says, “Recognition needs to be considered an integral part of a total management philosophy that continually seeks to notice and value individual contributions.” What she’s saying here is that it’s not optional. Gratitude is a required part of volunteer management.
Stallings also explains that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on gifts or annual dinners. She believes “meaningful recognition is the myriad ways we formally and informally say ‘I noticed’ and ‘thank you.’”
2. Individual Donors
Saying thank you is an incredible relationship builder. Forbes noted a study indicating that “thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.” When building your donor base, taking the extra time to say thank you (and not just when you get a check in the mail) will help to develop deeper relationships.
Donor researcher Penelope Burk found through her survey of donors that “24% of respondents who have received what they would term as an ‘exceptional’ thank you letter made a more generous gift the next time.” Taking the time to create a personalized and meaningful thank you is certainly worth the ROI.
Plus, according to the book New Horizons in Arts, Heritage, Nonprofit and Social Marketing, “a 10% improvement in attrition can yield up to a 200% increase in projected value.” That’s right, folks. If you can change 10% of your one-time donors into repeat givers, you could make up to 200% more money through things like planned gifts, recommendations to friends and family, and increases in donation amounts.
Like individual donors, funders’ contributions are vital in keeping a nonprofit organization running smoothly. Some funders may prefer their contribution remains anonymous to the public while others don’t mind if you share. It’s important to ask their preference and acknowledge their gift in whatever way they prefer. Recognizing their funding properly shows helps build credibility and trust between your organization and the funder.
In our recent NIU-partnered workshop, Grant Compliance: Following the Directions featuring grant writer Bob Marovich, the class was encouraged to think of thanking funders as part of the compliance process. It’s a must-be-done, not a nice-to-do. Marovich said to remember that funders have goals, too. You are helping them reach their goals by doing your mission-based work. Go beyond the initial thank you letter and truly celebrate the funder and their gift by showing them the impact their funding has had on your cause and your clients. They might thank you right back.
Developing and maintaining beneficial partnerships is so important in the nonprofit industry. And a bit of gratitude can go a long way in helping preserve those relationships. The previously mentioned article from Forbes also stated that “acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.”
Showcasing how your organization’s partners have helped drive your mission will give them a reason to stay connected. Prove that you value their collaboration and that together you make a great team.
Obviously thanking a client during a call or visit is a pretty standard form of customer service, but it’s also okay to go above and beyond when expressing gratitude to the people you serve.
In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers had students (“expressers”) write thank you notes to peers who had an impact on their lives (“recipients”). They found that “although expressers predicted that the recipients would feel positively about the letter, recipients reported even more surprise and delight than what the senders expected. Moreover, expressers overestimated the awkwardness that the recipient would feel.” It’s not awkward, it’s appreciated.
6. Staff Members
In doing research based on Gallup statistics for their book How Full is Your Bucket, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, PhD found that “the number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work last year.”
We all know that in the nonprofit industry, every person wears multiple hats and pitches in to make the magic happen. It takes a special kind of employee to have that dedication to your organization and cause. Make sure your staff knows how important they are to your agency and how much you appreciate their hard work.
Yes, you! You work hard to change the world. Take time to show yourself some appreciation. Slow down, unplug, and maybe use some of that vacation time. You deserve it.
27 Great Ways to Say Thanks
We’ve talked about who we need to thank, so now let’s dive into the how. Here are some ideas to get you started, but be creative! Do something fun and unexpected.
What are some of your favorite ways to say thank you? Let us know in the comments!
Michelle has been a volunteer with the Volunteer Center of McHenry County for a year serving as a marketing volunteering.