Gratitude: It’s Critical for More Than Just Donor Relationships

Home / Development Officers / Gratitude: It’s Critical for More Than Just Donor Relationships

Gratitude: It’s Critical for More Than Just Donor Relationships

Gratitude is an anchor that all of us at KDD Philanthropy feel is an imperative in our fundraising work. Affiliate Carol Spychalski does a beautiful job in outlining the importance of gratitude within organizations, our teams and with each other. I would be remiss in sharing Carol’s blog, if I didn’t share my immense gratitude to each of you who bring the fabric of the KDDP online community to life. We are incredibly grateful for your contributions, your support and your feedback. Thank you.

“Thank you. You matter.” This is the essence of the words I say, to those who support my organization, constantly. And if you, like me, are an advancement leader, you know why: because demonstrating gratitude is absolutely foundational to effective donor engagement.

We live and breathe gratitude for our donors in our work. Whether we plan events, process and acknowledge gifts, are major gift officers or any other role within our field, we regularly demonstrate our supporters’ impact and our appreciation. Thoughtful messages, milestone celebrations, customized gifts related to the cause, lunches with leadership … it’s nonstop!

We do this because it matters — and yet, somehow, we often forget that gratitude matters every bit as much for our teams and colleagues. We’re busy, or distracted, or mean well but just never get there. However, the internet is rife with articles about why leaders should regularly and actively thank employees for the value they bring: research has demonstrated that doing so increases productivity, retention, and morale.

As advancement leaders, then, one of the most important activities we can undertake is to apply the same intentionality we have for donors to our own teams:

  • We know that not every donor wants public recognition, or lunches with the dean. Every employee is different too. We should work to understand and honor their preferences.
  • We would never thank our impactful donors only through group messages. That’s why activities like telling the entire team at a staff meeting that they did great isn’t enough. Gratitude should also be individualized, shared one-on-one and specific.
  • Just like with supporters, milestones are an easy way to show an employee they matter. Whether it’s a birthday or work anniversary, something as simple as a note card can go a long way.
  • Gratitude is built into our language with donors: “Your gift makes a difference.” “Thank you for supporting us on Giving Tuesday!”

It should be as natural with team members: “Thanks for taking care of that.” “Great job on that presentation.” “That was a great meeting you ran.”

  • Impact is critical for our supporters. They want to know their gifts matter, and our field communicates that regularly.

Impact is important for team members too. “Your creativity in coming up with new engagement opportunities is really building momentum for this initiative.” “Your willingness to take on extra projects really makes it possible for a lot of things to move forward that wouldn’t otherwise.”

And let me be clear: We’re not going to be awesome at all of these. I haven’t celebrated an employee anniversary … ever. It’s just not how my brain works. (I’m sorry, team!) And I’m more comfortable sharing gratitude one-on-one rather than in front of a group. But if each of us is intentional in finding expressions of gratitude that do work for us, while honoring the styles of those we’re thanking, I’m positive that our teams and our cultures will be stronger for it.

For a deeper look at how to express appreciation to your gift officers, sign up to join us for KDD Philanthropy’s Leadership, Management, and Fundraising webinar series!

Carol Spychalski
Carol Spychalski
Carol Spychalski’s specialty is building: from teams to fundraising initiatives to comprehensive campaign infrastructure, Carol has a track record of helping people and programs achieve greater levels of excellence. As a coach and manager, Carol supports professional success through a focus on identifying and strengthening an individual’s unique strengths; creating clarity around challenges and how to overcome them; embracing accountability; and establishing professional presence. Through a career in higher education, healthcare, and community nonprofits, Carol has developed an expertise across a broad spectrum of advancement activities.
Recent Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt