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the phrase, Grit, Grace and Gratitude

Fundraisers Need Gratitude

career donors fundraisers fundraising Dec 05, 2022

This is the last in a three-part series on why fundraisers need grit, grace and gratitude.

I firmly believe we need more gratitude in this world. Not only fundraisers, but everyone. Here are the reasons I believe we fundraisers need gratitude:

Nonprofit work is challenging. We often do more with less (not always by choice). Whether you work on the fundraising side of the nonprofit or you are serving clients at the front lines, whether you sit behind the scenes in the engine room or are leading the charge, we often have fewer resources than our for-profit peers. Less investment in infrastructure, investment or staff development. And the stakes can be very high for our communities and projects. This all adds up to a stressful environment (that's where grit and grace can be helpful!).

The work of fundraising is emotional. Fundraisers work in an emotional zone. In addition, our work can be both a joy and a burden for us because ur chosen careers reflect who we are and what we stand for. And often it is even more emotional for the donor as their values are often deeply connected to the mission. Our solutions represent their values, commitment and leadership. What’s more personal than that?

Nonprofit work invites supporters to make big investments. Big investments in solutions can lead to big wins – or big risks which fail. Sometimes we ask a donor to support what they knows will work: new hospital equipment, emergency housing for the homeless, conservation of an ancient forest, demanding human rights where they aren't being practiced. Other times we ask them to join our leap into the tested: leading edge healthcare, radical education alternatives, or investment in an entire community. That takes trust, optimism and courage. Donors bring resources, connection and funding, nonprofits lead with knowledge, experience and instincts. It takes nerve on both sides.

Donors receive many more asks for money than they do “thank yous for giving”. It can add up to full-on ingratitude. I’m not going to sugar coat this: I’ve heard nonprofit founders, colleagues or board members say at one time or another:

  • “That person could have given more.”
  • “I don’t know why that person just doesn’t give us more.”
  • “I saw that person gave charity X a big gift – that charity doesn't need it as much as we do.”
  • “It was a first gift, but I asked him to double it… I know what that person is worth.”

These comments made me shudder. And end up leaving. Fundraising isn’t hunting, fishing or trapping, tt’s relationship building. Our first step as fundraisers is to speak with a donor about the solutions our nonprofit has identified, then invite them to be part of the change (or revolution even!). When the donor gives/ invests/ believes/ commits we must then THANK! Now we are in a relationship, not going through the motions of a transaction. 

Gratitude closes the loop that begins with donor interest, continues to commitment and involvement, and leads to thanks and appreciation. Gratitude also is the door opener to the next stage in this hand-in-hand relationship.

Fundraisers need gratitude for all the proven ways that thanking and appreciation brings our donors closer to us and builds the relationship. Donor retention in our sector is low. And that is a symptom of an unhealthy nonprofit.

Is it too much to say that gratitude makes the world a better place? No.

And we definitely need more of that. So get out and practice your gratitude.

Fundraisers need gratitude because of all the proven benefits we receive physically, emotionally, and socially. Hey, I want and need every advantage I can get in this rough-and-tumble world.



Previously published June 29, 2017.

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