The Power of Appreciation

Written by Megan Brown 

Marketing Director | Fortify Foundation 

What does it mean to you when someone takes a moment to say thank you? Does it impact your mood? Or your day? Maybe even your week? Saying thank you creates a connection between people. It means that a good deed is acknowledged and appreciated. 

Genuine appreciation is one of the best ways to make someone feel valued. Appreciation is essential to all of our relationships, especially those with our donors. Meaningful appreciation can also be the deciding factor in your donors giving one time vs. over their lifetime. It is the key element that takes your donor stewardship to the next level. Appreciation builds donor relationships. 

Now I have said it before and I will say it again, every donor is unique, every interaction with a donor is unique, and we always work with our donors one at a time. Showing appreciation is no different. Appreciating our donors is something we should be doing from the time of their very first gift until that donor no longer has a relationship with our school or organization. Really, it’s something we should start doing before they even make their first gift. We should consistently reflect on our donor cultivation process and how we are stewarding and appreciating our donors. We should ask ourselves if there are any changes we can make to our current processes in order to appreciate our donors better. 

At Disney World, the shops along the main streets were designed to have lower windows than the average building to allow children to look in as they are walking along the streets with their families. This somewhat minor detail makes a huge impact on Disney’s visitors and on their sales. I love this example as it challenges us to look internally and see if there is anything we could “lower” or make more readily available to our donors to connect with them on a deeper level. Maybe we start regularly sharing updates on our fund and its impacts, maybe we share testimonies from students and/or faculty. Maybe we send handwritten notes at holidays, give a call every few months, or meet for coffee. Whatever it may be, all of these fairly simple tasks allow our donors to feel a new level of appreciation by taking a deeper look into our ministry. When it comes to our donors, we often look at the donation as the end game, but it’s actually just the halfway point. We need to remember that 1. A gift is not complete until the donor feels thanked appropriately. 2. The donor gets to define what being thanked appropriately is, not us. 3. We are celebrating the donor, not the donation. So how do you appreciate your donors well? We start by taking time to really get to know our donors from the moment we meet them. We ask about their passions, what drives them to give, and what impact they want to make. This knowledge will guide us on how to thank our donors well after a donation has been made. 

Here are a few ideas on how to thank your donors in unique ways: 

Create a parking place at special events just for your donors. Consider putting out some flags or signs in order to further show your appreciation. You might find out that this even inspires others to donate as well! Send a handwritten thank you letter. Make a phone call. Organize a tour of your campus if they have not had one already. Send a small gift. Send birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards. Send a thank you video from your team. While these examples won’t fit every single donor, I hope they inspire you to start thinking of unique ways to show your donors a deeper level of appreciation. 

We see the value of true appreciation laid out for us in Scripture. In Luke 17:11-19, we read the account of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. After they were healed, only one returned to thank Jesus. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” We can easily find ourselves so distracted by the outcome of a donation and how it’s going to benefit your school that the actual donor becomes an afterthought. Just like these 9 lepers became so distracted by their healing they forgot to thank their Healer. There is much to learn from this one leper who returned to Jesus. Remembering to honor and thank those who have impacted us goes far beyond what we realize. 

True appreciation is shown by drawing your donors into deeper relationship with you and your school community. Deep relationships require more than just writing checks. Deep relationships entail communication, involvement, asking, and promoting. Keep steady communication with your donors, and not just to ask about giving, but to invest in who they are and what they care about. Get your donors involved by inviting them to volunteer on your campus. And never neglect to ask your donors what they really think! 

It is so valuable to ask your donors for suggestions on what you could do better or areas you could improve on. Consider hosting a donor roundtable or mastermind to engage your donors and receive their feedback and suggestions. If you have a donor that is open to public attention, give it to them! Recognize them at an event, present them with an award, or share about them in a social media post or email newsletter. If donor relationships haven’t been your strong point in the past, take heart! We all have to start somewhere. 

If you would like to learn more about how you can show your donors the proper appreciation, send me an email at megan@fortifyfoundation.com. I would love to set up a custom donor cultivation plan for you and your team to expand your donor relationships and help build your fund.