Saying Thank You – Does One Size Fits All?

By Evangeline Pattison, Vice President Client Services & Senior Consultant

A few months ago, it was time for me to step down from a volunteer leadership role with an organization I had faithfully served for five years and had been involved with in various capacities since high school. It was time for a new group of volunteer leaders to come in and lead the ministry moving forward. For me, seeing lives changed had been all the blessing I needed over the years, so when a very costly gift arrived, I found myself questioning why the organization didn’t know me better. I would have never purchased this item for myself and was frustrated that donor dollars—my donor dollars—were used to make this purchase. The attempt at a thank you was clouded by my desire for the organization to have taken the time to really think through what a meaningful gift for me would have been. I know we all have, at one time or another, questioned a thank-you gift we received because it seemed like just another task and not a true representation of how we would like to be thanked.

Saying thank you can often be an afterthought or a rushed gesture when, in reality, it should always be at the forefront of our minds. When done well, the giver will feel appreciated, see the impact of their gift, and more than likely already be thinking about their next gift.

When beginning to think through a thank-you gift, consider which personal thank-you you have experienced to be the most meaningful. Ask your colleagues which gift of gratitude stood out to them. Their answers may surprise you, but one thing will be true for everyone – it was personal and meaningful to them as donors. It could be as simple as a thank you card from an individual who was impacted by the work of the ministry, or maybe something more. Remember that every donor is a unique individual and that ordering the same gift for everyone doesn’t communicate thank you in the same way.

The best way to say thank you is to highlight a donor’s impact – possibly a stewardship report that outlines how their gift was utilized over the past year to move the work of the organization forward. However, for some donors, you may also need to supplement sharing impact with a tangible gift. We should strive to figure out creative, meaningful, and unique ways of saying thank you.

You can do this by making observations of the donor as you meet with them.

  • Do they have plaques displayed in their office or home?
  • Do they wear logoed apparel?
  • Do you notice photos or cards they have displayed?
  • Have they referenced a meaningful gift from another organization they support? Or perhaps a gift that they felt wasn’t appropriate?

As we look to steward a gift, these observations can be helpful.

I interacted with a donor who loved receiving mugs from organizations he supported. He told me that, each morning, he would pull a mug out of the cabinet for his coffee and spend time praying for that specific organization. Normally, I would encourage organizations to be more creative than gifting a mug, yet something as simple as a mug had incredible meaning to him. He was seeking to bless the ministry with each mug he was gifted.

Consider bringing in team members who have gift-giving as a love language to help you as you think through gifts. They will know what questions to ask of you as you brainstorm together to ensure the gift is a personal one. Maybe it’s a leatherbound commentary, poinsettias at Christmas, or a box of donuts from their favorite local shop. Whatever the item is, seek to make it personal for the donor and ensure that it is an extension of your relationship with them.

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