Three Ways to Express Gratitude


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This month we are contemplating gratitude. Thanksgiving is a month away... how will you prepare to show your donors that you're thankful for all they do?


The Power of Grateful Recognition

I recently received an unexpected message from a former colleague. The words moved me, not just personally, but professionally. The individual recently received a new opportunity as the president of a nonprofit organization and shared, “I was just talking about what a great board recruiter you were and how I learned so much from you in 

having a solid board. I just wanted you to know that I need to give you credit for that life lesson. I appreciate you!!!”

Being recognized for my impact on someone’s life made my day; in fact, I was incredibly surprised and moved to receive such a heartfelt acknowledgment. It is such a good feeling when you learn that you have inspired someone to continue making an impact throughout communities in need.

Simple words of gratitude can inspire you, reenergize you, and encourage continued service. There are many reasons we show appreciation to people in our lives. Prabha Negi of Education Influence reports gratitude "shields you from negativity, makes you at least 25% happier, boosts self-esteem and performance, and improves relationships."

There are three important ways we can show gratitude:


Showing gratitude to your family and friends is essential to maintaining healthy relationships. Remember the last time you came home, and your significant other or the kids did the dishes, cleaned the house, or thanked you for making dinner? This expression of gratefulness for all your hard work is also an opportunity to reciprocate through an act of kindness. Christina N. Armenta and Sonja Lyubomirsky reported that feeling grateful compels us to reflect on our relationships and leads us to feel closer and more connected to others. Increased closeness helps motivate and sustain our efforts at self-improvement.


In our professional lives, supervisors may recognize their staff, or co-workers may recognize one another for their positive contributions in the workplace. Carolyn Wiley found that 80% of supervisors say they frequently express appreciation, while less than 20% of employees agree. Consider the last time you were recognized at work. Was it a small gift like candy, flowers, or a note acknowledging your great work? What was your reaction? How did it make you feel? You can express your gratitude by taking the time to compliment a co-worker, showing appreciation to a colleague, or staying late to help finish a project. A 2011 study by Robert Emmons and Anjali Mishra found that people feel motivated and energized when they experience gratitude, encouraging them to progress towards their goals.


Especially important in nonprofit organizations is showing gratitude to your donors. How can you recognize the people who have committed to helping improve your community? Some ways nonprofit organizations can show appreciation is by inviting donors to see the impact of their donations. Program and/or virtual vision tours bring your organization's work to life and allow your supporters to feel good about their contributions. Other meaningful ways to show appreciation to donors include letters, notes or drawings from participants, thank you videos/pictures or newsletters recognizing donors, and even creative events where donors can participate in activities or programs, such as a Gratitude Day. Most importantly, remember to be authentic and intentional, make your acknowledgment of gratitude personal to the donor.

Expressing gratitude is powerful thing we can do to ensure the people in our lives know they are appreciated. There is evidence that gratitude is important for our health and well-being. So next time you think about the amazing donors that support your organization, remember how much gratitude really means.

I invite you to identify a time when someone has shown gratitude to you, or you have shown appreciation to others. Share in the comments to continue to inspire everyone.

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Posted by Robin Jordan
Robin Jordan

Written by Robin Jordan

Robin joined DBD Group after a career of more than 30 years with the YMCA. Robin’s passion and expertise in fundraising and volunteer, board and staff development has formed the cornerstone of her career. Robin coaches nonprofit staff, volunteers and leadership to increase annual fundraising, build relationships with donors and strengthen their ability to have a positive impact on those they serve.

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