Infusing Gratitude Across Your Organization

by Amberlie Phillips, Managing Partner

I’ll never forget reading the Facebook post from a board member to a personal friend about the organization I worked for, something like, “I’m so sorry [XYZ organization] didn’t thank you for your donation. They often don’t, but thank you for doing that.” My heart sank and I felt the shame of professional failure. In this particular instance, the failure wasn’t directly mine – the donation was from an in-kind drive, and upon delivery a staff member had received the goods with nary a word of thanks.

As the staff member responsible for stewardship at my organization, this incident caused deep reflection  – how could I, as a leader of the organization, ensure that EVERYONE who interacted with my organization in any capacity felt our genuine gratitude (short of personally standing by the doors and gratefully unloading every donation myself?!)

I believe that the answer can be found in cultivating a true culture of philanthropy over time. While I would never lay claim to guaranteeing a perfect experience for every donor, my reflections caused me to do focused, consistent work to establish a true culture of philanthropy at all levels of my organization –from the frontline staff all the way up to board members. 

As a first step, I became a regular voice in all group meetings – staff meetings in particular – a voice that told the story of what philanthropy of all shapes and sizes allowed our organization to do. After that, I sought out staff to tell their own stories – an interaction with a volunteer, gratitude for a toilet paper donation, you name it. A small step, but one that I believe is important to fostering gratitude across an organization.      

For even more ideas, nonprofit expert Claire Axelrad shares six ways to build a culture of philanthropy.

Read her tips here.