According to research reported by Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, gratitude lowers stress, reduces negative emotions, sustains our relationships, and even improves our health. It provides us with a huge boost - emotionally and physically - which reflects the way we interact with the rest of the world.
In the context of fundraising, being the first to take on an "attitude of gratitude" creates a trickle-down effect to those you have the opportunity to touch - namely, the donors that bring life to your institution, program, or initiative.
So as the United States approaches Thanksgiving this month, knowing that approximately 31% of all charitable donations will be made in December, it's important to consider how we can express gratitude when we interact with donors to grow our connection with them.
Here's a three-step plan for any "ask" to a fundraising initiative this holiday season, rooted in thanksgiving:
- The easiest way to express gratitude toward donors is by simply saying "thank you." Share with them how meaningful their contributions have been to-date if they've already given to your campaign. This is especially important because donors want to know their gift has made - or will make - an impact. And if you are engaging a donor who has yet to give, simply thank them for taking the time to learn more about what you're doing. Even having a grateful spirit about the small things - like a new set of eyes on your initiative - can move mountains.
- Since we know that gratitude brings out the best in people and begets generosity, invite your donors to consider why they're thankful. Perhaps it's their health, their community, or the fact that we only have to deal with 2016 for another month (okay okay, only partly kidding). Bonus points if you can engage donors to do this in a public space, such as on social media. Bonus, bonus points if they share it with their own personal network of friends and family. The greater your reach, the greater the community.
- Finally, ask your donors to consider how they can, in turn, bring out gratitude in others. Likely, your fundraising efforts will directly affect real people. How might a single donation impact those people? Highlight that! Show them how they can be a vessel for others to experience the kind of gratitude of which they just reflected.
When asking for donations to your campaign leading up to Thanksgiving, engage your audience with authenticity and genuine gratefulness. This season is not one to leverage tactics to guilt people into giving (and honestly, there should never be a season for that), but rather, to lead by example. To lead with joy, with passion, and with gratitude.
After all, this posture will lead your efforts today, tomorrow, and into the bustling holiday season of giving.