Being election day today, that joke, “vote early and vote often” has been running around in the back of my head…

I’m glad it’s just a joke because voting is really serious business, and before I dive in to my actual topic for the day, I want to say that I hope you have already been to the polls — or have a plan to get there sometime today. As I tell my kids all the time, the right to cast a vote in a democratic election is one of the most special rights we have as citizens of the United States.  So please exercise it.

But back to the joke.  Even though it reminds us of something less than respectable (and, oh yea, illegal), the concept of “early and often” is a keeper, especially in other contexts.  It is especially relevant in the world of thanking all those people around you who make your nonprofit work.  The staff who keep the machine going every day.  The customers who rely on your services.  The donors who help close the gap between earned revenue and what you really need to make everything happen.  And the volunteers who often should just be called “unpaid staff.”

Nonprofit work — regardless of whether you’re inside looking out or the other way around — is a people business.  It’s about establishing a vision, helping people in need, finding those who will stand by you to give and serve, and collectively making a difference.  All this happens because of people, united by a mission to accomplish something good.

Ok, so, we know that.  What’s new?  Nothing really.  But it’s vital.  Although many are called to work (staff or volunteer) for nonprofits because of the mission, that doesn’t mean the jobs they do are easy.  In fact, they’re often exceptionally hard and sometimes very emotionally draining.  Each day, we have an opportunity to show appreciation, to say thank you early and often, and doing so in unique ways.  Following are a couple of quick thoughts to keep in mind as you seek to show appreciation.

  • Remember that time is precious.  We’re all busy.  We all have lives that pull us in many directions.  In your every day actions, remember to simply say thank you.  To anyone and everyone who is a part of the system within which you work.  And although it’s important to thank your donors, don’t forget everyone else!
  • Remember that people are individuals.  One of the best ways you can honor others is to remember the things that are special to them.  The people in their lives, the dates that matter, the pets they care about, the things that make them smile.  Showing appreciation doesn’t always have to be complicated or involve a speech.  Sometimes it’s enough to say, hey, “I thought of you today when…”  Kind words are often far more valuable than small tokens, whether delivered in person or in a hand-written note.
  • Remember that praise grows in a group setting.   When you really want to make a point of saying thank you to someone who consistently delivers, make sure others hear what you’re saying.  Again, this doesn’t mean you have to be formal.  It just means being mindful to amplify the message – whether you’re in a stand up meeting in the office, sending an email to a group dispersed across a geographical area or in a setting where you know the person will value that others have heard.
  • Remember always to be genuine.  This may go without saying, but saying thank you will mean absolutely nothing if you don’t mean what you say.  Take an inclusive approach, challenging yourself to see all the various ways people help the nonprofit around you work.  Value what everyone does, and thank them…early and often.

Finally, if you’re having a difficult time coming up with unique ways to say thank you, check out 1001 Ways to Reward Your Employees.  It applies to any person, really.  I promise you’ll get ideas!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Hutchisson is the vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, headquartered in Charleston, SC.  She is responsible for the company’s global corporate citizenship efforts, a role that allows her to leverage her 20+ years of experience of working with nonprofit partners.  She is a member of the board of directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International, the Giving Institute (producers of Giving USA), and the Coastal Community Foundation.  She is also a Past President of the AFP SC Lowcountry chapter. Rachel is a graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.  A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she is a Renaissance Weekend participant and was the recipient of the Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Influential Women in Business Rising Star Award.  Rachel is an avid soccer fan and spends far too much time driving to remote parts of the state to watch her children play.  Connect with Rachel on Twitter at @RachelHutchssn or on LinkedIn.

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