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Melissa M. Firman

How Two Words Can Change the Tune of Your Non-Profit Organization

Mar 12 2013, 09:00 AM by

Let me share with you one thing that’s slightly ironic about the non-profit world(Honestly, I’ll keep it to just one thing. I promise.). In this business, our success often comes from remembering two small (but very important) words. Many times, they’re the same words we often forget to say. Or write. I’m talking about the words: thank you. Two little words (eight letters!) with the power to do so much.

In many development offices, especially small shops, acknowledging donors is often a woebegone task. Thank you letters are automated (ever receive a form letter for a donation?), sent out in an untimely fashion (if at all), and fund-raisers and executive directors and board chairs are left wondering why the organization is having such a tough time keeping donors when Charity ABC across town is raking in the dough. Sound familiar? Know any organizations like this?

Hopefully I’m preaching to the proverbial choir, but thanking donors and supporters should be the linchpin of your entire development organization. If you’re not singing off of this song-sheet (as a former boss of mine was all-too fond of saying), then National Volunteer Week offers the perfect chance to start tuning-up your thank you repertoire (Show of hands: do you have National Volunteer Week marked on your calendar or did you have to Google the date?).

It’s okay if you fall into the latter camp; I’ve been there and done that too. Many years ago when I worked as a one-woman development director with a grassroots organization, National Volunteer Week caught us unprepared. Our efforts to recognize our supporters were not what they should have been.

This year, National Volunteer Week is April 21-27, 2013. Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, CEO of Sweet Tooth Communications and author of Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers, says that the key to acknowledging volunteers is knowing what will be meaningful to them.

“A key aspect to showing appreciation is understanding and respecting volunteers’ personal style and preferences,” writes Pagel-Hogan. “Some love a public display while others prefer the quiet word without fanfare. While it’s not always possible to cater to each individual, doing so when you can is ideal.”

This can – and does – vary from person to person. Whereas one volunteer will be delighted with attending a recognition brunch or lunch, another may prefer a public shout-out via Facebook. Indeed, says Pagel-Hogan, social media offers an unlimited array of opportunities to show appreciation to those who are doing some of the most essential work in your organization. You just need to make sure they approve with being acknowledged in such a public forum.

A handwritten card signed from your board chair and/or your CEO is always a nice touch for volunteers, says Pagel-Hogan. Almost everyone will appreciate a personal note in the midst of all the junk mail.

If you’re not already engaging your volunteers and supporters with a personalized way of acknowledging their efforts, National Volunteer Week offers a perfect opportunity to start.

As always, I thank you for reading.

For more information about Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers, visit Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan’s website.

Posted in Tips & Resources

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