A #DonorLove Lesson From A Fortune Cookie?

By | February 11, 2014


Have you ever had a Thai fortune cookie? Until recently, I never even knew they existed. Over the years, I’ve eaten more than my share of Chinese fortune cookies. However, I had never experienced the Thai variety.

Before anyone comments below, let me just say that I’m completely aware that Chinese fortune cookies are not really Chinese. They’re Chinese-American with possible Japanese roots. As for Thai fortune cookies, I have no idea where they were invented. But, they’re certainly tasty. They’re crunchy, flaky, light as air, toasted coconut goodness in the form of a little tube wrapped around a parchment-like fortune.

Anyway, my wife brought some Thai fortune cookies home one evening. While I was enjoying one of the cookies, I read the fortune it had contained:

“Feeling gratitude without expressing it, is like wrapping a gift without giving it.”

I immediately recognized that my cookie contained a valuable lesson for all nonprofit organizations. If we want to build strong relationships and secure passionate philanthropic support for our  organizations, we must thank our supporters and show gratitude.

I know you’re grateful when someone gives your organization money. But, beyond a simple thank you letter, do you do anything to show your gratitude?

Henri Frederic Amiel, a 19th century philosopher and poet, commented on the difference between thankfulness and gratitude:

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Some nonprofit organizations do a better job than others when it comes to expressing gratitude. Unfortunately, as a sector, we have a long way to go. We can and should be doing much more.

For example, consider how we express gratitude to planned gift donors. As I describe in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, only 25 percent of planned gift donors who had informed a nonprofit organization of their bequest intention reported being treated any differently as a result, according to The NCPG Survey of Donors. However, a majority of charity supporters believe that it is appropriate for an organization to provide recognition to donors who make a legacy pledge, according to research conducted by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay.

So, if a majority of donors thinks recognition is appropriate, why aren’t a majority of nonprofit organizations providing it? I don’t understand it. However, what I do know is that those organizations that do provide such donors with special recognition have a clear advantage over organizations that do not.

I’m not suggesting all planned giving donors will want a T-shirt that says, “I’m dying to give!” Instead, what I am saying is that organizations need to develop a solid, appropriate recognition program for all gifts, including planned gifts.

Reconsider how you thank donors. Re-examine how you express gratitude to donors.

As my Thai fortune cookie suggests, if a supporter has done something for which you are grateful, make sure you show that gratitude. It will be like a gift you are giving to your donor.

Solid stewardship is just as essential to the development process as the ask. Those who do not practice heartfelt stewardship are beggars, not development professionals.

This article originally appeared on the blog, Michael Rosen Says.

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About Michael Rosen

Michael J. Rosen, CFRE is President of ML Innovations, a fundraising and marketing consulting firm. Michael has received the AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy for his best-selling book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing [http://amzn.to/ffsvHM], which has been included on the official CFRE International Resource Reading List. He has served as President of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia, Vice President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter, Board Chairman of the AFP Political Action Committee, and Board Member of the national AFP Foundation. Active in the community, Michael has served on a variety of nonprofit boards for organizations such as the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, the Pennsbury Scholarship Foundation, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Ark Theatre in Los Angeles. He is the host of the popular blog Michael Rosen Says… and can be followed on Twitter @mlinnovations.

3 thoughts on “A #DonorLove Lesson From A Fortune Cookie?

  1. Michael Rosen

    Beth and Dennis, I’m glad you both enjoyed this post. I hope it didn’t make you too hungry for cookies.

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