I have been thinking a lot about these four words lately. What they mean. How they are used. And, more importantly, by whom and when they are experienced in our lives.
We have the wonderful opportunity to work with several mission-driven organizations whose livelihood depends upon members of their community to be generous in their support of mission and whose obligation is to find very real and personal ways to express their gratitude for that support.
Generosity is learned. It is giving more of something than is strictly necessary or expected. It has been passed along to us by our families, or demonstrated by those we admire, or learned by doing over time and experience that--oh so intangible—personal reward. Over our careers, we have found that some of our most generous benefactors—those who have given much more than their circumstance or relationship to our mission was expected—grow in their generosity the closer to our core mission and values they feel. We believe that everyone wants to be generous. It is our work and the work of those we advise and counsel to make meaningful invitations to our donors to experience their own, personal generosity.
Gratitude needs to be practiced. It is readiness to show appreciation for a gift given and to return kindness of that gift appropriately. It is not one or the other. It requires both the action of appreciation and the openness to return the kindness as appropriate. It is in the practice of gratitude that we feel most of us can become even better. How many times have we written the thank you note—even a handwritten one—and thought that we did our job well? What about the follow-up phone call to say “thanks, again” and to let the donor know just how impactful their generosity has been to our mission and its success? What steps did we take to “return the kindness?”
Learning generosity and practicing gratitude is not something that is only needed in the world of mission-driven not-for-profits. It is something, we believe, that all of us can incorporate into our daily lives—no matter our vocation, avocation, or endeavor.
In our reading the other day we came across a wonderful Spanish saying:
“En el jardin de la vida la flor mas rara es la de la gratitud”
(“In the garden of life, the rarest flower is the flower of gratitude.”)
As we enter the season of Thanksgiving in the United States, can we all agree to help plant more of those flowers so that they are not so rare in the future?
Thom M. Digman, CFRE is a Principal of The Digman Network, founded in 2004, a full-service Advancement Advisory and Consulting firm specializing in mission-driven not-for profit organizations. Their services maximize an organization’s strengths while respecting its unique mission, charism, aspirations and needs. They focus on the fundamentals that are grounded by their professional principles, experience learned throughout long careers in Business, Public Service and Philanthropy, and informed by multiple and varied engagements.