What the World Needs Now: More Thank You’s Not Less

March 25, 2022

It was one of those face-melting, mid-August days and I was riding the bus in downtown Philadelphia. Now normally, I’d be walking the two miles home from my job. But you know cities.

All that concrete makes summer seem even hotter.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was pregnant with my second daughter and feeling kind of woozy. And fortunately, I’d managed to get a seat on this blissfully air-conditioned bus.

Everyone seemed to be in a “mood” that day.

As we continued on our route, it quickly filled. Standing room only. That’s when a heavily pregnant woman boarded the bus.

She was miserable.

I remember thinking she was about to deliver. Any. Day. Now.

As I watched her standing, hanging onto the handgrip for dear life, I was consumed with internal rage. I mean, I’m telling you, I was livid.

“All these folx sitting ignoring this woman when she is clearly in discomfort and could use a seat.” In my mind, I condemned each and every one of them. “What a bunch of pigs…”

Simmering, I railed at the injustice.

And then, yeah, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me.

“Well, hell Pam, you could give her your seat!”


(I know, I know. Exactly what you were already thinking. Because you’re a better person than me 🙂

But I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t so quick on the uptake. After I offered her my seat, she collapsed into it. In sheer relief. In gratitude.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well, maybe it’s because there’s been a lot of talk lately about a certain act of loving-kindness. About how maybe we’re “over-thanking” our donors. A lot of resentment in the sector about any kind of emphasis on donor stewardship.

Talk about how we’re being “obsequious” and “fawning over donors in an almost-creepy, inauthentic way.”

As if. 

Don’t you think if “over-thanking” were a real problem, the sector’s overall donor retention rate would be a lot higher than 43%?

And new donor retention? We’re talking less than 20%.

Truth? Many organizations do treat their donors like ATMs. Still.

Many nonprofits feel a sense of entitlement. As in “we do work, we should be funded.”

But when your goal is to build a broad base of individual support, donor retention is the number one statistic you need to be looking at.

Sure, there’s a lot to complain about in our sector. A lot to piss and moan about. 

There are also many, many opportunities. Often missed. Usually right under our noses.

And saying ‘thank you” is always an opportunity.

Never a “have to.”

Fact. Your thank you provides your very best opportunity.

Your thank you holds the power to reassure your supporter that, yes, they’ve made a wise investment in supporting your work. To continue their “feel good” feeling.

To make them want to give again.

And to create the kind of valued partnerships you want.

We are in a great deal of pain. Our country…I’d venture to say our world, is broken. On some days, it feels irreparably damaged.

And things won’t get better until we get better. 

Until we learn to embrace change and our differences with education. With diversity and empathy.

Less outrage. Less division.

More strategies and working solutions. 

We are all a force for open-hearted kindness and for healing. Simply by deciding to work in our sector, you’ve made the choice to amplify good.

Gratitude. Generosity. Kindness. Love.

That’s what you can bring to the table. You can be a bright spot in an uncertain world. 

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