Thank you, thank you very much

7 Feb

No, this is not going to be a post about thanking donors. That’s for another time, and yes, I will address it. Oddly, in the nonprofit universe, thanking donors is often simultaneously not done very well a subject on which people obsess. Meaning they think and talk about it a lot, but don’t actually do it.

And if donors have it rough, think of all the other people who make your organization hum–you know, the people you never think about but whose sudden absence would be hugely problematic. This is a longer list of people than you think, but today I’m going to talk about volunteers. In particular, my experience as a volunteer and being thanked.

It might just be me, but I despise certificates (do I file it, recycle it or spend my own money framing it?), and don’t get me started on plaques. Please do not waste your money on that stuff. I’d rather you use it on operations.

What works for me is something more personal. A card (with a handwritten note, not computer printed), a phone call or even an email. Communication. Being included.

I have been doing some volunteer grant writing for Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, and Patti (Board President and unpaid Executive Director extraordinaire) is really good at thanking me and making me want to do more for them. She does simple things like taking me out to lunch for grant writing strategy sessions (a free lunch at Nutty Brown Cafe goes a loooong way with me). She knows I’m busy and that a drive out south of town is out of my way, so she makes it count.

She also keeps me in the loop on big happenings at the Zoo. Real insider stuff, about which I am not at liberty to speak just yet. Being a consultant, I am privy to a lot of random, sensitive information and I vault that stuff. I am fond of referring to myself as “Vegas.” Patti knows I won’t say anything until she gives me the okay, but you might want to be careful about choosing your donor or volunteer confidants. If someone can’t be trusted to keep their mouth shut, then save that honor for someone else.

Something I can divulge is the “behind the scenes tour” I received last weekend at Austin Zoo. Patti (with strict instructions to stay against the far wall) took me inside the workspace inside the lion habitat. The big kitties were, of course, safely behind bars. But I was mind bogglingly close to three incredibly large and beautiful creatures. I had some prolonged eye contact with their big male lion, which I will never forget and which moved me to tears and near hyperventilation!

I am a cat person. To me, the big cats are just, well, big cats. It was an experience I know I will think about often, and it was incredibly generous of Patti to give that gift to me. But you have to give it to her, she knew how to get to me. Maybe someone else would have the same experience with the bears or the wolves. But she showed me the lions.

Another extremely personal touch was a very thoughtful card she sent to me this fall, when my beloved Mean Kitty passed away at nearly age 17 of kidney disease. Yes, the Mean Kitty has moved on and no more must she endure needles and saline drips and medications. That’s another post, but my point is that Patti took a few minutes out of her day to send a card. Including postage, that’s probably an investment of about $3.50 on her end. And the lion tour cost her nothing. But I’m hooked, and we have several grants in the works for this spring.

A little thank you goes a long way.


One Response to “Thank you, thank you very much”


  1. How to win friends and influence funders « Mean Kitty - December 10, 2010

    […] people, and some people are vaults and some have loose lips. A good example is my being able to see lion cubs up close and personal at Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary before the general public even knew they were there. The Executive Director and I already had a good […]

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