“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” —Charles Schwab
By: Melissa Lagowski
CEO, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
Early in my career, when I was an Executive Director at a small Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, I had a couple of board members who would try to dangle financial incentives in front of me as a means of encouragement. They kept reminding me of what my financial reward would be if we secured more sponsors for our largest event. It was referenced in every email and in every conversation for months, and it left me feeling absolutely un-incentivized – it actually started to have a very negative affect. Before I realized it, I was almost paralyzed when it came to making the outreach needed to grow sponsorship for the event.
I was so blessed that another board member recognized what was happening, and he taught us all a valuable lesson. Rich explained to me and the other board members that I don’t respond well to that type of incentive, but that I respond best to appreciation. I was amazed that he “got it!” This was something that I hadn’t even previously realized, but it was true – incredibly, deeply true.
See, I am self-motivated and I have always chosen work that is meaningful to me. (I bet you have, too.) And because I select work that speaks to my heart, what I really want more than anything else is to do a great job and receive praise. “Thank you” is one of the best incentives that I could ever receive.
Genuine praise is a response that people crave – they want to know they’re doing a good job, that their work matters, that somebody notices. That recognition is simple but powerful and releases new energy in the recipient, boosts their confidence and motivates them to do even more because of a subconscious desire to validate that praise.
In the nonprofit arena, you are committed to a specific cause and that is why you have selected to work in the position that you have. You, too, are self-motivated by the good that you are doing – and for that commitment and dedication, we truly “THANK YOU!” We are grateful for what you give on a daily basis that contributes to making this world a better place. You may not hear it enough, but you deserve recognition because you keep giving your very best every day to make a difference.
As gratitude is the very best gift we can receive, it is also the very best gift that we can give. If you haven’t taken the time to share your gratitude with others lately, November is a wonderful time to do so. While you may or may not receive a lot of appreciation, you can help be the leader that you are by showing others at your organization how it is done.
Thank your staff for their contributions. Gratitude and teamwork help reduce turnover, so letting staff know that you value them can be very meaningful in the long run.
Thank your board of directors for their service. These are the people who voluntarily give of their time, talent and resources to support your organization for their entire term of service. Remembering that all of us want to feel like our work matters, let them know how their contributions are making an impact for your organization.
Thank your donors and sponsors. Too often, we approach our sponsors with our hands out, sometimes repeatedly asking for financial contributions over the course of the year. (Savvy organizations strategically plan their asks and generally conduct a limited number of solicitations each year.) But how often do you make the time to say thank you and show the impact of these donations and contributions? Individual donors and corporate sponsors want to know that their contributions have made a difference. There are plenty of charitable organizations competing to find new financial resources, so it would be wise to remind donors how valuable they are to the organization.
Thank your volunteers. We live in an era where most people suffer from “time-poverty,” trying to do more than ever in each 24-hour allotment, and thus people want to feel that they are investing their time well. Volunteers desire to make meaningful contributions with their time, so a reminder at this time of year about why their time mattered can go a long way in retaining your volunteer pool.
Thank the people that you serve. These people are the core of why your organization exists. It is not uncommon for nonprofit staff and board members to overlook the people at the heart of a nonprofit organization. They are the people that you exist for, so reminding them how important they are can be motivating and rewarding for everyone involved.
Each of you are in your role because you are a leader. Leaders are constantly working to raise the power of the work we do, and there is no greater gift than gratitude to help impact the world in a positive way. So whether you regularly receive appreciation or not, you can teach others the value of gratitude by sharing it with every level of your organization.