The Grateful Index & The Nonprofit

I have had the great blessing to work with a number of nonprofits since starting Xpleo in 2006. Some have flourished and grown immensely, always keeping in their hearts their mission, the community they serve and the donors, sponsors and supporters (their “base”) that are the lifeblood of their organizations. These are what I like to call high grateful index organizations (or high grateful index nonprofits). To give you a quick visual reference, I created the “Grateful Index” at the bottom of this post (please finish reading before scrolling to the bottom).

On the flip side, I have seen organizations that become complacent and expecting of their base. These are what I like to call low grateful index organizations (or low grateful index nonprofits).

You are probably asking, “why is this relevant to my nonprofit?” According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 Million nonprofits registered in the U.S. and that number is growing daily (Source: NCCS Business Master File 4/2016). Each of these organizations is vying for donors, sponsors and supporters. Each asking of their base to donate time, monies and resources. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with both high grateful index nonprofits and low grateful index nonprofits over the past 11 years. The most stunning realization that I have seen through my consulting with nonprofits is that a growing number of organizations are slowly moving from the coveted high grateful index ranking to low grateful index ranking based on how they view their base. Many times, these organizations may not even know that they are slipping in their grateful index ranking. Most times, this is due to complacency inside the organization and the old “our base should support us – just because it’s the right thing to do” mentality. Let’s take a look further.

Low grateful index organizations look at their base as a resource to be tapped when needed, while high grateful factor organizations look at their base as the lifeblood of their organizations. This is a reason why donors, sponsors and supporters are called a nonprofit’s “base” – they are the foundation that supports the organization.

The difference between a low grateful index organization and a high grateful index organization can be glaring.

It is common to see low grateful index organizations viewing their base as merely dollars or time commitments. They use their base’s time and monies ineffectively and must replenish them on a reoccurring basis, only to experience this cycle again and again. In these organizations, the relationships with their base tend to be shallow. Under most circumstances the relationships are regarded as important as long as the base is providing their money, time or other resources. Low grateful index organizations bleed every drop out of their base, many times tapping it dry until their very lifeblood leaves or gives up on the nonprofit due to lack of courtesy and respect. In nature an apple tree drops its apples and those apples that land on the ground nearest the tree trunk become the tree’s own natural fertilizer. A good apple farmer knows not to pick all the apples. To the contrary, some are left to fall to the ground to feed the tree, allowing the tree to naturally nourish itself. Much like an apple tree, an organization’s base’s time and monies must be respected if these time and monies are to become the fertilizer for the organization’s growth.

In high grateful index organizations, their base is the most valuable part of the nonprofit. It is understood and recognized by high grateful index organizations that their base is giving valuable time and monies that they could otherwise be spending with their families, their businesses, elsewhere in the community or in other areas of their lives. I find that high grateful index nonprofits retain their base and actually achieve greater support, efforts, time and monetary donations when they recognize their base’s devotion and commitment to their organization. Understandably, high grateful index organizations express honest and consistent appreciation to their base. This appreciation can be expressed with a simple verbal “thank you.” More effectively gratitude can be expressed through a letter stating that the organization knows and recognizes that the base has other options for their time and monies and expresses how much the organization values the donor on a deep level, through sharing stories of how the donor has changed the community, through recognition by finding ways the organization can actually help the donor (a great example of this is for business donors and making introductions and networking connections) or through one of the many other ways gratitude can be expressed.

I have seen many low grateful index nonprofits burn their “resources” out continually. This leads to a persistent issue of having to find a new base or reinvent their messaging regularly to draw in a new base.

What are some telltale signs of where your organization may land on the grateful index scale?

  1. How often do you thank your donors, sponsors and supporters?
  2. How often do you share stories about how your donors, sponsors and supporters have affected the community you support?
  3. How often have you asked your donors, sponsors or supporters how you can help them?
  4. How often have you surveyed your donors, sponsors and supporters to find out how they feel about donating their time and monies to your organization?
  5. Have you ever had a professional provide pro-bono services to your organization to only then disappear after the engagement? Or worse, leave in disappointment feeling their time and energies were taken advantage of.
  6. How often are you having to “replenish” your donor, sponsor or supporter base?
  7. What is the longest running donor, sponsor or supporter of your organization? Have you asked them why they have been a supporter for so long? Do you know their family? Would you be able to pick them out in a crowd?
  8. How often are you cycling your staff members? Are they finding “better opportunities” elsewhere?
  9. When was the last time you connected one of your business donors to another business that might be a good fit for a future business relationship for that donor business?
  10. When was the last time you took a donor out to lunch or dinner (not your “Gala Event”)?

It’s human nature, everyone wants to be recognized for their efforts. Rise above the low grateful index organizations and see your base for what they really are – people giving of themselves and their families to support you and your community.

Oh, I almost forgot, this whole article also relates to interactions with customers of a for profit business and interpersonal relationships.

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