Gratitude is About People – Notice Them

Gratitude is About People – Notice Them


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Last year at Thanksgiving, I wrote about the differences between gratitude and gratefulness. (See Gratitude and Gratefulness)


The word grateful is not necessarily focused on a source. We are grateful for stuff – health, material gifts, sunshine, rest – that is freely enjoyed as opposed to being earned or even deserved. The feeling is fleeting for the most part.

Gratitude comes from the same Latin root, but comes to English through a Middle French word meaning “good will.” Gratitude is focused on a source – a person or group of people who have served us in some way that is pleasing. The feeling of gratitude lasts because it engenders a mutual response. The instinct is to repay the kindness and keep it going.

In this way, gratitude is connected to obligations of returned charity and grace.


I encouraged all of us to remember that there is a real person behind every check and internet transaction.


There is a real person behind every gift – most of whom are giving from their hearts, motivated by an interest in supporting the work and commitment we have to our organizational mission. Their gifts are freely bestowed and not necessarily earned or even deserved. And they create an obligation for us to work even harder in return.


In that spirit, I read with enthusiasm Vu Le’s recent post about doing a better job thanking people more generally (21 tips to help you do a better job thanking people). If you didn’t read it, I encourage you to.


Here’s the crux in all of this: People give stuff and do stuff around every one of us all the time that is neither earned nor necessarily deserved on our part. They do it because, in some way, it makes them happy.


I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


For donors, this feeling is somewhat fleeting when they post the check in the mail or click on the confirmation page, and then go about the rest of their day. For volunteers, the feeling may last a little longer.

But in both cases, the happy is enhanced when their gifts are noticed by someone.

Not by some thing – like an organization. But by some one – like you.


This year, take some care with your expressions of gratitude. Remember that the gifts are coming from real people and that the giving made them happy in some small way.

Thank your donors – and staff – and volunteers – and Board members – and everyone who have served you in some way that is pleasing.

Notice them.

  • Use the Phone
  • Write letters and cards by hand
  • Mention something specific
  • Share how their gifts make you feel
  • When leaving messages, invite them to call you back – to see a project or to ask a question or just to continue the conversation


Make your expressions of gratitude personal – as much as possible – even when you do not necessarily even know them personally.


Notice them. And what they did.


And help make Thanksgiving a season instead of just a day.


Cheers, and have a good week!



PS: I’d love to hear how you are noticing your donors this year. How does gratitude come up for you?


Photo by Sergio Rola courtesy of

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  • Marci Mowery
    Posted at 09:46h, 21 November

    Great reminder. Thank you David and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted at 09:23h, 20 November

    Happy Thanksgiving David 🙂