On a recent family vacation to Colorado, I was strolling through the lovely town of Boulder, kids in tow. In the lively city square, I spotted Children International representatives stopping passersby (presumably to sign them up for monthly sponsorship for impoverished children around the world).
As a proud sponsor of nine years, I secretly hoped one of them would stop me. On a second stroll up the corridor, I got my wish. The twenty-something guy smiled and opened with a cheesy conversation starter, "Ever seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?" I smiled back, and dismissively, but with a tinge of pride, quipped back, "I'm already a sponsor."
That's when the real magic happened.
He stopped, the veneer of door-to-door salesman left his body, and he jubilantly raised his hand to give me a high five. He thanked me and made some small talk. There was no upgrade strategy, no leaflets for me to review later, no talk of mosquito nets or dirty water. A simple, genuine thank you--no strings attached. The moment also spurred conversation with my kids about our sponsored child and her life in Honduras.
Of all my interactions with Children International, this was far and away the most personal and positive. Ironically, it's also an interaction that many nonprofits might view as a "missed" fundraising opportunity when it's quite the opposite.
So how can your organization give donors the high five?
You can start by periodically offering an "unleaded" thank you ... A heartfelt thanks that doesn't tag on an ask or a desired action. Drop an unexpected email ... Make a phone call out of the blue ... Add a post-it note to your newsletter with a kind sentiment. Donors aren't looking for the grand gesture--they're looking for the right gesture.
Quite simply, offer the same gratitude that you would in your personal relationships and the support will come naturally.