You may be thinking, “Practicing gratitude? How do you practice gratitude? Don’t you just show gratitude?”
Well, yes and no.  Yes, you can show gratitude toward another person, but the kind of gratitude I’m talking about requires discipline.  “Gosh, Jeff, you’re always talking about focus, accountability and discipline.  Can’t I just live my life and do my work?”
As Richard and I have written numerous times, thanking donors and showing gratitude are among the best things you can do as a fundraiser.  Not just because they’re the right thing to do for a donor, but also because they’re the right thing to do for you.  Practicing gratitude (actually being purposeful in showing it and being consciously aware that life is a gift) can have a profound effect on your life.
Recently, I read about a scientific study demonstrating that people were happier and more at peace if they physically wrote down on a piece of paper what they were afraid of or worried about and then threw it away.  In other words, to get rid of something negative in their life, they had to do something physical to influence their thoughts and emotions.
This is fascinating to me. If this is true, then, by actually writing down what we are grateful for each day and putting it into a special bowl or on the fridge, we could start living with more gratitude and it could begin to change us.
This is not something new.
There is the wife of a pig farmer named Ann Voskamp who happens to have a bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts.  Her premise is that if you really want to change your attitude or have a more fulfilled life, you need to practice gratitude… daily.  She asks readers to write down three things everyday that they are grateful for, put them in a special place and, after one year, they will have 1,000 different things.
You may be thinking, “Okay, that’s kind of cool, but so what?”  Well, just like the study I was describing, the act of taking time to think about what you are grateful for and writing it down begins to transform the way you think about your life and work.
In other words, you start to create an “attitude of gratitude.”
I believe that if we are to be successful as major gift fundraisers, and have a fulfilled life, we must show gratitude in all we do.  I’ve said this before, but I believe that something mystical happens between a donor, a fundraiser and the organization when a donor decides to give of his or her resources to fund the mission.   And gratitude is at the center of all of it.
Here are some ways you can practice gratitude for a more fulfilled life as a major gift fundraiser:

  1. When you wake up each morning, think about what an amazing job you are privileged to have, helping people change the world and themselves with their money.
  2. When you get to work, write down the names of three donors who you are so grateful for.  Think about how they have helped your organization and changed lives and situations for the good.  Put those donors in your “gratitude bowl.”
  3. Everyday handwrite a thank you note to two of your donors – not because they gave a gift that day, but for their commitment to the mission of your organization.  In other words, thank them – just because.
  4. At least once per month, write a note or say a kind word to a colleague who helps you become more successful in your work.  Make it meaningful.
  5. During dinner, make it a practice to talk about what you were grateful for each day.  If you are alone, write it down.  If you are with others, get everyone to participate.  Witness what happens.

Here are a few things I’m grateful for: to get to do amazing work with a great business partner, Richard Perry; to have a loving family who encourages me; to work with wonderful clients who are changing the world; to have such dedicated readers of this blog who really care about their work and others.
Practice gratitude.  It will change your life.
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