The Gratitude Express

One of the things I love about working for me is that when I get an idea there is not a while lot of bureaucracy to deal.  Very different from my days in higher education. Public higher ed.  Nowadays,  I do a lot of training and coaching of nonprofit leaders, mainly in areas of fund development. Not long ago, it struck me that there are a lot of very small (operating expenses of under $500,000) nonprofits who most need this—and are least able to indulge their need. They neither have the time to travel to trainings, nor do they have the money to hire a fundraising coach. I thought how great it would be to offer—at a low cost—a series of fundraising trainings along with individual coaching sessions, all done via video-conferencing. But how was I going to accomplish this?

Tom Backer of the Valley Nonprofit Resources came to the rescue. VNR self-funded a pilot program and recruited three amazing organizations to participate. We call this program The Gratitude Express, focusing on how gratitude informs and shapes fundraising. We’ve just finished the pilot, and truly, it was inspiring. The 6 people who participated brought both their passion and their willingness to learn and implement new ideas. Tom—much more of a data person than I—is also happy.  In his words, we had “excellent results as measured by our evaluation surveys with the participants.” VNR is now approaching a funder to support two offerings of The Gratitude Express in the months ahead

. Why did we call this The Gratitude Express and not, say, Fundraising for a Small Nonprofit?  In thinking about this program, I wanted to ensure that organizations learned what was most important about fundraising.  To me, that is gratitude; appreciation of your donors, your volunteers, your staff, your clients.  We start from what is often considered the back end,—stewardship.  We know that successful nonprofits share certain elements, chief among them is a robust supporter base. Strong stewardship (defined as the act of caring) and customer/client/donor relations programs helps to get and keep donors. Fundraising, building your client base, having the best staff and an engaged board starts with gratitude.

From there we move on to defining New Reasons to be Thankful.  This is all about getting new donors and moving existing donors up the gift pyramid.  Much of what you do to bring donors closer (cultivation) is what you do to keep them close (stewardship).  The goal is to create a prospecting/cultivation plan that focuses on your supporters’ interests, values, and passions.

Finally, we all know that in order to have someone to thank, you gotta ask!

Our last session is An Attitude of Gratitude:  The Secret Sauce of Asking Joyously.  For many nonprofit professionals—and for most of their board members—asking for a gift is extremely stressful.  But giving is a source of joy for your donors.  We talk about—and practice—how to use true gratitude to give your donors the opportunity to be part of your amazing organization—and to turn your board into active and effective partners.

After each training, there is an individual video-chat coaching session, bringing what we talked about, learned and tried in the training, home to the participant’s specific organizational needs.

We’re looking to do at least two more program with VNR and to take this national. If you are a very small nonprofit, looking to increase your fundraising results, contact me or, if you are in the San Fernando Valley, connect with Tom at , and let us know of your interest. We’ll let you know when the next available session is starting.

We’re also working on a 6-month program for small development offices. If this—or any other training/coaching via Zoom sounds good to you, please do contact me at It’s a fabulous way to plug into the training, coaching and consulting you need in a cost-effective way.


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