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December 12, 2019

Saying “Thank You” creates connection.
And connection is its own reward.

Say Thank You Like You Mean It
Readers of our eJournal know that Creating the Future’s work is deeply rooted in gratitude. We must admit, though, that we never thought we would be tackling the issue of “gratitude as a transaction.” Sadly, it appears that according to a recent study, that is actually a thing to talk about!

Earlier this year, an economics professor and a philanthropist co-authored a study on the “effectiveness” of calling donors on the phone to thank them for their donations. The study purported to “showcase the ineffectiveness of this widely used technique in the non-profit sector.”

Why did we put “effectiveness” in quotes? Why did we use the word purported? Because the study defines effectiveness as whether the person being thanked increased their donations to the organization, suggesting that the only reason to pick up the phone to thank donors is to get more money.

Imagine this scenario with your eight-year-old child.

Honey, your aunt gave you that wonderful birthday gift. Please call her to say thank you, so that she will give you a bigger present next year.

Whether you are thanking people for a donation or thanking a neighbor for the scarf they gave you, offering genuine thanks is a way of creating a personal connection – a meaningful act of kindness. Creating the Future’s founder, Hildy Gottlieb, talked about that connection years ago, when she penned an article titled “The Sound a Thank You Makes.”
As the holidays approach and gifts abound, this week’s Try This exercise is therefore about showing thanks in ways that are meaningful for both you AND the person you are thanking.

Try this:
Step 1: Think about the person who gave you the gift. What do you want that  person to feel when you say thank you? What do you want your expression of gratitude to make possible for that person? 

Just this simple question moves the act of giving thanks from an obligation to a gift YOU are giving to the person who just gave you a gift!

Step 2: What actions can you take, that might lead the person you are thanking to feel those things?

A photo of you using the gift? A hand-written note? A story? A phone call?

By putting yourself in that person’s shoes, you will be thanking them in a way that is meaningful – showing them kindness, showing them that you really are grateful.

Even if you are sending the same letter over and over to many people, leave room to personalize it. Which of these would you prefer to receive?

“Dear Aunt Jo, thank you for the gift. I really like it.”


“Dear Aunt Jo, thank you for the scarf. Every time I wear it I will remember the time we went to the city, and you treated me to that huge plate of waffles…” (Note that you don’t have to say you like something if you don’t like it. But you CAN share your fondest thoughts about that person. Just imagine how that will make them feel!)

With a little ingenuity, you can do this with what might otherwise be form letters from an organization. It could be a photo of a hand-written note that you send via email, perhaps as a cover letter for your form letter. It could be (contrary to the study noted above) a phone call. Or it could be a completely separate activity.

At Creating the Future, we see a strong distinction between tax receipts  and showing gratitude. We show gratitude by not only thanking our supporters, but inviting them and involving them in every way possible. If people care enough to support our work, we want them involved in that work beyond just whatever thing they have donated.

That is because we see dollars as one road towards true engagement, not the other way around, because we value who people are much more than we value what they have. And that kind of connection accomplishes far more than money can buy.

That is the power of saying Thank You like you mean it. It is the power of connection - the interconnectedness and interdependence that are our superpowers. And it is why gratitude is embedded into every aspect of the Catalytic Thinking framework.

And because we are so grateful for YOU, we hope this song of gratitude boosts your spirits and helps ground you throughout your day…

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook - a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Creating the Future
is a collection of people around the world supporting each other in a grand experiment:
To determine how much more humane the world could be
if the systems that guide our work and our lives 
were rooted in questions that bring out the best in each of us.

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