I have been thinking about the word "Thanksgiving" lately.
Broken down, it is two pretty interesting words in their own right. Thanks: an expression of gratitude. Giving: to freely transfer possession of something to someone.
Those of us who work in the nonprofit sector spend much of our time thinking about how to best express our gratitude to our donors, our sponsors and our clients. Those who financially participate with the sector understand the joys and pressures of giving to support missions, projects and programs.
But we could just as easily reverse the intended audience of both these words. I’ll get more specific for the purposes of my point.
As a donor to various nonprofits throughout the community, I can promise you that I feel a deep expression of gratitude for the work of those organizations. I find great joy in the creative ways that they live out their missions. I delight in smart marketing, excellent programming and meaningful storytelling. In short, I am extremely thankful for the organizations I invest in. And my continued funding relationship to them is as much about how I feel when I give my support as it is my desire to actively fund their ability to do even more.
And now to the other side. I don’t know many, if any, nonprofits that take the freely transferred possession of something from someone without also giving in return.
Again, to give a specific example: When a donor supports an arts organization, she can rest assured that her dollars are helping that organization grow its mission, expand its programming, better pay its staff members and more. That is the intangible gift of giving.
When a donor supports an arts organization, he also often receives tangible expressions of gratitude such as free or reduced-price tickets, VIP opportunities or behind-the-scenes experiences.
All of this means that expressing thanks and giving are deeply interconnected in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Both entities, nonprofits and donors, receive the benefits of being on both ends of this paradigm.
There aren’t many other aspects in life that can promise this. A professional sports team is under no obligation to actively thank their ticket holders with anything beyond the game or season. Big-box stores don’t have to systematically reach out and express individual thanks to their shoppers. Attendees and shoppers also are unlikely to have a truly personal relationship with either of them.
Thanksgiving is a time of overeating, gathering with family and gearing up for the major holidays in December, but it is also a time to practice giving thanks for the donors and the organizations that make our community great. So please let me speak plainly: To everyone who supports The Arts Partnership, other arts organizations and the nonprofit sector in our community, thank you.
Our collective work is dependent upon your desire and ability to freely transfer possession of something to one or many of us. And believe me, we are deeply grateful.
Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Life. For more information on the arts, go to http://theartspartnership.net.