Creative Gratitude: A Quest for Impact

The gift in the mail sparked a brief discussion about how missionaries communicate with their supporters.

“I think a random gift like this makes a bigger impact than a newsletter,” my wife said.

As a guy who makes a living by writing, I’m a fan of newsletters. On the other hand, it was hard to argue against my wife’s point.

First, I make it a practice to avoid, whenever possible, arguing with my wife. Second, the gift under discussion was chocolate from Peru. Needless to say, it was fantastic. Who argues against Peruvian chocolate? Not me.chocolate

We’re friends with and supporters of a couple who work in Peru, and this is the second time they’ve sent us a cool gift. The other was a set of coasters. We keep them on an end table in our living room. When people ask us about them, it gives us a chance to talk about our friends and their ministry.

With both gifts, our friends included a brief (two sentences) handwritten note saying they were thinking of us, a.k.a. a nice, warm-fuzzy moment.

So I conceded: Random gifts equal big impact.

My wife’s observation reminded me that we all have different love languages. It’s important to keep that in mind as we share relevant information and our gratitude with the important people in our lives – no matter what we do for a living. Missionaries often raise the funds that support their work, but we all have people who support us – people we need to keep informed and people we need to thank for the part they play in our success. It might be employees, customers, clients, vendors … or all of the above.

Here’s my No. 1 rule about communication with supporters: Do it.

That might sound simple and obvious, but it’s amazing how many of us don’t practice Rule No. 1. We are too busy. We think we aren’t good at it. We forget. Until we start feeling the impact of reduced financial support or, far worse when it comes to missionaries, reduced prayer support. Then we scrambled to get back in touch with people.

In our high-tech world, it’s easy to write an occasional blog or update our social media and call it good. But there’s something to be said for consistently and proactively staying engaged with the people who support us. Staying engaged not only promotes stronger relationships, but also a spirit of gratitude. Our supporters will be thankful for the work God is doing through us (whatever our line of work). And we will be thankful for the work God is doing through those who support us (whatever their line of work).

Thankful is good.

There are many ways to drive this type of engagement. For missionaries, I’m still an advocate of a short, well-written newsletter that’s sent out on a regular and consistent basis. I like some detailed information and specific prayer requests. Social media is an obvious way to stay in touch. Hand-written notes are great. And, of course, nothing’s better than in-person visits. Then there are random gifts. They don’t have to be expensive, just personal. They can be practical, like coasters, or here today, gone tomorrow like a Peruvian chocolate bar with a sweet note.

Most of that can translate to any type of business. No one works in a vacuum. We all have people we need to keep informed and people we need to thank because they help contribute to our success.

We don’t have to do everything, but we should do something. Some combination of the above will help maximize our communication impact. And it just might satisfy someone’s sweet tooth.

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