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Stacey Stone “The Three Branches of Gratitude”

When you look at a tree, you can see how the branches provide shade, rest for birds and homes for other creatures. If the branches are low enough on the tree, they could provide steps for the brave to climb higher and higher towards a pretty amazing view. And a grove of trees can be the perfect protection from the eyes of others, a wind break and mark out the property line of your home. Some trees have a legacy so that, when one branch falls off, there is a sadness for the ones that have to witness the fall.

Take a moment as we move towards Giving Tuesday and picture a majestic oak. Now pick three branches of that tree and feel gratefulness towards them for everything listed above. In that moment, you can say thank you to God for creating the tree and bringing it into your life. That act of saying “thank you” can provide for your mental health, protect the relationship that you have with your donors and convince others to give because they want your gratefulness and to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Referring to the three branches of gratitude, let’s look at the definition of each one and the effects of them on you and your donor. The first branch is the basic feeling of gratitude that comes to someone who hears their name connected to an act of giving that they performed. When you say, “we couldn’t do it without you” and insert their name, the donor knows that they are appreciated. “The reward for giving has been termed the ‘warm glow” (Harbaugh, Mayr, & Burghart, 2019) and, without all of the neurological terms, the neural evidence shows that pure altruism and gratefulness are both causes of that glow. For a donor who experiences free- choice giving to your organization, a “thank you” can elongate that warm glow and cause further giving.

The second branch on the tree of gratitude is the community of donors that the person will join when they give. When you are defining your donor base with gratitude to individuals who go the extra mile for your organization, you are creating a group of people that a possible donor wants to be associated with. In the past two and a half years, donors have been rethinking what they want to be part of and what impact they want to have. The perceived worthiness of your organization can be reinforced by the gratitude shared to multiple donors during a fundraiser and simple “thank you” breaks from your air talent following the event that include specific names (and locations if you are in a specific market).

We flip the script on the third branch of gratefulness and investigate the benefit for the person saying thank you and their mental health. Johannes Gaertner once said, “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is general and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch heaven.” Studies for many years have shown the positive effects of that interpersonal exchange of gratitude. As the person saying thank you to your donors, that action can cause anxiety, envy, depression, and loneliness to be less likely for yourself. Gratitude interventions are also known to lower anger when one is hurt. (Skrzelinska & Ferreira, 2020) And the world could use a great deal of that right now. On a side note: when you show gratitude towards those employees who work diligently for your organization it can change an entire workplace culture.

You can see, through the trees, how multiple applications of gratitude can benefit your organization and those around you. For the person expressing thankfulness, the person hearing it and those that are on the periphery, the benefit extends way beyond these three limbs.

^Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations William T. Harbaugh,1’2* Ulrich Mayr,3* Daniel R. Burghart1

^Joanna Skrzelinska & Joaquim Armando Ferreira (2020): Gratitude: the state of art, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, DOI: 10.1080/03069885.2020.1789553


Stacey Stone serves God by loving her husband, Johnny Stone, her family and friends, along with her little dogs and her listeners on WGTS 91.9, Washington DC. In addition to her 26 years in broadcasting, she is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Maryland, a public speaker, and the author of The Rescued Breed: When Jesus Shows Up And Transforms Your Pack. She can be reached HERE

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