There are all kinds of ways of saying thank you. There is 'high' gratitude and 'low' gratitude. By 'high' I mean gratitude that strikes a bell of sincerity and truth. By 'low' I mean gratitude that reeks like cheese become rancid. As a donor you may not wish to be thanked, you may want results, but a thank you nonetheless is issued. The question is what kind? Here are few:
‘Oh thank you, thank you kind sir, thank your for your largess, your good heart, for taking pity on me. I thank you, my wife thanks you, and my children will have food tonight! Images of Dickens, of Scrooge, of beggars in the streets of New Delhi and too much left undone. A kind of gratitude that shouldn’t exist but does and resolves very little.
‘On behalf of the Board of Trustees of this university, it is my distinct privilege to present you with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for all you have done for society. I will now cut the ribbon on this wonderful new performing arts center named in honor of your mother, and grandfather, and all of your cousins too.’ Images of a warm day in May, a spit and polish crowd of semi-dignitaries, beaming relationship managers, and large amounts of money moving across the table – professional gratitude that strokes the ego.
‘I can’t begin to tell you how much this grant will do for the kids we work with. It will enable them to get the one on one tutoring they need and greatly increase the shot they have at getting into a good school. It is far more than money, it makes all the difference that someone really cares — there aren’t many who do. These kids pretend to be tough in order to just survive on pretty mean streets. So, thanks, you have done a good thing.’ Images of a storefront after-school program, a thoughtful and caring youth worker - gratitude grounded in conviction.
‘This award came completely out of the blue, and I am just blown away. I don’t think of myself as an unsung hero or a hero of any kind, and I do this work because I believe in it and it is so important to the people I love. I accept the money, and all this recognition, but do so on behalf of the entire Vietnamese community. The award belongs to all of those who worked so hard over ten years to make our wonderful new neighborhood center a reality. Thank you.’ Images of new communities, of a leader, of commitment, and the continuation of the remarkable American experience, the American dream— gratitude with respect, with humility.
‘We know your goal is to recruit excellent students to the university who would have otherwise gone elsewhere, and we share that as well. At the same time the university's policy of not allowing applicants to specifically apply for a major scholarship award is based on very good reasons. If we change it for this program, it presents difficult problems for the rest of the system. We are of course very grateful for your offer of such a huge gift, but are afraid it will almost be impossible to accept it on those terms. We do think, however, we can accomplish the same objectives in other ways, and look forward to talking with you’. Images of academic bureaucracy, of being handled, of trying to face down, without blowing away, a powerful donor who may not understand the complexity - gratitude within limits, with reservations and negotiation.
‘You may be well meaning but you don't know what the hell you are doing. You are not part of this community, you don’t understand us and I for one resent your jamming this project down our throats. Who do you think you are telling us what to do? You haven't a clue what impact this project will have on those of us who live here everyday. Why don’t you pack your white do-gooder bag and get the hell across town to your own kind, those guys with all the money and power, and let us wallow in the way we want to live.’ Images of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, of radical response, of an elite imposing values and ambitions, of not listening – gratitude backfired, anger and resentment.
'We are willing to talk about it, and see if there is a way to accommodate what your company wants to do. Our people have lived on this land for 100 years, and we do not want to change our lives in order to satisfy some Western notion of progress. We want to preserve our way of life, and are afraid of the influences the factory will bring to the region. Don't get me wrong, we want the jobs, we need the resources, and our people are eager to live a better life. But we must protect our sacred customs, and make sure you understand what kind of behavior is acceptable and what kind is not.' The experience in our country has not been good when a large factory has come into a rural area like ours, and we want to make sure the bad things that have happened elsewhere do not happen here. I hope you understand these things and are willing to listen. Images of a wise village elder trying to hold on to a way of life that is at risk while at the same time encouraging development - the kind of intelligent dialogue that one feels almost never happens- cautious gratitude - with one's antenna up.
As you know we began this project with a great many questions as to both the theory of change itself and the practical challenges that were daunting. After four years this is where we are. We have trained more than 2700 health workers in 1500 villages. Most of them are women, and all but 10% are volunteers. The training is ongoing, and at this point the majority are knowledgeable in basic hygiene and disease prevention, including AIDS, family planning alternatives, and routine vaccinations. Each worker has responsibility for 100 families who they visit on a regular basis. The evaluations thus far have been extremely encouraging. Whole villages have gone from a very low level of personal and public health awareness to a moderate or high level. Medical and hospital utilization in the region has increased, but more important the type of intervention is earlier, and more treatable. It is clear that many people do not understand when or how to access medical care when they need it. The health workers themselves are tremendous learners, and have taken on this work with dedication and passion. We have had two site visits so far from regional WHO officials. As we have reported to you, they were very skeptical from the beginning but we are excited that they have decided to bring a whole team in next month to evaluate the feasibility of replicating this model on a large scale. Your initial grant of $1 million over four years is the only reason we have come this far. My colleagues and I are grateful, but even more to the point, your support is helping thousands of people live a better, a healthier, life. Wish us luck in the days ahead, and thanks again. Images of a well-managed NGO working on important health issues that takes the responsibility to work with indigenous people very seriously- gratitude for a donor who took a big risk on an untested idea, and must feel terrific about what has transpired so far.
Dear Melville Charitable Trust Trustees,
Fourteen years is a long time, but that is how long the Trust has supported the work of the Connecticut Coalition for the Homeless. In fact, we didn't really exist then except as an unformed idea. Your support made all the difference, and what happened last week in the legislature, was the big payday we have all dreamed about. The $30 million in bond authorization for supported housing and another $60 million in housing funds is a lot of money in these economic times, but the bill passed because the Coalition has become a true moral and political force in this state. The Trust was always there for us, you nurtured, mentored and financed us even when the going was tough, and even when we fell flat on our face. We know you don't like a lot of fancy words, but there is all this talk about the 'Tipping Point,’ and the funds you have invested in the issue of homelessness in Connecticut have been just that. The Coalition is honored to be one of your partners. Images of a tough, long distance run of smart advocacy that has paid off and even has a big win- gratitude for a real relationship built over many years, one of respect and affection as well.