It’s easy to be thankful for your donors; you wouldn’t have a job without them. You should be thankful for your board members (even though most of the time they drive you crazy and make you wish you worked at your local Post Office); they still occasionally give you guidance and they’ve probably brought in a few dollars for your cause. I’m guessing you thank your staff every now and again, though I’m going to go out on a limb and say less often than you really should for the amount of crap they have to put up with on a daily basis. So how about your vendors? When was the last time you sent your Printer, Graphic Designer or your favorite special event venue manager a gift card to their favorite restaurant? Have you ever sent them a handwritten thank you note from you or the populations you serve?
There’s an interesting little phenomenon that happens in Non-Profit Land where vendors are consistently being overlooked for your gratitude. Most vendors have a significantly discounted rate for non-profits so they’re already taking a hit on the financial front for your causes. And when it comes to owning your own business the most important thing is always the bottom line. Some of them cut you a deal for tax purposes and to look good to their surrounding community but most do it because they care about who you’re serving and what you stand for.
Non-profits are consistently so strapped for time and resources that they fail to appreciate that their vendors have other clients, projects and time frames that they’ve committed to. The approval process for a project in Non-Profit Land can be downright ridiculous, and excessively slow, given that most Executive Directors give their board members every opportunity to be involved in every decision that’s ever made in the organization. Decisions are never made easily or on anything that actually resembles a timeframe and I sometimes wonder why vendors even entertain the hassle of working with non-profits. Obviously most of them have childhood issues they haven’t dealt with and they’re punishing themselves for something.
So get out there and thank your vendors who cut you deals and put up with your disorganization. Do it sincerely and often. If you work with children, have them write or sign a note that you’ve created with their handprints or have them draw your vendor a picture. Send them a photograph (if the law allows) of the populations you serve and let them know how they’ve helped you to fulfill your mission by putting up with your crap. Trust me, they don’t put up with it out in the real world and they could certainly make a lot more money (and retain their sanity) by dropping you as a client.