Genuine Gratitude

I’ve never been happier to spend $300 on a flight in my life.

Several days ago, I boarded a Delta plane from Raleigh to Atlanta, the first leg of a two-segment flight home. I’d just been consumed with four consecutive days of client and senior team meetings, and as I hustled through the airport to my gate and into the aircraft, follow-ups and to-dos ran through my mind. Like we all do, I gave my “small portable electronic device” and its e-mails, texts and alerts all my attention until takeoff. The flight attendant’s and pilot’s announcements were just background noise.

Ten thousand feet into the sky, the magic double-ding signaled connectivity and more opportunity to be consumed by my world. I raced through notes and messages barely looking up to accept my Diet Coke and snack. As we began our initial descent, I felt a tap on my shoulders, and then another tap. I looked up somewhat disgruntled to have been bothered. It was the flight attendant, smiling at me, with an envelope in her hand. She said “I really apologize for interrupting, but I have something important for you.” I accepted the envelope, curious if not concerned. She stood over me while I read a colorful postcard inside:

Dear Mr. Koskoski,

 Thank you so much for joining our Delta SkyMiles program. It is an honor to have your business, and it means a lot to serve you today. We hope you enjoy flying with us and hope to be with you in your future journeys.”


The Flight 1177 Team (names of flight attendants)

I was touched and said the only thing I felt at the moment: “That means a lot. You’ve got a customer for life.” I showed the postcard to my seatmates, who nodded with approval.

Five minutes later, just before landing, the entire team of flight attendants walked from the front row to the back, giving passengers eye contact, smiling, shaking hands and saying “Thank you for flying with us today … Have a great day … We appreciate you … Come back soon.” As a performance consultant who preaches on the importance of gratitude, I was blown away. The woman sitting next to me leaned toward me and remarked, “That’s why I love this airline. Delta says “thank you” more than any other airline.”

Now, whether that is a scientific fact or not isn’t important. What is important, of course, is that woman’s perception that Delta thanks its passengers more often and the loyalty the airline earns from its passengers feeling genuinely appreciated. But just to put a little research into it, I focused on nothing but announcements and actions during my second flight that day, and Delta thanked me exactly seven times for allowing them to fly me homeward.

Thanking someone seven times for a single gesture … now, where has someone in the fundraising world heard that before?

I probably told 20 friends and relatives over the next few days about my little Delta postcard and the flight attendants’ parade up the aisle. What was remarkable, of course, wasn’t the mere fact that I was thanked. What was remarkable was the way I was (and we were) thanked. It was pleasantly disruptive. It forced me to stop and appreciate Delta and allowed me to marvel at their creativity. And most importantly, it captured my attention and diverted it away from whatever “priorities” my handheld device had for me.

Pleasantly disruptive, remarkably simple, highly meaningful, genuine acts of gratitude. I’m still talking about it a week later! What if you were crafting similar experiences for your donors, all the time?

As summer prepares to fly away and autumn arrives before we know it, think about gratitude. We want you to “own the concept” of genuine gratitude – which is different from donor stewardship, of course.

It’s a lofty goal, but worth taking off for (ok, last airplane pun, I promise). Let me know how we can help you! We have ideas and strategies to keep your donors talking about your organization and you!

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