We apologize to our international (including Canadian) readers for the U.S.-centric introduction to this blog. If you have something to add from a cultural perspective (or any other perspective!), please take a moment to comment at the end of the article. Thank you for reading!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Americans tend to get a little reflective. Just take a look at Facebook and scan through the seasonal status updates – from humblebrags to heartfelt epiphanies, we are surrounded by people pausing to recognize the moments for which they are grateful. Sometimes it gets a little cheesy, but that’s okay – this time of year, we’re all allowed to create reasons to feel good.

By Angela Parker

Naturally, reflecting on what we’re grateful for tends to connect us to who we’re grateful for. Today, I thought about the unique contributions of each member of the RW team: the one who relentlessly calls me to perfection; another who I trust to see and speak to what no one else can; and another whose steady belief in the higher purpose of our work keeps me calm and productive. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, I would like to do a good job of thanking my team – I think they deserve it! We’re a small group, so I have some fun ideas that are relatively feasible. But what about you? What will you do for a larger team especially if they’re volunteers and your budget is limited (or nonexistent)? Let’s brainstorm! Here are a few ideas to start. Add yours to the comments at the end or email me at angela@realizedworth.com.

1. Charity Gift Cards – The more personal, the better.

To the left, you can see a photo of the front and back of my business card. When I give you my business card, you can use it to go online and donate $1 to your favorite charity. ($1 is not much I know, but at least it spreads awareness, right?) Empowering your staff to give money to something they care about is a great way to communicate that you’re grateful for them. (Note: If giving to charity is replacing a gift (like a Christmas bonus) that your team has come to expect, I don’t recommend it not unless you want it associated with some seriously negative connotations.) The more personal you can make the Charity Giftcard, the better. Physical cards are slightly more expensive, but I recommend them over virtual/email cards. Distribute them in envelopes with a note explaining what that person’s contribution means to you. Let them know that you would love to hear about where they choose to donate their gift. Even better, send out a link to a facebook page where they can share the story of where they donated their gift and why. One of the greatest ways to thank anyone is to show them that who they are matters. Enabling them to tell their story is a great place to start. Here are a couple organizations you can go to for Charity Gift Cards:

  • Network4Good: The Good Card is a gift card with stored value that can be redeemed as a donation to any of more than 1.2 million charities. You can send these charity cards via email, print at home, print and post via snail mail, or even fax. It all depends on you.
  • Benevity: With Benevity, you can reward employees with a donation gift card, bearing your brand, that can be used for the cause of their choice. Like Network4Good, Benevity has a massive network of charities to which employees can choose to give.
  • ‘TisBest: The TisBest Charity Gift Card is a donation gift that works like a conventional gift card (printed on recycled material) but instead of buying stuff, the recipient “spends” the card by selecting which charity partner receives the money. You can personalize any TisBest card with your own message and branding
  • Global Giving: GlobalGiving Gift Cards let you give the gift of giving – the recipient gets to pick the projects that they want to support and then see how their money has been put to work through regular updates from the field.

2. Knowledge Training – Let your team know that you “see” them

There are some situations where giving a gift is worse than not giving one at all. For example, if you’re leading a team of volunteers and you have one in particular who consistently exceeds your expectations, don’t thank them with a certificate printed from your computer. Don’t give them a pin or a bumper sticker or a t-shirt. Or if you do, make sure it’s accompanied by something meaningful. That volunteer is demonstrating a higher level of contribution – a level that most volunteers are unable to give. Meet them at that level. Thank them with a day off work to attend a leadership conference or management seminar (a good one!). Explain to them that you see their potential and want to help them succeed. You may even want to consider thanking them by offering a leadership position within your volunteer team. If you don’t thank these people in a way that shows you “see” them, you’re likely to burn them out. A few 2013 conferences worth sending your people to: Charities@Work, April 3-4, Business4Better, May 1-2, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, April 21-23, National Conference on Volunteering and Service, June 19-21.

3. Special Treatment – Everyone needs unexpected kindness

If you have a few dollars you can spend, an unexpected and impractical ‘thank you’ is always a good idea – and I suggest making it a surprise. Schedule a mandatory meeting at the end of the day and when your team arrives, take 2 minutes to tell them how much you appreciate their work. And then? Hand out gift certificates for a massage or a pedicure and give them the rest of the day off. Tell them to take some time to use this gift and celebrate their accomplishments. I’ve even heard of some managers that bring a masseuse or manicurist into the office so their team can receive their gifts right there and then. This is impractical and extravagant which is what makes it a wonderful gift. Most of the people you work with aren’t being thanked at all – everyone needs a little unexpected kindness. Again, the more personal you can make your gifts, the better. In this scenario, everyone is receiving the same gift so it will be up to you to assure them that each of their contributions are unique. This can be done in the few minutes at the beginning of the meeting by naming names or by including a personal note with your gift. You can even combine this idea with others (like the video idea below) and give your team a story worth telling.

4. Video – Demonstrate Intentional Creativity

If you or someone you work with has a creative streak, videos can be a fun way to say thank you. Just grab a flipcam and go around the office asking people to share something they appreciate about your team members. If you can find some footage of events they’ve been a part of (even if they’re just photos), use those as transitions and background.  It’s not a bad idea to throw in a clip of someone from the company’s c-suite saying that he/she has seen and appreciates the work of your team. Want to make the creativity part easy? Just use Apple’s imovie. They have full templates including background music you can use to make fun videos with your own material! It doesn’t take long and it’s a great artistic release.

5. Happy Hour

Need I say more? Again, I recommend doing this one as a surprise. At 3:30 on Thursday afternoon, call everyone to one area of the office and pop some champagne! Provide fun snacks and encourage your team to take a moment to let go of any anxiety and celebrate themselves. Sometimes we need someone to give us permission to let go and rest. This Thanksgiving, let’s give each other permission! Rest, celebrate, enjoy, empower. It’s that time of year.

Any other ideas? Leave a comment below or email us at contact@realizedworth.com. Also be sure to connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Angela Parker Co-founder/Partner, Realized Worth
Follow Angela on Twitter
Connect with Angela on LinkedIn

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