Showing someone you care has lasting effects on both you and the recipient. Gratitude is a powerful tool for helping and empowering others, and can be conveyed in a wide variety of ways.

The power of gratefulness

Can you recall the last time someone told you they appreciated you? Chances are, you won’t have to think too hard. Genuine gratitude leaves an imprint on our brains and draws us closer to the people who either extend or receive it.

This is the power behind “pay-it-forward” campaigns that have been going viral in recent years. Experiencing kindness and expressing thanks makes people feel good — and not just the people directly involved, but everyone who sees it. This is because humans are deeply social creatures. We crave connection to others; we love to feel that we’re needed.

The awesome part about expressing gratitude is that it’s free! Looking someone in the eye and thanking them for showing up is all you need to do to harness the energy and positive attitude that comes with gratefulness.

That said, it also doesn’t hurt to accompany simple eye contact with a gift. You can reinforce gratitude by filling a practical need or offering an extra treat. During the years we’ve spent working with not-for-profit organizations, we’ve seen beautiful ways people use gratitude to serve others and enhance their lives. One of the most popular and simplest ways is to practice gratefulness is by giving out gift cards.

Gratitude in practice

Beyond merely saying, “thank you,” we’ve seen people come up with creative uses for gift cards that relate to their mission or unique culture of serving others.

These tokens of gratitude can be used to get people in the door by simply thanking them for using your services, to reward people who are loyal to supporting your business or cause, and to create incentives for high quality work among volunteers or employees.

Of course, these general uses will look pretty different when you apply them to a real-life situation.  Hearing how other organizations use gift cards may help spark an idea for how to use gratitude in your specific circumstance. These are a few of our favorites:

  1. Gift cards for bus passes — One organization empowers individuals to re-enter the job market by providing training, networking, and other professional services. They buy gift cards for bus passes in bulk to hand out to these men and women when they need transportation to job interviews or other events.
  2. Gift cards to offset medical costs — Many at-risk communities face chronic health problems simply because they lack the resources to be tested or vaccinated against preventable diseases. Some organizations provide gift cards to cover the cost of a check-up or lab test to keep these communities healthy.
  3. Gift cards for showing up — Using a very simple model, another organization we know uses gift cards to thank people for simply walking through the door and filling out an application. This helps them spread awareness for their services among people who would benefit from them.
  4. Gift cards for appreciation — Perhaps the most common sense way to use gift cards is to show gratitude for your employees. Whether treating them to coffee, their favorite restaurant, or a small-scale shopping spree, a tangible gift can help employees feel valued and enjoy working with your team.

Though small in size, using gift cards as tokens of gratitude can have a big impact on the emotional health of an organization and the people it serves. However, they can be misused if they aren’t properly tracked from purchase to handing out. To learn more about using (and misusing) gift cards in your organization, check out our blog post on how to track gift cards appropriately.