The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to appreciate and the ways we look at, show and think about appreciation.


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December 2nd – Bringing Back the True Meaning of the Holidays with #GivingTuesday

For many, the holidays bring stress and pressure in not only finding the right gift, but how many gifts to give, what is the best price for said gifts, and of course long linesthe annual question on whether to shop or not to shop Black Friday.  And as you know, this year Black Friday has even creeped infringed into our family time on Thanksgiving Day!!
But that is another story/blog for another day.

 

 

While all of these things may be seem important, why not stop and take the time to go back to what the holidays are really about, saying thanks and giving back.  One way you can do this is by spreading the word and participating in #GivingTuesday 2014.  This year will mark the third annual #GivingTuesday.

giving tuesdayHaven’t heard about it?
Set on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, this year it’s December 2nd, #GivingTuesday was started in 2010 as a global, 24-hour giving challenge created by thought-leaders at the UN Foundation and the 92nd Street Y.

 

It’s focus was to bring back the original sentiments of the holiday season:

  • Generosity
  • Hope
  • Goodwill, and
  • Community

According to Wikipedia,  the concept gained steam with the help of founding partnerships with The United Nations Foundation, Donors ChooseMashableGlobal Giving, the Darden Restaurant GroupGroupon, and Unilever and several others.  There ongoing success is partly due to the assistance from renewing corporate sponsorships by Google, Microsoft, Skype, Cisco, UNICEF, and the Case Foundation.  This participation has helped the #GivingTuesday initiative raise millions of dollars for thousands of non-profits.

 

Did you know? Americans give more to charitable organizations in dollars ($300B)
and as a percentage of the GDP (2.1%) than any other developed country?

Source: Forbes 2014

 

There are many non-profit organizations participating/asking for your help on #GivingTuesday, maybe one of your favorites, and many more that truly need our help at this time of year.  Plus #GivingTuesday is a great alternative to the pressure to spend, spend, spend on gifts that may not make as much of an impact.

 

The idea is simple.  Give to a non-profit organization of your choice on December 2nd.  BUT… don’t feel that the only way that you can give is financially. Here are 3 ways you can make a difference.

  1. You can post an “Unselfie”   (You read that correctly.  It’s UNselfie not Selfie.)
Unselfie

This is mine

 
In 2013, #GivingTuesday supporters were encouraged to take a photo of themselves or something that represented their giving, upload it to their social media account of choice, and use the hashtags: #unselfie and #GivingTuesday. It was a resounding success and they’ve asked that we take on the Unselfie challenge again this year.   Check out mine on the left!

 

 

2. Give of your time.  Pledge to give 10 mins or 10 hours of volunteer or your expertise to help further their efforts. Every little bit will help.

3.    In some cases, you can just simply spread the word, though I hope you’ll do more.

Blink Buggy, a website for uploading/storing your precious images of your children  is offering a $1 donation to Baby Buggy, a NY non-profit organization dedicated to providing families in need with essential baby equipment, products, clothing, and services, for every Facebook, Twitter, Instagram post made with essential equipment, products, clothing, and services.

So… What will you do?

MY PLEDGE
For my part, I hope to spread the word through this blog – and hope you will too.  I also pledge to give at least 25 hours of volunteer time over the next 6 months (as seen in my Unselfie).  I already volunteer at my local PBS station and local food pantry, but I plan to step it up and find at least one other non-profit to offer my services or expertise to in the next 6 months.  I’ll also be posting my Unselfie on my TAF Twitter account and on the GivingTues Twitter page, December 2nd.

Want more information/Want to get involved?

Learn More:

Share:

 

Here’s just a quick list of just a small few participating Non-Profits (see more on the Giving Tuesday website & Social Media sites)

 

On December 2nd, don’t forget to post your #Unselfie or give (in the best way for you) to your favorite non-profit. (If they don’t seem to be participating in #GivingTuesday, be sure to mention your #GivingTuesday participation along with your “donation” to help spread the word.

I’d love to hear your feedback, and about your #GivingTuesday “donations” too!


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Customers and Networking Contacts Deserve Your Thanks

It seems to be that time of year, where the question has come up again about how to appropriately say thank you to your customers and networking contacts or (to my horror) whether you should even take the time to send a thank you.

Just today I came across two references on this topic. One referred to the sales benefits you could attain by saying thanks (at all times of the year), and the other was around the topic of whether to send holiday cards as a way to show a business’ appreciation.

In the blog post by Julian Bush on Financenk’s, business development blog, called 4 Ways to increase Sales by Showing Gratitude to Customers he addresses four key areas about appreciation.  This article was totally up my ally as it had overall resounding support of showing and thinking about appreciation at all times.  Bush’s first two points supported my belief that your customers and networking contacts deserve the time to say thanks.  It’s his view that to succeed in business is to show gratitude.

Here are the two points that resonated with me regarding the client and network perspective:

Those who have helped you. 

He recommends taking time each day to send a thank you message via email, text, or Internet greeting card, (See my recommendation for this last one) to those who may have, for example, referred a client or helped you in some way.

I agree, though for me, every day might be too overwhelming and I’d want to ensure that the act of showing my appreciation was meaningful vs. a chore. (It would NOT however, be dependent upon how large or small the act of assistance or kindness was.)Picture1

 

Are you appreciative for knowing someone?

Bush’s expression of gratitude expands to all who positively impact your life. This could be your family, your friends, your customers and colleagues.  He believes that to share this appreciation will attract more of the same assistance and likely reciprocal gratitude your way.

 

 

His last two areas talk to written affirmation of what your thankful for as a whole, and in your daily life. Both are worth a review.

Bush sums up his post with the statement that by taking the time to show gratitude to your clients will reap the rewards of deep loyalty, an increase in client retention and profits. I really can’t argue this fact, as many of my clients have remained close over the span of 10-12 years. I think this partly due to my ongoing recognition of their assistance and simply their support of my business and/or services.

 

Xmas Thank you note

This leads me to the second reference I found today.  I came across this one on of my LinkedIn Groups, Sticky Branding.  A lead contributor, Jeremy Miller, posed the question of “What’s your take on the practice of sending season’s greetings cards to clients.”  While the response ran the gamut of sending personalized cards, to ones that go out at Thanksgiving or New Years, the answer was a resounding “YES!”  Again, I’m fully in support.

Each year around this time, I feel lucky as I start compiling a list of customers, clients, network contacts, and colleagues who have been instrumental to my success over the past year.  Just prior to the Christmas holiday, I’ll send out cards wishing them season’s greetings and a reminder of how much their help, their business or general goodwill to me during the year has meant.  This list truly reminds me of how blessed I’ve been.  *NOTE: I don’t see these cards as taking the place of the acknowledgement I would have sent at the time of the action/assistance.

Thanksgiving TY Note

 

 

 

 

What you do you think?
Does your business send cards?  Do you personally send notes when someone has helped you or after you’ve completed a project with a client?  Do you see your cards or thank you notes as a way to increase business/used to impact business?  Would you send one regardless of the financial impact they may or may not have? Or is there an impact on your brand or company that you think sending these out may have?


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In Business It’s Always a Great Practice

I wanted to follow up with the 2nd in the 3-part series about Why We Say Thank You, and today I’m focusing on Business Thank you notes. 

I am a big proponent of saying thank you and especially in sending  thank you notes.  I believe that saying thank you is one of the best business practices you can follow.  Thank you notes show that you are professional, you can be humble, they can help set you apart and land that great job you may be after, and they can help build strong, long-lasting relationships with colleagues, customers, prospects and key industry influencers; plus it is expected.

Writing a HW TY Note

When Should We Write Them In Business?

  • After an interview (no matter if it was in-person, on the phone or via Skype)
  • After you have received an endorsement or referral
  • When you have received advice or assistance in your career or on a project (I’d recommend these for those outside of my immediate firm.  Inside the firm a verbal thank you does the trick.)
  • Thanking a customer for their ongoing patronage of your business or services

The Handwritten vs. Typed vs. Email

HANDWRITTEN: This is my absolute top choice with it comes to sending a thank you note.  It shows that you care enough to take the extra time it takes to find a note card or stationary, write the appropriate appreciative sentiments, and put it in the mail.  It will set you apart from many who will quickly jot down an email, because you will be more likely to take more time to think about what you want to express before you write it down than you might in an email. To me this is a win win classy approach.

TYPED I have taken this approach at times where I felt the audience would be more receptive to a more formal approach. (e.g., financial institutions and clients often responded more favorably to the typed note or thank you.)  I’ve also used this version when I felt I needed more space to clarify a point in greater detail than might fit on a 4×6 thank you note.  (I’ll still keep it fairly brief and to the point  — I’ll address some times momentarily –, but it might be more straight-forward, and actually can look shorter if you take this approach.

EMAIL:   I may sound old-fashioned, but I do not believe in emailing a thank you note, especially after a job interview.  I know that some believe that emailing shows that you are technically savvy and aware of today’s electronic practices and in some cases, immediacy of the send is critical.  However, this method most often leaves me with the feeling that there was not a lot of thought that went into sending it, or that I couldn’t be bothered to write or type something and then put it in the mail.

If you absolutely feel that your handwriting is so poor that you message would be indistinguishable or if you’re applying to a company that expressed a dislike for all things paper – then email.  BUT… in no uncertain terms, take a casual approach to the message, (e.g., use slang, use a tone that expresses too much familiarity (if he/she is someone you haven’t known/done business with before.)  You should also never send a mass email or copy and paste the same body message to each of the recipients.  Each messages should be sent to one individual and personalized in the body copy based on the situation and discussion that took place.  They will compare your notes – I can guarantee that!

If you must send a note electronically, consider using an electronic card service like Puchbowl, or Hallmark (you can read more about these sites in my “An Electronic Thank You that even I Can Love” post.

Why Should I write One (Beyond the Above Reasons) aka What are the Potential Benefits?
Here are 3 Great Reasons:

  1. It makes a lasting impression, long after you’ve verbally said thank at the time of the interview, assistance or business interaction.
  2. It can help you build a solid business relationship with colleagues, customers and make a positive impression on prospects, that  extends long after he/she has received the note.
  3. It can set you apart from another candidate if: he/she did not send one, or you both are equally matched and you expressed a point you forgot to mention in the interview.  I can also show your attention-to-detail, especially if you hand write your note, and the other candidate sends a quick impersonal email.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thank you notes are expected by most hiring managers and recruiters.  According to a CareerBuilder.com survey…

Stats

Helpful Tips for Successful Thank You Notes

While I can’t write it for you, nor go into too much detail here in the post, I have assembled some personal tips I like to use and a few I’ve found that were widely accepted and expressed in the articles/blogs/etiquette sites I’ve come across:

  • Send within 24 hours of the event that prompts the thank you.
  • Use a nice store-bought thank you card (not greeting card ) or personal stationary. Crane & Co. and Hallmark make some great boxed cards you can and should keep on hand.
  • Add a “header” If you are typing the note – include your address at the top before the recipients and be sure include the date.
  • Always address the recipient as “Dear Mr. or Mrs. and their last name.  The exceptions, unless you’ve been given verbal approval to call them by their first name – you can never go wrong by being a little more formal here.  It’s also often OK to use a first name after “Dear” if you already know them/have worked with them for some time.
  • Refer to why you are writing to him/her – thank him/her for their time, the interview, the assistance etc.Thank you note
  • Keep the note as brief as possible, but be sure to add a comment, statistic or topic that you discussed. This can help set you apart and/or quickly remind the recipient who you are if they met several candidates over a long interview process. (e.g., you both love a trendy vacation spot, but shared a love for a lesser-known restaurant there… add it.)
  • Include a point you wanted to clarify if you think it could have been misinterpreted, or one that you wanted to expand on.  Keep it brief and better yet, bullet it if you can.  Using bullets can also quickly draw the eye of the recipient for these key points you want to ensure he/she sees.
  • Keep the tone professional, but add a little of your personality and don’t rehash everything that was discussed.
  • Thank them again for their time, assistance etc. before closing the letter.
  • Be sure to let hem know you’d like to keep in touch/see them again.  It shows you enjoyed and benefited from the time you spent together or the help/advice you received.
  • Enclose a business card, or contact information.  If you didn’t hand him/her a business before you left, you can do that now, or minimally include a way for them to contact you again.
  • Sign the note with “Sincerely”, or an “All the best”/”Best Regards” – Use something that is a little formal followed by your full name NEVER sign these with “Love.” Remember these are business notes, not personal ones.

I hope this gets you on your way to writing successful and frequent thank you notes. Remember you can never go wrong in thanking someone.  It can set you apart and can go a long way in bring you much success.

Do you use these same or similar tips?  Have you ever benefited from sending a thank you note?  Are there other instances you think require a thank you note?


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Illuminating A Time Honored Tradition

Throughout my life, I have either annually vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard or lived there full-time for a spell or two.  It’s a magical place and I often find comfort and appreciate the simpler times and traditions that still exist  – especially those I can find during the hectic and high-traffic month of August.  One such event, is the annual Illumination Night “hosted” by the Martha’s Vineyard Campground Meeting Association (MVCMA).  This is a magical night where cottages shine brightly with silk Japanese and Chinese lanterns as well as some modern-day paper ones, and 200,000 visitors stroll around the centralized Tabernacle to the tunes of the Vineyard Haven Community Band.

Illumination Night, once such a close-to-the-vest secret that you would only know of its arrival when you saw MVCMA residents hanging lanterns in preparation for the night’s festivities, now seems to be annually held on the third Wednesday of August.  It originated 145 years ago as Governor’s Day – a day where the Island marked the visit of the Governor of Massachusetts.

The history of the Martha’s Vineyard Campground Association started back in 1835 as the first Island campmeeting (aka campground) called Wesleyan Grove.  Primarily Methodist congregations from off-Island would set up and live in “society tents” that encircled an open-air tabernacle.  In the 1860s and 1870s, the tents were replaced by “permanent” wooden (and often-referred to as gingerbread) cottages.  Today, only just over 300 remain from the almost 500 of the past.

Some homes and special lanterns and paper parasols I loved this year:

Illumination Night 13 Collage

What I love and appreciate about this event is that despite the large crowds – yes, really over 200,000 are known visit on this night – there is still a sense of peace and almost a respite from the often hectic and quick pace we seem to experience today.  I love looking at the intricate designs and marvel at the lanterns that have survived sometimes 75 years (or longer) of Illumination Night festivities.  Not many of the silken lanterns, which were originally lit with candles, have survived the flames or challenging climate of the Island.

Cottage owners proudly display their treasured pieces of history and will share a bit about the background of their uniquely named cottage or their lanterns, if you only just ask. (I have also heard that residents who sell their cottages are asked to leave behind their lanterns so that the new owners can participate the following summer.  (I think it might be hard for me to leave all of mine if faced with the choice.))   One other aspect of this event that I love, is the tradition of having the oldest citizen of the campground – or one that has been honored that year – light the first lantern that lines the Tabernacle’s roof, signaling the cottages to do the same and light up their porches, roof tops and yards.

If you have a chance to view this event that can take you back to a simpler time, I’d highly recommend it.  If you’ve attended Illumination Night in the past and you feel as if its  “seen that, done that” I recommend taking  a different tack.  Instead of following the crowds around the Tabernacle, take the back lanes/paths and look at what I call the under-appreciated cottages, those that are not on the “main route.”   While everyone is focused on walking around the circle, you’ll find fewer people and often more creative displays.  (The pictures above, except for the top  two images in the right-hand column, were taken on some of the smaller, less visited paths.)

Do you have an annual event (summer or otherwise) that is meaningful to you, or encourages you to appreciate the simpler times?
Have you ever visited Illumination Night?  What did you think?  Is there a special house you always visit or a tradition you follow when you attend?  Share your story with me.

 

 

Additional facts/history about Illumination Night were obtained via the MVCMA website, the Cape Cod Online Blog and newspaper articles covering the annual event.


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Anchors Aweigh

Since launching my blog, I’ve written about ways I appreciate people and things, as well as how others show and share their appreciation.   In the spirit of mixing it up a little and stealing borrowing the collage post style I’ve admired from several of the blogs I follow, I wanted to share something I appreciate (in this case: makes me happy) and which inspires me in this “new” format.  Today I’m featuring the Anchor.

Many know the anchor as the fashion statement of this summer year- you see them on clothing, as jewelry, on cards (scroll down a little) and used as home fashions/accessories.  Despite this recent craze, I can say that I’ve long admired the anchor, especially for another reason — it is a longstanding symbol for “Hope.”  The word with this symbol has been used in both religious references and noted in secret societies’ rituals.

I personally love that you can think of the anchor as tying you to something or someone when you need encouragement and hope that it will all work out.   Plus from the fashion perspective, I love the nautical look.  I’ve been wearing/using anchors before the craze and see them as a way to add a fun, flirty touch to an outfit, or as a way to carry the beach theme into your home decor.

Here are some anchors that I’m “tied” to:

Anchor CollageClockwise from top left:
1.  This 4 inch iron anchor was a gift from my dad that he picked up for me in Northern CA – Thanks again Dad!
2.  A favorite TJ Maxx find – my Cynthia Rowley anchor shirt.  (BTW: They had the exact duplicate at my JCrew factory store/outlet for more than double the price!! (I was a true Maxinista!).
3.  A great 10+ foot anchor seen recently at the Mystic Seaport – I can’t begin to think about how large the boat was that was held steady by this big boy.
4.  An aspiration gift.  This is a wish necklace from Dogeared.  The idea is to make a wish when you put on the necklace and when the charm falls off – your wish should come true… Although I think I’d be heartbroken when the string broke and the anchor fell off!  They also call this one their “Friendship” necklace because our friends “help  us navigate the waters of life and help us get where we need to go.”  A great sentiment in itself don’t you think?
5. And finally this one was a great Chilmark Flea Market find.  Once used as a printer’s form to ink anchors on clothing and fabrics, the vendor simply removed the sponge insert and replaced it with wood to give it a second life.

What do you think about anchors?  Do you see them as a symbol of hope or simply a trendy fashion statement or household knickknack? 

What do you think about the idea that an anchor ties you to something or someone?


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Balance

I’ve often spoken about appreciating the things around us and others, but I’ve realized that sometimes I may not appreciate myself the way I should.  I am not talking about my sense of self-worth when I say this.

work-home balance

I recently completed an assignment that I wholeheartedly put my all into.  I enjoyed the work, the people and the satisfaction I felt from completing a job done well, but found that I hadn’t been appreciating myself when it came to creating a balance.  While I put in all of the time needed to do a good job, I wasn’t putting in the time to create a counter balance to relax and enjoy some of the simpler things in life, or even taking the time to work on this blog – which I thoroughly enjoy writing.

We talk about working hard and playing hard and today’s work environment/culture is that we should “always” be reachable no matter whether the work day has ended or even if we’re on vacation, but I think we need to set boundaries to create a balance.  By taking time  to refresh and renew our spirit, I believe that we can actually be even more creative and effective when we do circle back to the work world.  This isn’t saying that it’s a 50/50 split, or that it always will be equal – but more that the intent that there is more to life than work, is in practice.

Moving forward I want to find ways to take moments for myself or with others, that create a balance,  I’ve come up with quick list of ideas to appreciate the smaller things in life and to refresh my spirit — I’m sure that the list will increase as I get used to the idea of creating a balance again!

  • Read a book that is for pure enjoyment vs. career improvement or increased on-the-job knowledge.
  • Spend time with a friend slowly walking through the park on a sunny day or summer evening, simply because I enjoy their company and it’s nice out.
  • Sit for an extra half-an-hour on the beach after everyone has left for the day to savor the peace and quite and the sound of the rolling waves.
  • Try out a new recipe that looked appealing in my favorite magazine.
  • Write in my blog about some of the simple joys I’ve come across in life.

solo at sunset

Do you ever find yourself so focused on a job or task that you forget about appreciating yourself?  Are there ways that you create balance in your life?  Do you have tips to creating a strong work/life balance that you want to share?

Quick update: Found this great tool on LinkedIn to help you find ways to balance – by indicating what’s important – Had to share: http://linkd.in/131WEdS


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What Will You Do? How will you make a Difference?

No-act-of-kindness QuoteThis week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, (2/11 – 2/15). It’s a week dedicated devoted to doing unexpected things to cheer or assist people. And did you know? The concept is not as old as you may think. Credit for the idea has been attributed to Anne Herbert who scrawled, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in 1982.

While I do try to do little things for others on occasion, some on the sly, like leaving a “thank you” note for a co-worker after they have stepped away from their desk, I love that this concept has a week dedicated to celebrating it.

 

Participating is easy and if low on funds, it really doesn’t have to cost a thing

Here are some ideas:

  • Be thoughtful – Is a friend having a tough day? Make a handmade flower or card and give it to her/him.
  • Donate your time/talents – Is there a group that could benefit from your skills or elbow grease?
  • Say Thank you – (Of course a favorite of mine) From your co-worker, to your boss, to the mailman, to the plow driver who helped get you on the road after a storm/blizzard, everyone deserves a thank you at some point.
  • Send a friend a letter/card – Let them know that they were thought of today.
  • Write a thank you note to someone who has inspired you, or helped you out – (Again another favorite of mine) Think of how much of an unexpected, but pleasant a surprise this would be. Plus they’ll notice the effort you took to hand-write it.
  • Call your family, a friend or significant other and tell them that you love them.
  • Say hello and give a smile to a stranger – Your bright attitude may just turn their day around if they are having a bad day.
  • Already shoveling snow – (I know we are in the Northeast) take a moment to shovel or clear off your neighbors’ car/space.
  • Take on a chore or task that a teammate or significant other has been meaning to do but just can’t seem to find the time to do.
  • Share a list of local tips and key stores to someone who is new to your complex or neighborhood.
  • Do nice things and don’t tell anyone about it – Ironically this can seem hard. HOWEVER…the effort tends to be more powerful and you are more humble for taking this approach.

 

Again these are just some ideas, the options are endless

Using the internet you can of course find other ideas for things to do. I particularly like this list from another blogger at And Then We Saved.  Another, more notable idea was the one most recently proposed by Anne Curry after the Newtown, CT massacre. It was the “26 Acts of Kindness,” challenge that went viral on Facebook. The number 26 represented completing one act of kindness for each child and adult that was lost that day.

 

You can also find companies and organizations promoting this concept and week

You can visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation that works to inspire people to practice kindness and pass it on.  I also found an article from a mall property owner who is running a promotion to celebrate the week – perhaps there is a participating mall near you?

 

 

Every day

I don’t think that random acts of kindness should only be performed only during this one week in the year. Think of what a kinder, happier place we could have if everyone was friendlier, more gracious, more encouraging and showed their appreciation on a daily basis. Giving, seems to open up something inside of us that allows us to receive more and to give more. It creates a positive and reciprocal cycle. You’d be amazed at what you might receive simply by giving/doing nice things for others.

Why not take the first step and do something nice for your neighbor like picking up their newspaper from the curb and dropping it on their doorstep, or inserting a “good luck” note in your child’s lunch, or tell your significant other how much their recent help for you meant in a hand-written note.  You’ll probably make their day.

 

I’d love to hear what ideas you come up with this week to assist and cheer people — please know that you don’ t have to share the ones you’re planning to keep secret!  And pass this along! Be the one to start a positive ripple effect.

Uh Oh!  I need to run… my co-worker just left her desk and I want to drop off a “thank you” note!

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