We all want to deepen our relationships with our donors, to cultivate and steward them so that they fall in love with the causes we serve. We want the relationships to be strong. One of the worst ways to blow it with our donors is to treat them like ATM machines—like we are only interested in them for their dollars, only contacting them when we need them and want something. We need to be genuinely interested in our donors and to show them sincere appreciation. We need to show our donors our love.

Psychologist and best-selling author Gary Chapman has identified 5 “love languages”:  (1) words of praise, (2) acts of service, (3) quality time, (4) gift giving, and (5) physical touch.  A love language is a manner in which people communicate their love, the way that they both express and receive it. It isn’t simply the way people romance their dates and spouses, but how they engage in loving relationships with all people including family members, friends, and work colleagues.

Most people have one or two preferred love languages.  As Chapman argues, it isn’t just that there is a language that is most comfortable or familiar. For most people, their native love language is the language that they are able to “hear” and “speak.” If you attempt to communicate love to someone in a language that doesn’t make sense to them, that love can miss them altogether.

Taking a page from Chapman, fundraising professional Tammy Zonker has argued that we need to remember that our donors have a preferred love language. We need to appreciate our donors in the language they speak. In order to not miss our donors with our messages, we need to communicate with them via several different love languages.

This weekend, I attended a special event to benefit a community hospice. The organization did a good job, at the event, of speaking all five donor love languages. Some of the ways they spoke each love language included:

  1. Acts of Service: Valet parking was a wonderful start. We didn’t have to find a parking place or walk a long distance from the parking lot to the door. During lunch, there was excellent service with people bringing us food and beverages, removing empty glasses and dishes, and refilling wine glasses. People offered to give us directions through the hallways and in the silent auction area before lunch. While I didn’t see a coat check (I didn’t wear a coat), I’m sure there was one.
  2. Words of Praise or Affirmation: Event hosts thanked us for attending both when we arrived and when we departed. The printed program thanked guests (and sponsors) for contributing. From the stage, during the event, the Executive Director, the emcee, and the event chair all thanked guests for attending.
  3. Quality Time: The event experience was a lovely one. Through it, we got to spend quality time with the organization. During the lunch, a board member was seated at our table. I have no doubt that that was intentional, that the organization made sure that all 45 of its tables had someone at them to serve as a hostess. At our table, the board member was engaging. She met all of us and answered questions about the hospice. She told us why she was involved. She asked about us. I’m sure the board members at each table shared information with the fundraising staff after the event about the people at their tables.
  4. Gift Giving: When we arrived, we were given a commemorative wine globe to use at the event. We all departed the event with a goody bag. It was full of mementos including some gift certificates from some of the organization’s supporters. We could use them for free gifts on other days following the event (a great way to extend the event experience). I will also think about the event when I re-use the gift bag which was a high-quality, rope-handled shopping tote.
  5. Touch: Of course there were handshakes, high fives, and appropriate hugs, but Zonker has argued that the “touch” donors seek from causes is the “touch” of knowing that they have impact. During the lunch presentation, the hospice showed a very brief video of someone who had received their services. This not only let us know how hospice had touched her life, it also let us know how our dollars touched her life. In addition, both the event chair and the executive director told stories of impact from the event stage. Further, the board member seated at our table also shared how the organization had had meaningful impact.

The hospice did a really great job at Saturday’s event of showing donor love in all 5 love languages so that all guests—regardless of which love language they spoke—left feeling appreciated and valued.

How are you speaking your donor’s love languages at your events? Make sure you hit them all. In planning your next event, brainstorm with your event planning committee members about each of the love languages to make sure that your are showing your love in ways that are meaningful to all of your guests.  You don’t want your event attendees to come to your event and not feel your love

Photo: Bigstock.com/Chinnapong. Used with permission.

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