The 5 Love Languages for Volunteers

Guest post by Mazarine Treyz

Show Your Volunteers You Appreciate Them with the 5 Love LanguagesWhat love language do YOU speak?

Do you wonder how to connect better with your volunteers? Do you wish you knew what would be really meaningful them?

Why not try the 5 love languages?

Have you heard about The 5 Love Languages? It’s a book by Gary Chapman.

The book’s main premise is that there are 5 languages of love (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch) that each of us speak. And our relationship struggles occur when our love language mismatches that of our partner.

So, what does this mean? It means that certain things mean more to us than others. Let’s say you love hearing how much people appreciate you, but you could take or leave gifts. Or maybe you love it when people help you with housework, but don’t really like being touched.

For me, words mean so much. Words, physical touch, quality time are all some of my favorite love languages. How about you? And what about your volunteers? Do they fall within the 5 love languages?


So, how can you apply the 5 love languages to your volunteers?

Words of Affirmation
Keep telling your volunteers how how much they mean to your organization. Tell them, “Your volunteering has helped us do these incredible things. Thank you!” or “You really got my attention when you…” or “I just love the way you…” or “I appreciate that you…”

Hint: A volunteer who likes words of affirmation may be the one giving you a testimonial on GreatNonprofits.

Quality Time
Some of us just LOVE quality time. How do you spend quality time with a volunteer? When a volunteer gets to work, have a check in with them, sitting in an out-of-the-way place. Find a moment to ask how they are doing today, and what’s going on with their world.

Other volunteers just like going out to coffee and feeling like someone is really listening to them. And thank-a-thons work too! Calling volunteers to say thank you can make them feel so good!

How does a volunteer communicate that they like quality time to you? Maybe they stop by your office just to say hi. Or they are going above and beyond to serve on committees and seem to really enjoy the time with others.

Receiving Gifts
You know some volunteers hate it when you give them little presents. They say, “Why did you waste the nonprofit’s money on this stupid mug/pen/address label/etc?” And other volunteers really like little presents. A a t-shirt with your organization’s logo, a cup of coffee, or some Hershey’s kisses can make a volunteer feel good. The more you get to know your volunteer, the more you’ll get to know their interests and how a nominal gift can align with those interests.

How can you tell if a volunteer likes gifts? That’s tricky. You might just want to ask them if they would mind a gift in a brief survey.

Acts of Service
The fact that a volunteer is giving an act of service to your nonprofit may be the first clue that this is what they value. However, don’t assume just because they’re volunteering that they value acts of service more than other things. It’s important to present the concept of the 5 love languages to them and ask them to reflect, and think about which ones mean the most to them.

How could you show a volunteer acts of service? At a fundraising event, you could help the volunteer settle into their role, and do their job alongside them for awhile. If they’re looking for a place to sit, you could help them find their table. You could also send them an article or text them a picture you think they might enjoy.

Physical Touch
Some volunteers love to come to your events and meet your participants, meet leadership volunteers, and meet you. Some volunteers love giving hugs, handshakes, and pats on the back. And you can tell these people when you meet them. So, invite them to your open house, your annual meeting, your big gala, and even to tabling events. If they love to reach out and touch your cause, help them feel this tangible connection this way.

We assume appreciation and respect are universal, and given in the ways we like best, when actually people prefer different things. Remember, the easiest way to know which love language your volunteers prefer is to simply ask them.

I hope you’ve got some ideas of how to reach your volunteers and help them stay happy in their work with you. Let me know how it goes!

Mazarine Treyz has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 10 years, and has recruited and managed volunteers for fundraising. She is the author of 5 star rated: The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media, and Get the Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide. Get in touch or follow her on Twitter: @wildwomanfund.