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 gift card for a nominal amount, a t-shirt, a bag of coffee or some Hershey’s kisses can make a volunteer feel good.

What is an appropriate gift? You might like to give a retiring board member a book relating to your cause area. Gift cards to restaurants or coffee shops seldom go amiss. And if you know a bit more about your volunteer, you might like to give them a gift card specific to their interests, like a gift card to their favorite craft shop, or to their favorite tea shop.

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.

For VolunteerMatch, #15NTC Was About Appreciation

Tessa Srebro, Adam Alley, and Marlene Feil of VolunteerMatch post for a picture at #15NTC.

VolunteerMatch staff Tessa, Adam & Marlene hanging out at #15NTC.

At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#15NTC) held last week in Austin, TX, VolunteerMatch was lucky enough to have a booth in the Science Fair.

Yes, the Exhibition Hall was called the Science Fair. #15NTC attendees know how to embrace their inner nerd-ness.

And we had a blast talking to all the nonprofit nerds who stopped by our booth. Before letting anyone walk away, however, we asked them to contribute to our Volunteer #AppreciationTree, a post-it fueled tree we were growing at our booth. We asked,

#AppreciationTree Supplies

#AppreciationTree Supplies

“If you could describe how you feel about volunteers/ volunteerism in just a few words, what would those words be?”

(I realize this is a difficult question to be tasked with on the spot, especially since volunteers are such a diverse group of people. So thanks for putting up with us!)

We got some great responses, such as “Big Hearts”, “Invaluable”, “Rockstars”, and my personal favorite, “Awesome Sauce.”

We added these responses as leaves to our #AppreciationTree. The names of stand-out volunteers became the bark. And we were fortunate enough to watch the #AppreciationTree grow:

Appreciation Tree Animation

So, how would you describe volunteerism? Tweet your thoughts to @VolunteerMatch with #AppreciationTree.

5 Ways to Motivate Your Nonprofit’s Volunteers

Guest post by Kelly Smith

Hands in the center, helping out volunteering.Volunteering has become a popular solution for people who not only have got some time on their hands, but also want to build a better community or help those who need assistance.

As a nonprofit leader, you’re probably aware that volunteers are the heart and soul of your organization – it’s their smiles and hard work that enable you to push your cause forward. That’s why it’s essential that you constantly motivate them and make them feel a part of a close community. Here are five smart ways to start motivating your nonprofit’s volunteers right now:

1. Know their reasons for volunteering.

In order to keep your volunteers engaged and motivated, you need to first understand the reasons behind their decision to volunteer. Whether they do it to feel good about themselves, acquire new skills or just to make a difference, you’re the one that needs to gather this information and apply it, creating a volunteer program that fosters long-term commitment.

2. Communicate!

This is probably the easiest and most effective way of keeping up your volunteers’ motivations. Good communication is key to managing the expectations and responsibilities of your workers, but in order for it to really work you need to be able to listen, as well.

Welcome suggestions and feedback. Show volunteers that their opinions matter – what you’ll get in return will be people willing to do their best to improve your organization.

3. Show your appreciation.

Even though their volunteering comes from a real passion and good heart, your volunteers still want to be appreciated for what they do. If their efforts are not being recognized, they’re more likely to ditch the cause and become less and less available.

How to appreciate them? Simply by saying ‘thank you!’ You could also consider giving out rewards, incentives, or organizing events that show how the success of your organization is based on the great work done by your volunteers.

4. Show them how they made a difference.

There’s no better method of keeping up the motivation of your volunteers than by letting them see the results of their hard work. Seeing a child who after months of tutoring is finally able to read a whole book out loud is a sight no volunteer will ever forget.

5. Provide social recognition.

Volunteers can have their work recognized not only internally, but externally as well. You can use social media to your advantage – for example, post a photo depicting volunteers in action on your organization’s Facebook wall. Seeing all the likes and comments will warm their hearts with joy and provide a great source of motivation.

So don’t hesitate! Start working on your motivation strategies right now – every investment in your volunteers pays back with an immeasurable passion and willingness to work for an important cause.

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers. She is interested in volunteering opportunities in Australia.

4 Minutes to Help Everyone Learn about Volunteer Appreciation

Thank You cake for Calabazas Library volunteers.

Thank You cake for Calabazas Library volunteers.

Boy, do we appreciate our volunteers. The time, passion and talent given by these generous people makes the difference when it comes to creating impact for our communities and the world. They are the best.

But how do we appreciate them? And how does the way we appreciate our volunteers compare to how other organizations show volunteer appreciation?

VolunteerMatch has partnered with, a company that enables you to send customers, prospects, volunteers, employees and survey respondents movie rental codes, to learn about volunteer appreciation practices across the nonprofit sector.

To do so, we’ve created a super quick, 4-minute survey. The results will help us all better understand volunteer appreciation at nonprofits, and will enable organizations like VolunteerMatch to provide more support and resources to help your organization! (You’ll also be entered to win 25 free movie codes for your nonprofit.)

Please contribute to this important research by taking the quick survey right now! Then stay tuned for updates from Engaging Volunteers to see the results when we publish them.

Take this 4-minute survey from VolunteerMatch and about volunteer appreciation!

Unsung Listeners: The Story of Hotline Volunteers

Guest Post by Marc Wong

Unsung Listeners - the story of hotline volunteersMeghan watches her mother finish a telephone call.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” she asks gently.

“I’m ok,” mommy sighs, “I’m ok.”

Meghan leaves the room and comes back moments later. “When I’m sad, I hold on to Mr. Brown,” she says, handing over a teddy bear to her mother.

On another occasion, Daddy is talking to Meghan about a tough decision he has to make.

“When I have to make a big choice, I ask Mr. Brown,” Meghan says.

“And what does Mr. Brown say?” asks Daddy.

“Nothing,” she says matter-of-factly. “He listens.”

Meghan’s actions give us a glimpse of what selfless, dedicated hotline volunteers do on a daily basis. Just like Meghan, volunteers do not judge. They do not advise. They do not solve problems. They do not interrogate. They do not point out your flawed thinking and actions so you can correct it. They do not tell you to look at the bright side or to be optimistic. And yes, sometimes they will just be quiet and let you speak. Volunteers honor and respect the callers’ thoughts and feelings and they offer their best with no strings attached.

When we look a little closer at Meghan’s words, we notice some other things: Despite her age, Meghan clearly knows something about sadness and making difficult choices. She even shares her life experience with her parents. Volunteers also bring their life experiences and considerable knowledge to each call. I don’t mean volunteers interrupt with their own stories the moment a caller pauses to take a breath. Volunteers are able to share by reaching into their own, sometimes painful, personal experience to understand what the caller is talking about, no more, no less.

Volunteers’ actions, like Meghan’s, are also gently supported by an unspoken sense of hope and decency. Implicit in Meghan’s words are the message that things will get better, that there is good in this world. This is not to say that volunteers pressure, or in any way impose their values or beliefs on the callers. Volunteers are not going to rush you to get “better”. They’re not even going to tell you what “better” means. Instead, they’ll be more than happy to hear what better means for YOU.

Volunteers earn their sense of hope from the knowledge and experience that their selfless work can bring relief. They don’t need to prove that there is goodness or fairness, in private or public spheres. They are satisfied knowing that the work they do can make a difference.

This, then, is the story of hotline volunteers. It is the wonderful combination of skill, knowledge and humanity offered so as to make it a little easier for others to tell their stories. A volunteer offers what is unique and precious to her as a human being so that others may talk about what is unique and precious to them.

For taking the time, having the patience, and putting their hearts into this noble work, please join me in celebrating and thanking all the volunteers!

Marc Wong is a listening expert and author of “Thank You for Listening: Gain Influence & Improve Relationships, Better Listening in 8 Steps”. Connect with him on Twitter at @8StepListen and on