Learn These 5 Donor Love Languages to Better Understand Your Donors
SAN FRANCISCO—I know, building relationships with your donors can be difficult. Why are they difficult? Well, donors are people after all, and people are complex. Just take a look at your relationship with your significant other. If you’re like me and don’t have one, take a look at your dating history. Relationships can be confusing; mainly because it takes a lot of work to get to know and understand another human being—it’s science! But a good, lasting relationship is built on the foundation of understanding. And it’s no different for relationships with your donors!
At the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ International Fundraising Conference, Fundraising Transformed founder Tammy L. Zonker tells colleagues that the key to a lasting relationship is to know the five donor love languages. These languages are based on Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” which are gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.
The problem in donor retention is that 70 percent of first-time donors don’t give again. Here are the top reasons, according to Zonker:
• 54 percent said they could no longer afford it
• 36 percent said others were more deserving
• 18 percent said poor service or communication
• 16 percent said death
• 13 percent said they never received a thank you
So, what do donors want?
Zonker says, according to research, donors want to know their gift made a difference; to be thanked promptly and accurately; to feel their gifts are sincerely appreciated; to be kept informed about their interest areas related to your work; to feel special, unique and valued as an individual and/or family; and to feel confident you’ll take great care of people they introduce to you.
What’s the solution? Love.
“I know—it sounds all smooshy and flowery—but I am not kidding. Love is the solution. Love is the currency of lasting donor relationships. We have to show the love in ways that are meaningful and personal to our donors in a way that we are speaking their language,” Zonker said.
Adapted from Chapman’s original love languages, the five donor love languages are:
1. Hands-On Service
This is meaningful engagement in the mission. Several examples Zonker shared with us were Read With Me Volunteers, Urban Gardening with Youth, Adopt a Family for the Holidays and Summer Day Camp Experience.
2. Words of Affirmation
Donors want sincere acknowledgement letters and notes—51 percent want a letter that is personalized in some way. Now, what makes a great letter?
She shares the following:
• A letter that is prompt (within 72 hours of the receiving the gift).
• A letter that has the accurate correct name, spelling, grammar, gift amount and restrictions.
• A letter that includes a grateful testimonial quote.
• A three-to-one ratio using the word “you” vs. “we” in the letter.
Handwritten notes are a great way to personalize “thank you” letters. They are warm and engaging and make the donor feel special. Donors should feel loved from a “thank you” letter, and fundraisers should aim to write a “thank you” letter so moving that the donor will want to keep that letter forever—and never throw it away.
Another way to show your gratitude is to host a donor “thank-a-thon”—a way to get your board members together to make “thank you” calls to your donors.
3. Tokens of Appreciation
These are inexpensive, mission-related gifts. Some examples of these tokens are Valentine’s Day care packages, tear art, gratitude treats (baked goods), children’s books and gifts for a major donor’s pets (doggie treats).
4. Quality Time
Quality time with donor means the donor feels valued and appreciated and understands the mission in a deeper way. Some ways to spend quality time with donors are face-to-face visits, CEO and board member visits, gratitude reception, house parties hosted by key donors, mission tours, telling impact stories, insider information and exclusive impact events.
5. Proof of Impact
This is storytelling and outcome sharing—exclusive insider experiences, impact reports, the brand’s story, etc.
With all this said, it’s time to create a donor-giving plan! Speaking donor love languages makes a difference.
Nhu Te is senior content manager at Fundraise Up, the AI-powered online donation platform for enterprise nonprofits. In her work, she focuses on helping nonprofits create more impact through personalized donor relations, digital fundraising and thoughtful use of technology.