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Show Some Love

Without a doubt, what the world needs today is love. Unfortunately, if you ask many staff and volunteers at nonprofits and ministries, they would not say they feel “loved” by their supervisor. And, because the word “love” can make people just a little nervous, let’s use the term appreciated.

For nonprofits and ministries, where the work is often hard (physically, mentally and emotionally), being appreciated can make all the difference in the world. Did you ever notice that when you feel appreciated, you are able to go one more step when you didn’t think you could? Have you ever noticed that you will go the extra mile for someone when you feel like they appreciate you?

Yes, feeling appreciated in the workplace is important, even if it is not often talked about.

You may be familiar with The Five Love Languages, which goes into detail about the various languages that communicate love to people. Each of us has a love language through which we like to give and receive love from others. For instance, for some people when their spouse does the dishes, they know he/she really loves them. For others, when they take the time to spend it cuddled on the couch watching a movie with their spouse, they know they are loved.

Dr. Gary Chapman, one of the authors of The Five Love Languages, has identified how the love languages can become the languages of appreciation in the workplace. These are particularly important for individuals working in nonprofit and ministry as Chapman says that the number one factor in determining job satisfaction is not pay but is instead whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do.

Briefly, the languages of appreciation are:

  • Words of Affirmation – One way to express words of affirmation is to verbally praise the person for a job well done. Another way is to focus on the positive personality traits. Additionally, positive character traits can be affirmed. Each of these can be done one-on-one, in front of others or in writing. Which form to use will depend on the individual and their personal preferences and perhaps the situation. Just be very careful to make sure your words are always sincere.
  • Quality Time – Quality time means giving someone your undivided attention. This means that you are not multi-tasking, but actually looking at the individual, hearing what they are saying and affirming their feelings. Work on not interrupting them when they are speaking. People who have this language of appreciation feel really appreciated when their supervisor takes the time to have a quality conversation with them.
  • Acts of Service – People whose language of appreciation is acts of service feel so appreciated when others jump in to help them with a project. For instance, if there is a big project and one team member has lots of tasks to complete and is maybe just a bit frazzled, he/she will feel loved when other team members jump in to help accomplish the tasks. It is most important that the attitude with which service is provided is a positive one; begrudging service does not speak appreciation.
  • Tangible Gifts – This language of appreciation can be a challenge for nonprofits and ministries who are watching every penny, but it can be done. First, give gifts to those who truly appreciate them and secondly, give a gift the person will truly appreciate (this means you really have to know the person). Thoughtless gifts miss the mark and actually send a negative message. I
  • Physical Touch – Perhaps more than any other, this language of appreciation could be viewed as taboo in the workplace; however, if done carefully, physical touch can be affirming and acceptable. The key is to know what the individual views as an affirming touch—a pat on the back, a handshake, fist pump, etc.

The next obvious question becomes, how do I know what the appreciation language is for my staff? Admittedly, its just a little awkward to ask them. Dr. Chapman and his partner, Dr. Paul White, have developed an inventory which can be used; the results will tell you the top two forms of appreciation for your staff as well as the least motivating form. While they charge for the assessment, there is a specific test for nonprofits and ministries that may be quite helpful as you are determining what will work in your organization. And, if you are not quite ready to spend money on it yet, there are lots of free resources on their site as well (

So while the world around us seems to be more challenging and crazier every day, find some ways to show your staff and volunteers that you do appreciate them.

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