I won’t deny it. I have an awesome family. The best.
There are two Love family-isms that changed my life. They were such great lessons – and taught to me with such love and respect that I they have become guiding principles in my life. And, like all fundamental truths about feelings and emotions, I’ve realized that they are also transferrable lessons to our work as Agents of Good.
Love is a verb.
I’m pretty sure the Godfather of Good (my dad, David) hit me with this one when I was…how do I say this delicately…navigating the waters of teenage love. My parents told me (but more importantly they showed me by example) that love is not something you just say. And if you just say it and act like a jackass, then you’re still a jackass. Love is active.
Charities are almost as bad at learning this as teenagers. We say we love our donors, but do we show it? When we say ‘thank you’, do we mean it? I got a ‘thank you’ letter once that didn’t say the words ‘thank you’. It said we received your gift of $x and we are doing this and that and we are awesome, and here’s an envelope so you can give again.
Not love. Jackassery.
Here are 3 things you can do right now to show that love is a verb at your charity:
- Pick up your phone and call a volunteer or donor who has done something remarkable. Don’t script it. Don’t overthink it. Just phone and say you were thinking about what they had done, and were moved to reach out and just express your thanks and gratitude. Ask them how they are. And listen to what they say.
- Find a photo that captures a moment of magic in your organization. Something joyful and uplifting. Take it to a photo store – no, don’t photocopy it or print it on your crappy office printer. Get a real photograph and make real copies of it. Send it to donors or volunteers who made it happen and write a note of thanks on the back.
- Destroy your current thank you letter. Just do it. Write something new.
Beware of Non-Versations.
It was my aunt who gave me this advice when I had newborn baby Mason (now 7). She looked me in the eyes and said, “it is so easy to spend the only future you can see talking to your husband about poop, breastmilk, naps and developmental stages. And even worse, these ‘conversations’ happen over days and weeks and you’re not really having a ‘conversation’, you’re updating each other on past one-way statements. These are ‘non-versations’. They are deadly.”
Of course, as engaged parents we have to talk about the details of our baby’s (toddler, preschooler, child, kid, teen) life. But we also have to talk about how we feel, what we think, what makes us rage and why we want to convince our partners to watch The Walking Dead with us.
Conversations are about listening, remembering, reflecting and sharing.
Are you having non-versations with your donors? Are you broadcasting (what you think are) interesting statements about your organization without listening, without stitching things together, without really thinking about it?
Here’s an easy (but dangerous) test. Pick up your latest newsletter. Go on. The “winter edition” that you send out before you ask for the year-end gift. It is conversational? Or non-versational? Is it me-speak, or is it love-speak?