A Donor Handshake or a Hug?

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (Luke 7:37-38).

Simon, one of the Pharisees, invited Jesus to his home for dinner. A sinful woman learned that Jesus was there and came to worship him. Overwhelmed by his presence, she began to cry as she poured an expensive bottle of perfume on his feet and wiped them with her hair. Simon was appalled at her display of love for Jesus, and that Jesus would allow her to touch him. Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts and taught a parable about two people who owed money they couldn’t repay. One owed a lot, the second owed a little, but the moneylender graciously forgave both debts.

Jesus turned the question toward Simon, “Who loved the moneylender more?” Simon got the point. Those who have been forgiven much, love much; those who have been forgiven little, love little. Simon had not offered to wash his feet, but the woman washed his feet with her tears. Donors who have been greatly impacted by your ministry tend to respond generously. How do you recognize how much your donors love your mission? Let’s apply Gary Chapman’s five love languages to donor relationships.

Words of Affirmation

Kevin, the executive director, was under fire for a biblical stand his ministry took. When the controversy hit the media, Jeff, his key major donor immediately texted to encourage Kevin. Texts turned to phone calls and then to meetings. Jeff ultimately backed up his words with a substantial gift.

Quality Time

We strive to spend quality time with our donors. One indicator that your donors value your friendship is when they offer to spend quality time with you.

Acts of Service

The contrast between Simon and this woman was stark. She loved Jesus and wanted to serve him in humility. When donors volunteer to serve in meaningful ways, they love your ministry.

Receiving Gifts

This woman poured out an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus’ feet. Some would see it as a waste, she saw it as worship. Jesus taught, “Where your treasure is, there is where your heart is also” (Matthew 6:21). When people love your ministry, they give liberally. The opposite is also true.

Physical Touch

Simon didn’t offer a servant to wash Jesus’ feet, but this woman cried on them, wiped his feet with her hair, and kissed them. It’s the glaring difference between a donor handshake and a hug. We desire our major donors to embrace our vision and mission, but some just want to hold us at arm’s length.

Response: Father, please help me love my major donors with sincerity. Help me discern when they are ready for a significant ask.

Think About This: Everyone’s love language is different. If you give gifts to a donor whose love language is words of affirmation, you are not connecting to their heart. Know your major donors intimately so that you can speak his or her love language.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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