What to do when you’re having one of ‘those’ days

June 9, 2016

Burnout…It happens to the best of us.

Young woman frustrated and stressed at work

You start out filled with passion, possibilities, and hope.

You’ve brought in 127 new monthly donors through your spring monthly giving mailing, and landed a grant from the very foundation that declined your organization last year. Your board members have (finally) agreed to start making thank you calls.

And then, you hit a rough patch. You just lost your best board member (she’s moving across the country), the donor you’re trying to set up a meeting with seems to be avoiding your calls, and then the day’s mail brings a declination letter from the foundation that has funded you for the past three years (they’re headed in a “new direction”).

Overnight, it seems, everything that was going so great has shifted to…crap. The smooth sailing has come to an abrupt halt. You feel a loss of control. And hope.

That’s the way of the world, and that’s the way of the life of a fundraiser. When those bumps in the road slow you down, it can be easy to lose your motivation and even stop paying attention. It can be easy to lose your light, and lose your way.

But you need constants in your life to guide you along, even during the rough patches. Think… How can you practice enthusiasm on a daily basis? How can you remember that you’re literally changing the world when your daily reality consists of dealing with a database created in excel, or spending a week putting together a grant proposal only to learn that the previous development director neglected to respond to two requests for a report on a grant from 2015?

It comes down to passion. Because passion is the best habit a fundraiser can have. How do you create a habit? You’ll need to practice it every day. It’ll make all the difference in the world. So schedule some enthusiasm time, pull up a chair, and try these five tips…

  1. Start with gratitude.
    I still remember the day I began making daily gratitude calls back in 2005 – and the insights they brought to my work. Are you making gratitude a habit? When was the last time you picked up the phone and called a donor?
  2. Revisit your big ‘why.’
    Be sure to schedule at least one day a month to spend “in the field” When I worked at a grant-making foundation, one of the biggest highlights was always the opportunity to attend a site visit – to actually see a program that we were funding (or planning to fund) in action. Likewise as development director I’ve always made it a point to schedule time to spend with the individuals actually doing the important work of the organization. It’s energizing and it puts an entirely new perspective on your work (Take pictures and shoot videos.)
  3. Connect and listen.
    Take a board member out to coffee. We have a real tendency to think of our board as an entity. It’s amazing what you’ll learn when you schedule some time to sit down with your board members one-on-one. Find out what made them get involved with your organization – and what their view of success is.
  4. Reward loyalty.
    Query your database for – no not for the usual *top donor* listing – but for your twenty most loyal donors. Put together a gratitude pack to let them know how much their support means – and follow up with a call and meeting.
  5. Step outside of your comfort level.
    How? The nonprofit world can be an incredibly insular one. Instead of relegating your training dollars solely to *fundraising* courses, take a motivational workshop, or an online marketing course. Instead of the latest Wiley or Emerson & Church book, pick up a great read like Hug Your Customers, or Give and Take.

Those are my tips. How do you maintain your enthusiasm on a daily basis?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gideon June 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Powerful tips indeed! well done Pamela, may the almighty God bless you…


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