More Joy, Less Crazy: Simple Strategies for Busy Fundraisers
The other day, I opened up my email and found a vulnerable and honest note from a veteran fundraiser I’ve coached over the years. This is a small excerpt from a real email:
“I hit the ground running at 6am every day and everything is so scheduled that if one thing goes sideways, the whole day goes sideways. I continually get sucked into long meetings, often back-to-back with no time to hit the restroom or sit down to eat. I am burned out. I am not as present at home as I would like to be. Something needs to change. I need alone time. I need to exercise. I need time with my kids when I’m not completely exhausted. I need time in my garden. I need space to just think.”
Can’t you relate? For a second I even thought: did I write this?
That’s why I’ve become obsessed with the question: how can fundraisers remain vibrant, enthusiastic, and joyful in the day-to-day reality of #fundraisinglife?
Why More Joy Matters
Before we explore some simple strategies for bringing more joy into your day, let’s step back to ask why cultivating more joy matters.
Joyful fundraisers ignite the joy of giving.
Engaged fundraisers engage donors.
Hopeful fundraisers inspire donors to dream.
Fundraising is not just about going out to find donors, it’s also about creating a culture that attracts donors that want be a part of what you’re doing. And joy attracts.
Fundraising is an embodied practice, not just a set of skills. It’s about who you are, as much as what you do.
More joy also brings with it some truly transformative results. Research has shown that happy people work better with others, are more creative, fix problems instead of complaining about them, have more energy, are more optimistic, are more motivated, get sick less often, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and make better decisions.
Here are some simple strategies you can experiment with to bring more joy into your day.
9 Simple Strategies to Find More Joy Today
1. Figure out what brings you joy.
Take the time to identify your long-term personal purpose — the “why” behind why you do this work. Write a personal mission statement and review it often.
2. Focus on what matters most.
Your calendar reveals what your real priorities are. Try shading all your direct fundraising meetings green on your calendar and then look at your calendar in the month view. Is there enough green on there? Ask yourself: what do I need to stop doing so I have more time to do what really matters?
3. Notice the good.
What we focus on grows. What if you started asking yourself, “What is going right today?”
4. Take care of yourself
It’s near impossible to be joyful without getting enough sleep, enough exercise, drinking enough water, and generally looking after your well-being. The most powerful tool you have to make an impact is yourself.
5. Joy-bomb your desk.
Your physical space impacts your joy. Having a plant, colorful art, photos, and silly stuff you love at your desk has been shown to make a meaningful difference to your mood.
6. Laugh with your coworkers.
It’s been found that your mood is shaped by the five people you spend the most time with. We can take our work seriously without being serious all the time. Remember: humor is the most effective weapon against stress.
7. Get outside.
Nature brings us joy and calm. It gives us perspective. Can you take any of your meetings outside? Could you make one of your meetings a walking meeting every day?
8. Slow down.
Slow down, joy might be trying to catch you. Take a minute to take a deep breath throughout the day, and see how much of a difference it makes.
9. Take time to reflect
Research has demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect.
Try reflecting on:
- What do I love about being a fundraiser?
- What advice do I need to give myself today?
- How can I show more gratitude today?
- What stories from my organization inspire me?
- What kind of leader do I want to be?
- How do I want to show up with my donors?
If you’re thinking you’ve heard all of these suggestions before, you’re probably right. But like most things, it’s in the doing — not the knowing — that matters. So often, the hardest thing for many of us to manage is ourselves.
My Hope for You
My career in fundraising has been one of my greatest teachers for becoming a better person.
What other profession do you get the daily chance to grow your capacity for empathy, curiosity, deep listening, discipline, asking for what you need, remembering the difference between what you can control and what you can’t, and expressing gratitude?
Yes, there are challenges in our profession — but could you start to see these challenges not as problems but as invitations? Invitations to become a better fundraiser – and a better person.
I want you to stay in the game. I want you to be successful. I want you to enjoy your job.
In the rush you miss the magic. And being a fundraiser is truly magic, if you let it be.
How will you choose more joy today?
Amy Varga is a beloved fundraising trainer, coach and consultant. She and her team at The Varga Group have guided over a hundred nonprofit clients to raise millions of dollars through their services in capital campaign counsel, major gifts training, leadership coaching, and board development projects.
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