An Open Letter to Fundraisers Everywhere

Avoid Fundraiser BurnoutDear Fundraiser,

Your life right now is deeply unfair.

While everyone else is getting ready for the holidays and taking time off, you and your fundraiser colleagues are:

  • Making calls to follow-up on your end-of-year solicitations
  • Closing that six-figure gift the donor has been talking about since January (or trying to!)
  • Running reports five times a day to see where you are against your goals and to determine who has not yet renewed this year
  • Working with brokers to facilitate securities transfers (my favorite are the brokers who call at noon on December 31st for the transfer information)
  • Drafting that government grant proposal that is horrifyingly due at midnight on the last day of the year
  • Making sure your website is working, the donation pages are up, and all of your emails, Facebook posts, and tweets look great
  • Trying to keep your Executive Director and Board calm while taking care of all of the above
  • Literally hundreds of additional tasks

You’re lonely. You’re stressed. You’re overworked.

In fact, you’re exhausted. But you can’t rest for a second. December is too important. You need to lean in even more to be sure every dollar that can be raised to help your clients comes through your doors.

I totally get it. I’ve been there many times.

And it’s not JUST December. If you’re reading this at some other time, we all know burnout can hit you any time of the year.

What you need right now is to get back your fundraising groove. You need to reach a place emotionally where you can really kick some ass these final few days of the year.

So if you’re feeling like you just want to crunch a candy cane and take a nap under your desk, here are my top three tips for getting a second wind and raising more money than you ever thought possible.

Here’s how to avoid fundraiser burnout and get your fundraising groove back.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Hard Work

Open a Word document, or go old school and use a piece of paper and a pen, and write down the ten things you are most proud of fundraising-wise in 2014.

The number “ten” is important.

While most people can easily name 2-3 great moments off the top of their head fundraisers tend to be a pretty self-deprecating bunch so you’ll have to dig deeper to get to ten. Trust me, you have way more than ten great fundraising moments in 2014.

Read the list over a few times, and be proud.

Tip #2: Run the Revenue Number To Date And Celebrate

Get the most current revenue number and clap for yourself. I mean it. Actually clap. Do this regardless of how the number compares to your annual goals.

Remember, raising ANY money to help people in need is a noble achievement. Without your work, people would be hungrier, sicker, more likely to be on the street or in a shelter, with fewer rights, without the proven benefits of arts and culture, with fewer opportunities for education. And on and on.

If you’re way ahead of your goals, huzzah! But even if you’re not… even if your Executive Director or Board is unhappy, know in your heart that so many people are grateful for what you have done for them. Regardless of any arbitrary goals that may have been set a year ago, you have positively impacted real people due to the money you did raise.

Acknowledge that. Celebrate that.

Tip #3: Reconnect With Your Mission

This doesn’t mean reciting your nonprofit’s elevator speech or reading over a pitch letter.

Especially when you are exhausted, you need to reconnect with your mission on a deep personal level. Remember why you chose this organization to dedicate your time and energy.

Time for a quick exercise. Complete the following sentence:

I believe in [name of your nonprofit] because _________________.

Seriously – go do this. It will ground you, invigorate you, and help you remember why you’re here.

Let me give a personal example. Before joining Joan Garry Consulting, I ran development at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s first HIV/AIDS service organization. If I were still there, here’s what my answer would be:

I believe in GMHC because every day I see directly how our work makes the lives of our clients better in countless ways.

Below, I would absolutely love it if you could post your sentence in the comments. Thousands of fundraising professionals read this. They’re in the same boat as you and would be grateful to hear why you fundraise for your organization.

Your turn.

Seth Rosen
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Seth Rosen

Senior Associate at Joan Garry Consulting
With more than a decade of experience raising funds for major nonprofits, Seth now shares his fundraising expertise with readers and clients of Joan Garry Consulting. Seth lives in New York City with his husband, daughter, and two increasingly fat cats.
Seth Rosen
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