7 Ways to Avoid Fundraising Burnout | Beth's Blog

7 Ways to Avoid Fundraising Burnout

Fundraising, Happy Healthy Nonprofit

Flickr Photo by Sam Livingston

Note from Beth:   This week I’ve been in Finland at the invitation of the US Embassy to do trainings.  On August 14th, I’m doing a FREE webinar with Soapbox Engage on how to raise more money and not burnout.   So, to avoid my own burnout, please enjoy this guest post by Julie Fanning.

7 Ways to Avoid Fundraising Burnout

With fundraising, especially in the non-profit sector, there’s always more work than there is time. From courting potential donors to hours of grant writing, there are very few times a fundraiser’s job feels done.  The amount of responsibilities mixed with our desire to help others and do a great job is a recipe for burnout.  It is possible to avoid burnout by following some of these tips.

1) Take Time Off

Take your time off!  Nothing helps rejuvenate us like having time away from work. This may almost seem like a foreign concept for the non-profit world, but trust me, it’s possible! The best, and most logical, times to take breaks are after fundraising events. You worked hard to plan that gala, festival, luncheon, etc. You went to every corner of the earth to recruit donors, vendors, sponsors, volunteers, attendees, etc. so reward yourself with a nice break.

While it may be tempting to get right back on the horse – don’t. You are usually provided with vacation time.  Use these days.  Non-profit fundraisers are notorious for working on their days off.  One man I supervise planned on taking his laptop on his honeymoon. Just don’t do that. You may justify it by coming up with excuses like that you are only working for a few minutes, or that the organization really needs your help.  Or maybe it’s that if you take time off all the work is just waiting for you when you come back and it will be overwhelming.  Stop the excuses.  Take your time off.  The world and your employer will survive without you for a bit.

2) #boringselfcare

There is a recent hashtag out there all about boring self-care.  These are the things we do that aren’t fun or exciting.  It’s the boring things that are important to our well-being.  This means that you pick up the medications you need from the pharmacy, go to the dentist, clean your bathroom, do your laundry, pay your bills.

We are creatures of habit, and it’s been proven that those who do things like make their beds each day, tend to be more mentally resilient.  It’s the little things, the necessary things, the routine things that we need to make time for.  When a person is busy, it is easy to let everyday tasks fall to the wayside.  Carve out time for the boring self-care.

3) Refreshing Self Care

Not all self-care is boring.  Don’t do a disservice to yourself by not having moments of indulgence.  Get a massage, go on that hike, read that non-work related book, watch too much Netflix, get a pedicure, do whatever your heart desires.  Moments of indulgence can go a long way to helping avoid burnout.

4) Don’t isolate – be social

At the end of a long day of meetings and phone conferences, sometimes the last thing we want to do is talk to more people.   We deal with people all day, so wanting down time is normal.   It is easy to not pick up the phone when your friend calls and to say no to a night out.  Honor your need for alone time, but don’t isolate.  Don’t let all the fun social activities just become tasks you want to avoid.   Find a balance between being alone and socializing. We thrive on connections and having a support system, and that alone can help stave off burnout.

5)  Get Support from Your Boss or Peers

 You have a supervisor for a reason.  When you are stressed or overworked or feel like you’re out of ideas – talk to them.  Hopefully, your supervisor has lived through similar experiences and can offer advice and validation to help you. If you don’t have a supervisor, or have one you struggle with, find a mentor by consulting with someone who has more fundraising experience than you and is therefore more likely to have helpful tips.

6)  Take a Field Trip or Learning Day

Burnout happens for fundraisers when you get removed from the actual mission and programs that you are raising money to support.    If you are too focused on the campaign logistics and stressed about meeting goals,  take some time for a field trip to talk with people who have benefited from your organization’s programs.  You will feel inspired  and re-energized.

Taking seminars or attending workshops fundraising topics or professional skillscan be a real boost to motivation.  When you get caught up in day-to-day drudgery, it can cause you to forget what you love about your work.  Find a training that sparks your interest.  When you learn about a topic you love, it makes your job more welcoming.

7) Celebrate your successes

Every day in a non-profit there are big and little successes.  Don’t forget to recognize and celebrate your successes and accomplishments.  There are so many in each day – someone calling you to thank the organization (or you personally) for what they do, offering to volunteer, realizing that your networking is paying off when you’re connected to a new potential donor through a mutual contact, and, of course, securing new donors and sponsors. Remember that you are helping your organization keep its doors open one more day than before, allowing them to continue to serve their community.

You know you went through all of that schooling and hard work to become a non-profit fundraiser for a reason. Burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable. As long as you take a little time to do even a few of these things, you’ll have no trouble remembering why you love non-profit fundraising.

Julie Fanning is a licensed clinical social worker (MSW, LCSW), and she also gives advice to those pursuing a degree or career in social work over at MSW.

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