Burn out.
I’m not sure if there is something in the water, but over the last week or so I’ve received five emails from MGOs asking how they can deal with the amount of stress their job carries. So I’ve decided I’ll list a number of ways you can help reduce your work stress and avoid burnout.
This is important to Richard and me because we want you to be doing this work for a long time. Nothing is worse for an organization or a donor than to have their MGO move on because they are too stressed out or unhappy with their work situation.
To be sure, there are many things that you cannot control in your work as an MGO. One of your best donors makes a bad business decision, and that $1MM pledge over the next three years is now cancelled. Your CEO, whom everyone loves, decides to retire; donors are now skeptical of supporting your organization. The list goes on and on.
The fact is, the first way to prevent burnout is to realize you can’t control everything. All you can control is yourself. That’s probably the most important thing to understand and accept right away.
Richard and I have said this before, but you have the hardest job we can think of in the non-profit space. In many ways, you have to be everything to everybody. You have to be relational with people, yet detail-oriented and focused. You have to know how to talk to donors, and you also have to know everything about your programs. You have to follow your daily to-do list, yet you also have to think long-term and big-picture… Whew! All that is not easy.
However, if you can achieve that right amount of balance, being an MGO is also the most rewarding of professions. It’s amazing. Being able to help people give away their money so they can help change the world is simply incredible… I would even say mystical.
So to help you stay in that “mystical” place for the majority of your time as an MGO, here are some ways to reduce your stress and lower your risk of burning out. Please take these to heart – the world needs you in this profession.

  1. Allow yourself to be grateful every day for the work you get to do.
  2. Start your workday every day by writing thank you notes to three of your donors.
  3. Start your day by exercising— yes, every day.
  4. Be mindful, and take 20 minutes to sit in quiet.
  5. Be in touch with your organization’s mission, and immerse yourself in your programs that change the world at least once a month.
  6. Make sure you have a strategic plan for every donor, so that when you come into the office in the morning you know exactly what you have to do.
  7. Take all of your vacation time.
  8. Visualize your donors and think good thoughts.
  9. Take one personal day off every quarter and go on a personal retreat.
  10. Prioritize your work at the beginning of every week.
  11. Allow yourself to slow down when you are feeling rushed, and ask yourself why you are rushing.
  12. Understand that you are not a savior… not even close.
  13. Understand that you are valued… more than you know.
  14. Once a year, remind yourself why you are doing the work you’re doing by writing it out on a piece of paper. Then go back and read what you wrote the previous year.
  15. Give your money to a charity.
  16. Give your time to a charity.
  17. Mentor someone in your profession.
  18. Have a confidant.
  19. Sleep a lot.
  20. Eat healthy.
  21. Go for walks… even in the middle of the day, to clear your head.
  22. Have honest and open conversations with your boss and your colleagues.
  23. Understand that you are not always right.
  24. Express empathy and compassion for others.
  25. Drink water frequently.
  26. Love others.
  27. Love yourself.
  28. Cry often.
  29. Laugh more.