Major Gift fundraising is tough, tough work. It’s a profession that has tremendous rewards and incredible stress. I’ve known many professional major gift fundraisers who didn’t last long in our business. They burned out. It’s demanding, it takes a ton of energy and there’s a lot of rejection built into the job.
So, what does it take to be a GREAT major gift fundraiser?
Well, there are a lot of qualities, and in fact I talked about a number of them a couple of months ago in this post and Richard referred to them in a list he assembled. All the qualities we have talked about are necessary to be successful – you can’t do without them.
But today, I want to talk about four additional things you can do everyday to help you be great at this work. These are four things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me tremendously, but I’m going to be totally honest with you…I fail at them a lot.
However, when I’m working on all four of these things every day, I feel better, I’m more centered and I’m ready to take on the day.
- Exercise—yes, going out and moving around everyday. Whether it’s walking, riding your bike or swimming (my favorite), take 30 minutes in the morning and move. Make it a routine—same time of day and try to do it everyday. I know it’s hard. Sometimes you’re on the road and it’s really tough, but try to do it. I know when I’m not exercising I just don’t feel right. Plus, we all know our job can be pretty sedentary for a large portion of the day. That’s why we have to get out and move.
- Pray/Meditate—don’t worry, I’m not getting religious on you, although if you are a person of faith that’s fine. What I am talking about here is being grounded, being clear in your head, relaxing and being thankful for all you have. Doing this every day puts you in the right place to handle all that is going to come at you each day. Again, when I don’t do this, I feel off all day.
- Be Grateful—try and take 10 minutes each day and think about all the people and situations in your life that you are grateful for…even for all the people you don’t like. Seriously, just think about them, say their name. Being grateful gives you perspective. It’s slows you down and it helps goodness toward others flow out of you.
- Be Creative! Now, I know in your work you have to be creative everyday to handle different people, come up with strategies and tactics, but I’m talking about taking a small amount of time each day to write down your ideas. Try it. It’s actually been an amazing experience for me to write down all the ideas that come to my mind everyday. You might have 1,000 ideas before one of them is actually good, but the process of writing them down is a great exercise. I have this little moleskin notebook that I try and write in everyday. Sometimes I find it really tough and other times ideas just flow out of me like a raging river. It’s actually been a good way for me to come up with blog ideas!
Now, I know what your thinking. “I can’t do this stuff everyday, who has the time?” I get it. However, you owe it to YOU to take care of yourself.
My business partner and good friend Richard Perry has this sign he put up in his office that says, “Preserve Self.” I love it because it’s a constant reminder to first take care of you. If you do that well you can be present to others in a much more meaningful way. When you don’t take care of yourself, you get off balance and lose your way.
I know, because I blow these four things a lot…and I get out of sorts. But, when I can practice these four things regularly, I’m much more available to others.
This is not a religious thing. It’s not some woo-woo stuff either. It’s a solid, practical way to relieve stress, re-charge your batteries and help you be present to other people. And as a major gift fundraiser, don’t you need that?
Thanks for this reminder, Jeff! I practise some of these points some, if not most of the time, but never concurrent. Instead of thinking of how much it will cost me to do all practices, you have helped me consider how much more I will get out of myself if I do!