OK, stop for a moment.
How’s it going with you today? Are you feeling happy, fulfilled – on top of your world? Are things clicking for you in a manner that has you getting up in the morning and saying, “Yes! What a great day! I can’t believe I have the life I have!”
Do you feel supported and valued? Do others outside of yourself at work really care about you? Are they interested in your work and how you are doing?
Perhaps you answered YES to all of these questions. And, if so, things ARE looking pretty good for you. And if they are, is it just today that is good or has your whole week/month/year been good as well?
Since you are reading this by yourself and no one will know how you answer, you can be really honest in your evaluation. And that’s good. Because very few people can actually admit that things are not going as well as they like. The reason is simple. If they admitted it, they would have to do something about it; they would have to let someone else know that their world is not as rosy as they are projecting it to be. They might feel some shame about that gap between their private reality and how they want to be perceived by co-workers, friends and loved ones.
This whole dynamic is interesting to me. It’s an expected convention of modern day life to ask, “How are you doing?” to someone and, if asked the same question, for us to reply, “Doing great, couldn’t be better!”
Recently, when I have been asked, “How are you doing?”, I have been trying a different approach, with friends and also complete strangers. I answer honestly. And my answers have ranged from, “Doing great, couldn’t be better!” to “I’m really not doing well at all,” depending on what the truth is at the moment. Somehow, telling it like it is takes the energy out of the beast.
It’s this honest reply that catches people off guard and makes them really uncomfortable. Very few people, when hearing “I’m not doing well at all,” will say “Oh, I’m sorry. How come?” Instead, it will be, “Sorry to hear about that,” and the subject is quickly changed.
I recently met a sales guy at an event. He must have had a pound of sugar in him or something. Everything was GREAT! What a day! My goodness, the level of energy was so high I could have lit a small city with it. There were aggressive handshakes, slaps on the back, head thrown back with raucous laughter, optimistic and LARGE language. Whew! What an incredible world this man lived in!
Then, later that evening, I saw him in the bar alone having a drink. He was quiet and alone and I could tell he was now in his REAL world. I felt sad. I felt sad not because he was alone and quiet. I felt sad not because he was reflective and possibly sad himself. I felt sad because he did not know it was OK to be that way.
And that is the core message I want to communicate in this post. For you as a MGO, or for you as a Development Director or manager of the major gifts program, one of the Boring Indispensables of Major Gifts is to go solo and be alone. And if you can grow to be comfortable with that reality, I believe it will help make your work experience better.
Look at it this way. If every one of your days was filled with the arrival of large gifts, happy donors, team members who love everything you do and a manager who thinks you walk on water, you would have a pretty happy life, wouldn’t you?
Unfortunately, most days are not like that. And, as I have pointed out in this series, most of your professional (and likely your personal) life is just not going to be that way.
The truth is, life for ALL people has its difficult times. We just don’t see it and we have bought into the fake reality we see on TV, movies and online that normal life is constant euphoria. It is just not true.
And the thing about the life of a MGO is that there are long hours alone. There are long hours alone preparing to connect with a donor. There are frustrating times on the phone trying to connect with donors. There are long hours driving or flying alone to meet with donors and then getting rejected or lectured by them. And, there are also long and solitary hours back in the office where, at times, you wonder if it really all does matter. It’s tough. I know.
But here’s the good news:
- We are all in the same boat. So, don’t think for a moment that someone else fundamentally has it better. He or she may have different circumstances, but believe me, life is not all rosy for anyone.
- You matter. You are a good person. You have valuable skills and a good heart that truly cares about others. You are responsible and you are on a mission to do a good job. You matter.
- Your work matters. You are doing some of the most important work on the planet. You are connecting people who have resources to people who need those resources. It really doesn’t get better than this! Really. Consider this: without your efforts, many hundreds, possibly thousands of people would not be helped. Stop and think about this. This is really good!
- Others are better off because of you. The donors are better off because their world has been enriched because you came into their lives and made a difference for them. The organization you work for is better because of you. Without your good contribution they would not be where they are today. The clients and causes your organization serves are better because of you. A child is less hungry, a mother’s life has been saved, we are closer to finding the solution to a dreaded disease, an injustice has been made right, the earth has been protected, etc. etc. Goodness, this is good!
- You are changing the world. This is actually the truth. You ARE changing the world. That’s why Jeff and I just love this work. We are making a difference!
So, with all of this good news, are you going to let the circumstances of life get you down? Or are you going to just embrace the fact that life has its difficulties, that major gifts work is often a solo job, and that managers and team members might not always appreciate you as you need them to?
The fact is that, on the whole, we all are doing quite well. And I choose, and I suggest you choose, to accept the fact that this is true. Further, I suggest that you embrace the fact that one aspect of your life as a major gift person is that you are working alone and there will be tough and lonely times. That is how it is. I find that this reality can be offset by constantly focusing on the five “good news” points I have listed above. It really helps me when I am down.
As I come to the end of this series on the Boring Indispensables of Major Gifts I hope you will agree with me that each of the topics we have covered in this series is just a normal part of doing this work. When things start to get you down, stand up and dust off, grab yourself by the shirt or blouse and say, “That’s just part of the job.” and turn your focus toward all the good that is happening because of you.
THAT is what really matters!
- Six Indispensables #1: Job Description
- Six Indispensables #2: Valuing Administrative Support
- Six Indispensables #3: The Grueling Day to Day
- Six Indispensables #4: Having to Meet Expectations
- Six Indispensables #5: Pursuing Management Values
- Six Indispensables #6: Having to Go Solo and Feeling Alone
Another uplifting post, Richard, thank you!
This post made my day. I feel such companionship with you. It’s the day-in day-out “chop wood carry water” that is the foundation of success, not just in major gifts, but across the board. Re-posting now.
Thanks, Judith. Your comments lift my spirits. Thank you!