I know it happens to you; it certainly happens to me. And it happens to just about everyone I know in major gift fundraising: you go through a period of time where you lack motivation and drive.
It’s strange, isn’t it? I’m not sure how it starts, but it sure takes hold of you. For me, I can sometimes go a whole week (or more) where I just can’t get it going. For others, it could be months; and some people have told me it’s taken hold of them for a couple of years!
I’m not necessarily talking about depression, although that certainly takes hold of some folks and is a serious, often misunderstood, illness. I’m talking about a lull in your own drive to get things done. Sometimes it can be a feeling that you just don’t have the motivation to carry out the mission of your organization.
Richard and I work with many, many major gift officers. We witness this “lack of motivation” or what I might call the “fundraiser blues” quite often. In my 28 years of fundraising, I’ve experienced it myself many times.
For me, it’s usually sparked by a series of things just not working right. Perhaps it’s a couple of gifts you were expecting that fall through, or a number of meetings that all of a sudden get cancelled. It’s deflating, and for me it creates a downward spiral. I take it personally, and it just feels awful.
I suspect that you may experience something similar. It’s not fun, is it? Yep, it’s those “Fundraiser Blues” that have a hold on you.
Here is what I’ve learned over the years to help me either avoid the “Blues” or help me move through them:

  1. Don’t deny that you are feeling the “blues.” I used to do this all the time – deny the feeling. I learned that the best way to go through it is to feel it deeply. Then listen to your body and figure out why you are in this place. That will give you clues on how to move through it.
  2. Have a strategic plan. I know that Richard and I say this all the time, but another advantage of having a plan is that it helps you avoid those lulls or keep going through times you feel unmotivated. When major gift fundraisers don’t have a plan for their donors, it’s easy for them to get lost and lose their motivation. A plan helps set the course of action for you. And it allows your manager to keep you on track. I see many unmotivated people wandering around because they simply do not have a plan.
  3. Create a daily to do list that is actually doable. There are times that I have a daily “to-do” list that is absolutely impossible to complete. Many times this is why you are in this lull; you have so much going on that you become paralyzed and you find you can’t do anything. To counter that, create a daily to-do list that you can actually get done. Be kind to yourself. I find that if I can complete the items on my list, I feel so much better.
  4. Seek motivation. I do this every day. There are a number of blogs and daily motivation RSS feeds that I read every day. This really helps me. There is always something that makes me think or feel something deeply. I heard once that every day something should make us shout with joy or make us cry. As a major gift fundraiser, you need that every day. I also find that going to a conference or two per year also gives me some great motivation. It may not even be a fundraising conference. In fact, I knew a couple of friends who are fundraisers and they went to a national women’s conference; they came back on fire for their work. It was something to hear them talk about it.
  5. Connect with someone. Each of us needs others to be real with us. Do you have someone who can be that way with you? Whether it’s a spouse, good friend or colleague, all of us need someone who can listen to us and speak truth to us. I know many people who are “unaware” of their actions and words. They go through life oblivious to other people’s feelings. I see people who are in their 40’s and 50’s who have gone through life without someone speaking the real truth to them, and they are emotionally stunted. Having someone who you can truly connect with will help you deal with the emotional ups and downs that major gift fundraising naturally creates.

You are going to have times where you lose your motivation and drive. That’s life. The key is to acknowledge it, understand it and figure out strategies to move through it. Not around it to avoid it, but through it. I hope these ideas can help.
If you could be vulnerable with us and tell us how you seek motivation during rough times it would be very helpful to all of the Passionate Giving community. Thanks.