How does caseload and donor management feel to you? Overwhelming? Confusing? Unnecessary?

We believe, because we know it works, that a major gifts fundraiser should have a caseload of 150 qualified donors and needs to create a strategic plan and fundraising goal for every donor on their caseload.

Now, that’s easier said than done, so in this post, I’d like to walk through why planning and creating goals can be so hard for many of us.

Let’s first take a look at perfection as a goal. The need for perfection is a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations that has the opposite effect than we intend. If we don’t manage it, it can result in more stress, decreased productivity, depression, and anxiety, rather than the happiness and success we so desire.

Here are a few ways to identify if you have perfectionist tendencies from Very Well Mind:
  • “All or Nothing” thinking, where “almost perfect” seems like a failure.
  • Feeling pushed toward your goals by fear rather than excitement or a desire to succeed.
  • Setting your goals out of reach.
  • Hyper-focused on the goal only and the dread of failure that the process of growing and striving is missed.
  • Easily stuck in negative feelings when expectations are not met.
  • Anything less than perfect is failure. And since you fear failure, you put things off, procrastinate, and are immobilized.
  • You get defensive when receiving any constructive criticism.
  • Being self-critical leads to lower self-esteem and impacts your confidence.

Does this resonate? It certainly does for me.

Now that you’ve identified some of these signs, let’s consider how these might impact your everyday work and what tools you can use to overcome this to stay committed to your donor management:
  • Know your tendencies. Does perfectionism lead to procrastination, making it hard for you to get started? Do you go down rabbit holes of possibilities, get overwhelmed, and then can’t make decisions? Is it hard for you to ask for help for fear someone may think you don’t know what you are doing? Be honest with yourself. Get clear on what tends to get in your way.
  • Identify your self-talk. What does your self-talk sound like? Are you putting yourself down for not getting things done, or not doing them well enough? Are you believing that this is easy for others, but there is something wrong with you? Negative self-talk is not motivating – it’s exhausting and limits your true abilities. Identify what yours tend to be so you can make different choices and behaviors when they come up.

Ok, so now you know a bit about what you are dealing with. Interestingly, the path to changing your tendencies and beliefs is through changing your behaviors. Changing your behavior impacts what you believe, how you feel, and your self-talk. You can’t just believe your way into another way of being – you need to change your behavior.

Here are some behaviors you can practice throughout your life that will also help you in creating a disciplined system and structure for your work with donors:
  • Start small. Put a specific time on your calendar for goal setting and plans. I would recommend starting small, like “I will spend focused time on (task) for 30 minutes / an hour.” Or decide that you’ll only create goals and plans for five donors, and then stop. I find once I get moving, most of the time I get more done, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Also, make sure others know when you’re in planning mode and not to interrupt you unless it’s an emergency.
  • Set it up right. Where do you need to do this work? Does it help to be in your office with the overhead lights dimmed, jazz playing, and some aromatherapy? Or maybe you focus better in a busy coffee shop with your favorite drink? To get it rolling, make the space work in your favor.
  • Remember what this is all about. Spend a few minutes watching a story or remembering one of your program visits and connect your heart to the good work your charity is doing. Remind yourself that your donor cares about your mission and wants to make a difference just like you.
  • Create an alternative behavior to manage your perfectionist self. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a 5-minute break, stretch, walk around, and remind yourself that you only need a goal and plan, that there isn’t a perfect one, and that good is good enough. If you find yourself taking too long on each person, play a game. Set a timer for 3 minutes per donor and see how much you can get done. If you create an alternate strategy, you will be able to take the wheel of control from that perfectionist part of yourself.
  • Make it a creative and fun place of possibility. Imagine your donor smiling and walking beside you because you have been the bridge between their heart and your mission. Connect to your emotions. What would you be feeling if you have created a meaningful partnership with your donor and see them giving more with excitement? This is sacred and life-changing work you’re doing, so make sure you’re not just coming from a logical place, but also from your heart and intuition.
  • Be open to dancing with the unknown and trusting yourself. When you’re planning, tune into both the art and science of fundraising. I like the definition of art being the process and not the final product. Friends of mine who are artists tell me that no matter how successful they are, or how many years they have been painting, there is always a moment when they get stuck and fear they really don’t know what they’re doing. They have to, in that moment, trust the process and keep working to find their way through to the final product. Art is how they show up in that journey of the unknown. You too are an artist on a journey. Be confident and know there will be moments like this, know it isn’t always a clear direct path, and know it’s more about how you show up and that you keep trying. This isn’t about doing it perfectly; this is about being present.

The other day when I finally faced doing a task with my budget that I had avoided, using the 20 minutes trick, I was so proud and excited about my progress. I told my daughter about facing my fear and the progress I made. She then was inspired to face one of her fears and get a difficult task done and shared that with others. Let’s inspire each other to step into the discomfort and enter a more creative space where we make goals and plans for our donors and feel good about meeting their needs in meaningful ways.