On occasion we like to send out a survey to you, our blog readers, to get a pulse on what you are working on or what concerns you right now.
In a recent survey, it amazed us how many responses we received that lamented about how you MGOs don’t have enough time to do all the work required of you, and how stressed out that makes you.
You talked about how there is so much pressure on you and that you are pulled in so many directions, you don’t have time to actually cultivate and steward your donors. As Richard and I were reading these responses, we could just feel the exasperation.
Perhaps we can offer some thoughts.
First of all, you can’t do it all. Let that sink in a moment. If you are going to be effective in creating meaningful relationships with donors, you have to have some sort of balance in your life. If you are constantly stressed out and you come home every day ready to pass out, you won’t be able to have healthy, productive relationships with donors.
I believe many of us have a martyr complex in the non-profit community. Think about it. The work you do directly alleviates suffering, stops pain, protects the planet, allows beauty to be brought into our lives and just plain makes the world a better place.
And as a development professional, you take all of that upon your shoulders. I get it. But you just can’t allow yourself to take on all of that and remain healthy.
As Richard always hammers home with me, “Jeff, you have to preserve self. Then you can be effective in your work and loving in your relationships.”
Can you allow yourself to believe that? Can you allow yourself to feel like you don’t have to do it all, that not everything is your responsibility? Let it go.
Then move to a place where you work toward figuring out how you can be most effective in your work, yet maintain a healthy balance between your work life and your personal life. For you, working as a major gift officer or development professional, I know the line often gets blurred. Your work and personal life are very intertwined.
In many cases your work IS your life’s mission. But if you really are going to be successful with donors, creating that balance will be essential. Here are some practical applications you can use to help you achieve that balance:

  1. Create a structure to your workday. Richard and I find that people who are really stressed out don’t have any kind of real structure to their work. They get distracted, or they take on things that are not part of their work – and it snowballs out of control. This is why we are so adamant about having a plan for your portfolio of donors. It forces you to focus on what ultimately is your job: cultivating and stewarding donors.
  2. Create boundaries. I know you may have more responsibilities than just cultivating your portfolio. If you are not working full-time as an MGO, but have other development responsibilities, you can’t cultivate 200 donors (or even the 150 max we recommend). In many cases this is the source of your stress. You have a full time job with all kinds of development responsibilities, but you’re expected to cultivate and solicit more donors than you can handle. We’re here to tell you, YOU CAN’T do this. It’s impossible. If you can only devote 25% of your time to major gift work, you can only work with 35 donors. And from that group of donors, you spend the majority of that 25% with your top 5 donors. You have to be able to create boundaries in order to maintain a healthy workload.
  3. Live in gratitude. Every day, take 20 minutes to be quiet and focus on being grateful for the work you get to do and the life you have. This is absolutely one of the most practical things you can do to calm yourself and refocus. I know I’ve written about this many times in this blog, but I do so because I know for a fact that it will help you gain awareness and help you put things into perspective. When we’re stressed out, we lose perspective. We forget the big picture. By taking that small amount of time for quiet reflection, you allow yourself to, well, be yourself or get ahold of yourself.

As you know, this is most likely one of the most stressful times of the year as a major gift fundraiser. You can allow yourself to get swept up in it and lose yourself, or you can create an environment that allows you to focus calmly on what needs to be done. This calm environment will allow you to be your best self so you can see clearly how best to relate to your donors.
Your donors need this from you.