5 Tips to survive the insanely busy fundraising season

By Maeve Strathy
On December 3, 2015 At 2:00 pm

Category : career, human resources, Latest posts, strategy

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It’s the busiest time of the fundraising year.

We’re leveraging the giving spirit of the holiday season and the tax benefits of the end of the calendar year, and we’ve got appeals and asks coming out the wazoo.

Sure, we’ve got the holiday break ahead of us like a carrot in front of a mule… but we don’t want to just make it there; we want to thrive!

So how do we do it?

Well, I started a new job about four months ago and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since. The learning curve is big enough in a new job as it is, but when you add into that that you started during the busiest time of the fundraising year… it makes it that much more difficult to survive and thrive.

smile2But I’m still here! And I’ve gained some learnings along the way that I think we can all apply to our work life when it’s as high-volume and high-stress as it is right now.

So here we go —

#1 – Show up every day, smiling & ready to work

When I worked in telefundraising, we used to tell the callers to smile while they spoke to donors and prospects. The person on the other side of the call may not be able to see it, but they can hear it. Cheesy, but true!

On top of that, there is scientific proof that smiling actually makes you happier. There’s a study where psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is compromised by cosmetic botox injections are happier, on average, than people who can frown.

So smile through your work! Not only will it make you feel better, but your team will see that you’re staying strong and positive when work is tough, and that goes a long way for the culture in your entire office.

#2 – Mentally prepare & protect yourself

On a related note, mentally prepare & protect yourself every day.

Don’t do this: wake up, work, go to bed, repeat. You have to use your time away from work to care for yourself. It’s not just important in and of itself, but it also allows you to work harder and smarter.

For example, don’t exercise “if you can find the time” outside of work. Make the time.

A female road runner runs down a road at dusk at Independence Pass.It’s so important to prepare ourselves in the morning for the stress of the day. For me, that means having at least 30 minutes of quiet time in the morning with my coffee, breakfast, and something to read.

It also means going for a run as often as possible.

And it also means getting to work before most of my colleagues so I can gather myself in the quiet office before the craziness begins. It’s a way of preparing a shield against the stress, and it works!

#3 – Get comfortable being uncomfortable

This has been a big challenge for me in my new job. The new things I’m learning, the higher volume of work than I’m used to, a change in my lifestyle, etc. It can make you feel really uncomfortable if you let it, but you don’t have to let it.

Accept that it’s a crazy time of year, and try to get comfortable with that. If you do that in combination with the two tips above, you’ll be OK.

#4 – Don’t spread yourself too thinly

You need to make time for yourself outside of work, but you don’t need to make time for everything!

Do you have some volunteer positions that you can maybe take a step back from at this time of year? Do it.

Can you make a rule for yourself that you only attend one weekday social event per week while work is crazy? Do it.

Don’t let work get in the way of life completely, but if you need to adjust your life a bit to make everything more manageable – do it. It’s only for this period of time, and it’s going to make a world of a difference.

575x270-panoramic_megaphone_15503#5 – Speak up!

All of this being said, there’s such a thing as too much craziness! If it gets to that point, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Sit down with a boss or a mentor, share any concerns or needs you might have, and either create some new boundaries if you need them, or just let it be an opportunity to regroup and get back to work!

So that’s it! 5 tips to survive – and thrive – the crazy, busy, and insane end-of-year fundraising season.
Good luck, and watch the dollars pour in!

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Maeve Strathy (5 blogs on 101fundraising)

Maeve Strathy is a passionate fundraising professional, focused on inspiring donors to make an impact on the causes they love through philanthropy. Her full-time work is as a Fundraising Strategist with Blakely, providing strategy for charities on integrated direct response campaigns. Previously, she developed the mid-level giving program at Wilfrid Laurier University, and built a young alumni giving program at Trinity College School. Maeve also supports the fundraising efforts of independent arts and culture organizations, namely MYOpera. In her spare time, Maeve likes to work out, watch TV and movies, read, cook, and write for her fundraising and philanthropy-focused blog, www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com.


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