The Importance of Having Support on the Job
Fundraising can be a tough job. There’s usually more to do than we can get done, and there’s a constant need for increased funding. Even in a prosperous year, working in fundraising isn’t for the faint-of-heart. This year, with the unsteady economy and the sense of gloom hanging in the air, it can be downright stressful.
Smart fundraisers know that they must invest in themselves so that they can continue to be effective in raising the dollars their organizations depend on. They know that they need to be continually learning and take care of themselves. Most importantly, they know they sometimes need personal support to help them reach their professional goals and handle their stress.
We all enjoy having someone who understands us. Don’t you love the opportunity to “vent” when life gets tough, especially on the job? It’s a particularly precious thing when there’s someone around at work we can talk to when we’re afraid, frustrated, angry or anxious.
Instead of taking a chance on getting lucky and stumbling across someone you can lean on, why not purposefully choose a support partner and be ready for those times you need it most?
Being proactive with a support partner can bring big benefits. You’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of and think out loud with. You’ll have someone who can help you think through the consequences of actions before you take them, thus helping you make better decisions. You’ll also have someone to celebrate the victories of overcoming personal obstacles and creating new habits.
It’s important to find someone you can trust and have confidential conversations with. Be sure to set this ground rule. Tell your support person that you’re going to call on him or her when you get frustrated or scared and need a word of encouragement. Offer to be a support person for him or her in return.
Make sure when you are getting or giving support that you are doing it in a constructive way. Don’t get into “corporate agreement” with the other person and flow into gossip or destructive, unhealthy venting. Keep your intention on personal progress, not tearing someone else down.
What should you look for in a support person? Obviously, you need someone you can talk with and have confidential conversations with. You want someone you can trust and who will keep your best interests in mind.
Here are four specific criteria to look for in a support person:
- Someone who will listen and offer constructive feedback.
- Someone who will help you identify options when you feel stuck.
- Someone who cares about you.
- Someone who will hold you accountable for the choices you make.
Where can you find a support person? There are lots of places to look. Start with friends, family and co-workers. Consider colleagues at work or in professional associations. Or think about hiring a professional coach to help you navigate the stress of fundraising in these tough times. The kind of support you want and need will help you decide on the best support person for you at this particular time.
Here are some specific benefits of various types of support relationships:
A friend or spouse can offer you a loving heart and a listening ear. This type of informal support usually happens naturally as we develop relationships with those we care about. But you may need a little more. To be purposeful, you’ll have to look for the right person who can give you what you need.
A colleague or fellow fundraiser might be a great choice for a support partner, particularly if he or she has a good understanding of your organization. Through the sharing of common experiences, you can find hope, encouragement, and commonality. You’ll be less likely to feel like the Lone Ranger and more likely to handle stress effectively.
A mentor can provide more in-depth support through his or her experience in fundraising and can help guide you in developing your skills. A mentor can be particularly helpful if he or she already has walked the path you are now on and can give you insights and encouragement based on personal experiences.
A coach can give you even deeper support by helping you make changes that you are unsure of. A good coach can help you handle the difficult issues of the day and uncover answers for yourself. A coach can “draw you out” by helping you shed old behaviors and habits, bringing out what’s already inside you.
Having support in place can help you handle the times when you feel scared or uncertain about what to do next. Your support person can give you the confidence you need to keep moving forward and raising the dollars your organization depends on you for.
Sandy Rees is a nonprofit fundraising coach, author, speaker, and trainer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via www.sandyrees.com