10 Tips for Surviving Capital Campaign Stress
Yours is a high-stakes, high-stress job. Even if you’re not in the middle of a capital campaign, fundraising boosts your adrenaline. And if you are in capital campaign mode, the stress is even higher.
Here are 10 suggestions for taking care of yourself. These are things you can do to boost your energy and morale, even as you live through the everyday anxiety of fundraising.
1. Find a compatriot. You need someone you can confide in—someone who isn’t part of your organization. When a volunteer calls in sick for the tenth time or a lead donor is nasty, you’ll need someone you trust to be an outlet and sounding board for fears, frustrations and anxieties. Blowing off steam in a safe place helps. (Be sure to talk to your friend about the importance of confidentiality!)
2. Treat yourself. Counter your stress by treating yourself regularly to the special things you like. Take a yoga class, find a massage therapist, get a facial or go for a walk. I once worked with someone who found that the perspective from way up in the sky in a hot-air balloon made all the difference for her. And she did that often—really!
3. Highlight every success. Do something to celebrate every success—whether that’s ringing a bell in the development office, sparking a round of applause or having a nice celebration lunch somewhere special. It’s easier to notice failure than success. Try choreographing a little happy dance that you and your colleagues do when a gift comes in!
4. Energize the team. Team spirit doesn’t just happen—it's built. Find ways to listen to and support every member of the team. Remember their birthdays, celebrate their successes and help them let go of the stuff that goes wrong. That will encourage your team to be creative risk-takers. A vibrant team spirit will make the entire campaign more fun and effective.
5. Laugh a little. Capital campaigns feel like serious business, but even the most serious campaigns have their lighter moments. Make an effort to see the humor in the crazy and unexpected things that happen. Chuckle at the human-comedy part. In fundraising, you’ll see a lot of it. Remember, it’s healthier for you to laugh at people’s foibles and inconsistencies than it is to get irritated.
6. Switch up your schedule. Sometimes it pays to take time off during the week and work on weekends, or to change your work hours around. Try it. See if it works for you.
7. Incorporate story time. Make a regular time for people in the office to share their most recent campaign experiences or stories. Telling stories creates bonds among people, helps them see the humor in their situations and humanizes the campaign. Do it over coffee and donuts or a glass of wine toward the end of the day.
8. Heed your inner voice. Most of us have an inner voice. If yours nags you about something repeatedly, chances are you should pay attention to what it’s telling you.
9. Don’t skimp on self-care. Healthy food, regular exercise, sufficient sleep—these basics of self care are sometimes the first out the window when time gets tight. Make it a priority to take care of yourself physically. Remember, capital campaigns last for years—that’s much too long to neglect your body!
10. Never second-guess. If you get in the habit of second-guessing why this or that didn’t happen just the way you wanted it to, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Things will go wrong. If they don’t, you must be hiding out in your office. And that’s not where you need to be. So, stop second-guessing yourself. It’ll lead to blaming yourself or others for what you can no longer change. Instead of going down that dark path, jot down a couple of lessons you learned and forge ahead. Chances are tomorrow will be more successful.
What are your stress relievers? What do you do to manage the stress of your job? Please share the things that work for you in the comments box below.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed planning your capital campaign, but aren’t quite ready to dole out the money for a consultant, pre-capital campaign coaching might be just what you need to get in gear. Learn more here.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.