Are You in a Fundraising Slump? Five Tricks to Get Out of One
Everyone I know has gone through a slump. By slump, I mean a period of time where things just don’t seem to go your way or there is little return for all your hard work.
It happens to the best of us. Thankfully, it doesn’t make national news, like when a baseball player goes 0-45 at the plate or a team loses 20 games in a row. But, for you personally, it can be demoralizing and despairing, and can lead you to depression.
If you’re working in fundraising, it can be extremely frustrating, and in many cases it can lead to self-doubt about your own abilities. If you are currently going through or have gone through a slump, here are some ideas to shake yourself out of it:
1. Take time to analyze what you are doing. Are you doing the right things? Is what your presenting to donors compelling? Are you thoughtfully matching up your projects and programs to the right donors? Donors do not respond well when you have not done your homework and put compelling, inspiring programs in front of them. Sometimes we can lose our way and get swayed by program or upper management to push a program on donors that you know they don’t want, but you think you have to do it. I guarantee you that will lead to hearing crickets from your donors.
2. Review each donor on your caseload and discover something new about each one. What you are doing here is getting out of old patterns and thoughts about your donors, and forcing yourself to learning something new that may unlock a specific action with a donor that you hadn’t thought of previously. Perhaps you find a new hobby or past job your donor had that you can connect with. Who knows the possibilities, but this exercise shakes things up.
3. Look for low-hanging fruit. There may be a few donors on your file that are almost ready to make a gift. Concentrate some quality time on them and get a couple of wins in the next 30 days. There is nothing better for getting out of a slump than a little win. I see this in professional baseball all the time. A hitter goes 0-27 at the plate and he’ll bunt the ball to try and get on base. "Yes, that felt good," he’s thinking, and before you know it, the guy is hitting like he did before. This happens all the time.
4. Bring a team together. Whenever I’ve been in a slump I find bringing people with different perspectives together to help me look at what I’m doing and brainstorm. I put the concerns I’m having out on the table and I ask for new ideas that I may be missing. It's really worked wonders for me. Even bringing people in who don’t know fundraising can be helpful, because you get some really interesting ideas. I think fundraisers inherently have a hard time doing this, because you think you need to have all the answers, or you are competitive and don’t want to admit you're in a slump.
5. Don’t try so hard. There have been many times when I’m going through a tough period where I just kept trying and trying, and the more I tried the worse it got. When I was able to lessen the grip a bit, I found things started to open up and work again. Sometimes doing too much gets you absolutely nowhere. Let go a little bit, give it some space and have some patience.
There you go. Five ways to help you get out of your slump and back on track again. It’s absolutely no fun being in a slump. Being in one, though, allows you to regroup, rethink and rediscover the joy of working with your donors.
And, remember, in the end—it will work out.
For anyone out there in the passionate giving community who has ideas to share regarding how to get out of slump, please do. Richard and I, along with all our readers, would love to hear from you.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.