4 Unconventional Ways to be a Successful Major-Gifts Fundraiser
Major-gifts fundraising is tough, tough work. It's a profession that has tremendous awards and incredible stress. I've known many professional major-gifts fundraisers who didn't last long in our business. They burned out. It's demanding, it takes a ton of energy and there's a lot of rejection built into the job.
So, what does it take to be a great major-gifts fundraiser?
Well, there are a lot of qualities like being curious, smart, aggressive, persistent, patient and relational. All these qualities are necessary to be successful — you can't do without them.
But today, I want to talk about four additional things you can do every day to help you be great at this work. These are four things I've learned over the years that help me tremendously, but I'm going to be totally honest with you … I fail at it a lot.
However, when I'm working on all four of these things every day, I feel better, I'm more centered and I'm ready to take on the day.
- Exercise. Yes, going out and moving around every day. Whether it's walking, riding your bike or swimming (my favorite), take 30 minutes in the morning and move. Make it a routine — same time of day and try to do it every day. I know it's hard. Sometimes you're on the road and it's really tough, but try to do it. I know when I'm not exercising I just don't feel right. Plus, we all know our job can be pretty sedentary for a large portion of the day. That's why we have to get out and move.
- Pray/meditate. Don't worry, I'm not getting religious on you. Although if you are a person of faith, that's fine. What I am talking about here is being grounded, being clear in your head, relaxing and being thankful for all you have. Doing this every day puts you in the right place to handle all that is going to come at you that day. Again, when I don't do this, I feel off all day.
- Be grateful. Try and take 10 minutes each day and think about all the people and situations in your life that you are grateful for … even for all the people you don't like. Seriously, just think about them, say their name. Being grateful gives us perspective. It's slows you down and it helps goodness toward others flow out of you.
- Be creative. Now, I know in your work you have to be creative every day to handle different people, come up with strategies and tactics. But I'm talking about taking a small amount of time each day to write down your ideas. Try it. It's actually been an amazing experience for me to write down all the ideas that come out of me everyday. You might have 1,000 ideas before one of them is actually good, but the process of writing them down is a great exercise. I have this little moleskin notebook that I try and write in everyday. Sometimes I find it really tough, and other times ideas are flowing out of me like a raging river. It's actually been a good way for me to come up with blog ideas!
Now, I know what your thinking. "I can't do this stuff everyday. Who has the time?" I get it. However, you owe it to you to take care of yourself.
My business partner and good friend, Richard Perry, has this sign he put up in his office that says, "Preserve Self." I love it because it's a constant reminder to first take care of you. If you do that well you can be present to others in a much more meaningful way. When you don't take care of yourself, you get off balance and lose your way.
I know, because I blow these four things a lot … and I get out of sorts. But when I can practice these four things every day, I'm much more available to others.
This is not a religious thing. It's not some woo-woo stuff either. It's a solid, practical way to relieve stress, re-charge your batteries and help you be present to other people. And as a major-gifts fundraiser, don't you need that?
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.