Work/Life Balance: You Can’t Do it All
On occasion we like to send out a survey to our blog readers to get a pulse of what you are working on or what is concerning you.
In a recent survey we sent out, it was amazing how many responses we received that lamented on how you don’t have enough time to do all the work required of you and how stressed out that makes you.
You talked about how there is so much pressure on you and you are pulled in so many directions that you don’t have time to actually cultivate and steward your donors. As Richard and I were reading these responses, we could just feel the exasperation.
Perhaps we can offer some thoughts.
First of all, you can’t do it all. Let that sink in a moment. If you are going to be effective in creating meaningful relationships with donors, you have to have some sort of balance in your life. If you are constantly stressed out and you come home everyday ready to pass out, you won’t be able to have healthy, productive relationships with donors.
I believe we have somewhat of a martyr complex in the nonprofit community. Think about it. The work you do directly alleviates suffering, stops pain, protects the planet, allows beauty to be brought into our lives and just plain makes the world a better place.
And, as a development professional, you take all of that upon your shoulders. I get it. But you just can’t allow yourself to take that all on and remain healthy.
As Richard always hammers home with me, “Jeff, you have to preserve self. Then you can be effective in your work and loving in your relationships.”
Can you allow yourself to believe that? Can you allow yourself to feel like you don’t have to do it all, nor that it is all your responsibility? Let it go.
Then move to a place where you work toward figuring out how you can be most effective in your work, yet maintain a healthy balance of not only your work life, but your personal life as well. For you, working as a major-gift officer (MGO) or development professional, I know this often gets blurred. You work and personal life are very intertwined.
In many cases your work is your life’s mission. But if you really are going to be successful with donors, creating that balance will be essential. Here are some practical applications you can use to help you achieve that balance:
1. Create a structure to your workday. Richard and I find that people who are really stressed out don’t have any kind of real structure to their work. They get distracted or they take on things that are not part of their work, and it snowballs out of control. This is why we are so adamant about having a plan for your portfolio of donors. It forces you to focus on what ultimately is your job—cultivating and stewarding donors.
2. Create boundaries. I know you may have more responsibilities than just cultivating your portfolio. If you are not working full time as a MGO, but have other development responsibilities, you can’t cultivate 200 donors. In many cases, this is the source of your stress. You have a full time job with all kinds of development responsibilities, but you’re expected to cultivate and solicit more donors than you can handle. We’re here to tell you, you can’t do this. It’s impossible. If you can only devote 25 percent of your time to major-gift work, you can only work with 35 donors. And from that group of donors, you spend the majority of that 25 percent with five donors. You have to be able to create boundaries in order to maintain a healthy workload.
3. Live in gratitude. Take 20 minutes every day in a quiet environment to focus on being grateful for the work you get to do and the life you have. This is absolutely one of the most practical things you can do to calm yourself and refocus. I know I’ve written about this many times in this blog, but I do so because I know for a fact that it will help you gain awareness and help you put things into perspective. When we’re stressed out, we lose perspective. We forget the big picture. By taking that small amount of time for quiet reflection you allow yourself to, well, be yourself or get a hold of yourself.
As you know, this is most likely one of the most stressful times of the year as a major-gift fundraiser. You can allow yourself to get swept up in it and lose yourself or you can create an environment that allows you to calmly focus on what needs to be done. This calm environment will allow you to be your best self, so you can see clearly how to best relate to your donors.
Your donors need this 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.