What is the toughest job in the world? 

…Negotiating with a toddler?

…Managing a board of directors?

…Running a nonprofit?

…Asking people for money?

…Being a teacher, paramedic or police officer?

Look, they’re all hard. I can personally vouch for the first four. Starting a nonprofit, running a nonprofit or working for a nonprofit requires an endless supply of passion, enthusiasm, patience, and confidence. 

Do you ever chuckle when someone asks what you do and when they find out you work for a charity they say “Oh, that’s cute!” 

How do you stay motivated and sane? 

I’m swooping in with my superhero cape to help you. Ready start the year off with MORE SELF LOVE, my fundraising friends? 

Here are six tips (and truths) to help you survive and thrive:

1. Practice more self-care. 

The nonprofit world is like a breeding ground for martyrdom. Emotional decision making. Dysfunctional leadership. Long hours. Low pay. Scarce resources. Doing more with less. We have way too many martyrs in our sector. We can’t afford to have you be one of them!  If you are not taking care of yourself it’s only going to feel more overwhelming. The sad truth is if you don’t take care of yourself who else will? Take your pulse right now. What do you need to maintain your physical and mental health? Check out my friend Beth Kanter’s new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit and use her self-care plan to start implementing self-care behaviors to reduce your overwhelm.

2. You will never make all the people happy all the time. That’s okay.

Once upon a time I suggested a powerful story and image for a fundraiser in my Makeover My Fundraising class to use in her end of year appeal. She said she tried that last year, but it created such a commotion they vowed to never do it again. I probed deeper. Someone had complained about the image in their appeal. They ranted so loudly and voraciously it scared everyone off from using images of people in need. 

Was the person a donor? No. 

Did the appeal perform well? Yes. 

Has this ever happened to you? I hope not but since it might someday, I’m here with reinforcements. Feel free to print this out and put it on your desk!

Fact: You will never make all the people happy all of the time. Accept this. 

Fact: One person’s personal preferences should not dictate your fundraising strategy. It does not matter if that person is your Executive Director, Board Chair, a donor, a volunteer, or (as in her case) someone with no connection except that they’re on your list and like to vent from time to time.   

You are not here to play small. (Neither am I. I get nasty zingers from time to time. You know what? I may be too much for some people. That’s okay. Those aren’t my people.)

Your mission is not to ‘offend as few people as possible.’

You have a big mission and people whose lives and well-being depend on your services. Get out there and give it all you’ve got. 

Are you being manipulative to use emotion in your fundraising? No. You are being smart, my friend. It is in fact the one thing, the only thing that ever works.

3. Who you are is good enough.

Who you are is PRETTY AMAZING (if I do say so myself). I mean, look at you! Dedicating your professional life to make the world a better place? Look around. Not everyone is so noble. You may be sacrificing other rewards, such as compensation or perks, to do it. You are awesome and who you are is good enough. So please comparing yourself to others. Stop telling yourself that other fundraisers have something you don’t. Have you ever thought to yourself, “If only…we were an animal care organization and we had cute puppies or kittens fundraising would be so much easier.”  Or “If only…we did direct service we’d raise more money.” Look, everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the street. You know what? It’s just freaking grass! It is not any greener. 

4. Your passion is infectious. Share it! 

In a good way! The enthusiasm you feel for your mission shines and lights up a room. (At least when it is not dulled by sleep deprivation from staying up all night cleaning up after your gala or writing a last-minute grant application). It energizes everyone around you. Your passion gets everyone around you excited, especially your donors. Look, we all know what it feels like not to care. But you? You care! And it shows. When you talk about your cause your face lights up. Your passions, hobbies, and quirks? They make you uniquely *you*. So keep being the beautiful, unique person you are. Live your life and create more stories. Trust me, your donors will love hearing them!     

5. Great fundraisers are not born they are made.

No one came out of the cereal box a great fundraiser. There is no secret sauce. No luck. No magical powers. Fundraising is a skill that is cultivated over time. Invest in yourself and professional development opportunities that appeal to you. Here’s the good news: major gift research proves that each fundraising training is associated with a $37,000 increase in revenue. 

Want some free training with yours truly? Join me this Thursday, January 23rd for a FREE training “How to Win Your Donor’s Hearts, Minds & Wallets at 12 noon CST: https://makeovermyfundraising.com/webinar/ We’ll dig into easy to implement tips to become your donor’s FAVORITE charity. 

6. Accept that you will never get the top of fundraising mountain.

One of my all-time favorite books is “Yes, please!” by Amy Poehler who says “You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, “I made it!” You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. Our ego is a monster…”

You will never climb the top of fundraising mountain, wave down to all of us below and shout “I did it! I’m here! I don’t have to raise any more money anymore!” You can raise $500,000 one day but the next day, there’s going to be more money to raise. So celebrate every day. Embrace every one of them like it’s your last. Express your gratitude – for your donors, your colleagues, your clients, even your mission. You won’t just boost everyone else’s loyalty and happiness; you’ll boost your own!

Jeff Brooks reports in The Money Raising Nonprofit Brand that “Those who celebrate gratitude as an organizational trait raise more money, keep donors longer, and create more innovation. They’re also better places to work.”

Nonprofit Sustainability

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.