donor love strategies

You know when you’re on an airplane and they run through the safety instructions? What do they tell you to do if you’re with small children and the oxygen masks come down? Put on your own mask first!

You can’t help others unless you first take care of yourself.

This is really a truism you should carry with you throughout your life. But it’s never been truer than the times in which we’re currently living.

Whatever you do, don’t panic. 

That will only make things worse. For you. For those who rely on you. If you’re running yourself ragged… stressing yourself out… hunching up your shoulders (relax them right now!)… frowning… sighing… forgetting to breathe… none of this will help you to get things done effectively.  

You need a plan to center yourself first. 

Remember why you do this work. Be proud of yourself for doing this work. Know how proud I am of you! Take in some much-needed oxygen. Then, and only then, are you ready to go to work.

12 Self-Love and Donor Love Strategies to Cope in Stressful Times

You’ll notice a lot of these self-love and donor love strategies overlap. You see, it turns out when you take care of yourself it often extends naturally to taking care of others. Self-love and donor love strategies are not separate concepts. When you’re strong and centered you can help others feel the same. When you’re fired up and passionate, you can help others feel your passion. When you’re feeling grateful, you can help others feel grateful as well. The same holds true when you express gratitude; it often gets reciprocated. Try out one or more of these dozen self-love and donor love strategies, and see where they take you.

1. Develop an intentional plan for news and social media consumption. 

Of course, you want to stay informed. But a flood is never a good thing. Think about the pace and frequency of information that works for you. Give your mind and nervous system several breaks throughout the day. Breath. Stretch. Look out the window and notice one tiny beautiful thing. Smile. Then… go back to the business at hand.

2. Ask “How can I be of service today?” 

Service is an antidote to fear. If you feel frozen, this is a way to unfreeze. Shift your energy from fear to action. Shift your focus from you to others. Think about who may need a little help, even if it’s just a phone call, email or text. Assess your personal skills and talents, and offer them up.

3. Become aware of what’s helping you; don’t panic. 

I’m baking. And dancing with my husband. And, frankly, doing some television binge watching in the evenings. What about you? 

  • How about taking a socially distanced walk? 
  • Or doing a video exercise session? 
  • Or getting on a Zoom, Skype or Facetime call with a friend? Or a donor!
  • I have a friend who’s doing a nightly cocktail party via Facetime, with different friends each evening. 
  • I’ve another friend who’s organizing her neighborhood to paint rainbows they’ll all place in their windows so kids can enjoy the new game of ‘spot the rainbow.’
  • I watched a video of a volunteer taking her therapy dog to the windows of homebound seniors so they could interact through the glass.

Share what you’re doing to keep spirits buoyed. Good ideas beget more good ideas!

4. Give yourself permission to let it all go once in a while. 

It’s okay to cry. It’s a cathartic release and helps you let go of your stress. Plus it reminds you of your own humanity. And that of others. Strangely, it can be a way to bring us together. If not in person, then spiritually. Today I cried when I received an email (excerpted below) from a local restaurant about why they have to close. We’re all feeling this.

I received a beautiful note yesterday from a pulmonologist who suggested that we should know that so long as we were open for business rather than sheltering in place, we were on the ‘front lines’ of this fight. Alas, we do not belong on the front lines. We are neither people of means, nor triathletes any of us (though Amy is a spinning champion), nor do most of us have robust local networks or families who would be there to care for us if we fell ill. I don’t know what life will look like for all of us in the coming weeks and months, not just our staff but all of the men and women now and soon to be without work. I admitted to myself today that I am about as scared as I have ever been. I don’t think of myself as being prone to throwing in the towel, and as recently as a week ago, never imagined I would.

This is deeply upsetting to me, but in the end of course it is so much more important that everyone stays healthy and gets through this in one piece. We have to prioritize our health, and the health of our community, and in this moment it’s clear that we have to stop what we’re doing. To you, our dear patrons, many of you who have supported us for just shy of ten years, what can I say but that we will miss you beyond words. I know I speak for all of us on this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We’re here today with our little lunch menu from 12-3, and then we set sail for better and safer times.”

5. Be mindful of your relationships. 

Whether you’re talking to your boss, co-worker, employee, volunteer, donor, friend, significant other, kid, parent, grocer, doctor, delivery person or anyone else, know that people are on edge. Take that into account. Try to be more patient, empathic, accepting and forgiving than usual. 

6. Seek Meta wisdom where you can. 

I’ve been talking to my mother-in-law, step-mom and aunt. They’ve been through a lot in their decades of life on this planet, and have a more balanced perspective. They’re afraid too, but they’re philosophical. And nurturing. And comforting. They know, from life experience, we can’t control everything. It’s part of life to be in this situation and feel this way.

7. Stay home and make it safer for those who can’t stay home. 

While you’re at it, be compassionate with yourself and others. Norms are in flux. Maybe your kids or your dog will run into your room while you’re on a conference meeting or phone call with a donor. That’s okay. People will be forgiving. In fact, they may even get a lift from seeing a cute kid or pet!

8. Get connected with your ‘inner mentor.’ 

We’re in uncharted territory. If you’re struggling with what to do, there’s nothing surprising about that. You want to be of service, but you also want to stay in business. Perhaps you feel awkward asking for contributions or charging for services when you know a lot of folks are losing their jobs or seeing their financial portfolios shrink. You need advice, right? Sometimes the best person to consult is your own inner mentor. You’re wiser, and smarter, than you may think.

9. Break it down; don’t panic and don’t paralyze.  

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. So think of all the things you’d like to do right now in terms of communicating with your constituents – whether it be news, updates, useful tips, virtual events, conference calls, straight-up appeals or just check-ins – and break these down into smaller chunks. You don’t have to do everything today. We’re going to be here for a while. Still… try to calendar in doing something positive – self-loving and donor-loving — every day.

10. Be nimble, agile and quick.  

The situation is fluid, and seems to change by the hour. This means you can no longer ‘set and forget’ emails, social media posts and responses or automated thank you’s. We’re in a time where we can’t touch each other physically, yet putting a human touch on your communications is more important than ever.

11. Check in with everyone; try to find and focus on the positive. 

This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers). You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”].

I’ve noticed I’ve been sharing with folks what I’m grateful for. There are numerous benefits of a gratitude practice, and there’s never been a better time to share with others what you’re grateful to them for. Call individual donors. Call grant makers. Send them notes via text, email or even snail mail. Be kind. Take this opportunity to really develop an attitude of gratitude in everything you do. I promise, you’ll come out richer for it when we emerge from this crisis.

12. Keep your community in the loop. 

People will naturally wonder what this world-wide, community-wide crisis means for your organization. Will you survive? How? If they give you money now, what will it be used for? People still need reassurance their philanthropy will not go down the drain. Stress the urgency, of course. Also stress the hopeful plan to be there for folks who rely on you – today and tomorrow.

This is not the ‘new normal.’ 

If you think that way, you’ll be apt to give up.

This is the ‘new abnormal.’ 

If you recognize that, you can plan to mitigate the pain now and prepare for the day when things do get back to normal. Take a long view. Remember, there was a worldwide flu pandemic in 1918-19. It was BAD. But the world did not end. And life as you’ve known it certainly did not end.

Be grateful – and proud. Nonprofit workers have always been on the front lines of righting wrongs, finding needs and filling them and doing their darnedest to assure people (and animals and the planet itself) live the best lives possible. Keep on keeping on as best you can with donor love strategies. Your job is creating a more compassionate, livable world – one person, one animal, one place, one principle at a time. 

Today, begin with self-love. Check in with yourself (not just your fears, but what’s happening in your heart). Then focus on donor love strategies. The rest will follow.

donor love and loyalty

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.