What is the Biggest Obstacle to Fundraising Success?

Have you ever wondered what is the biggest obstacle to fundraising success?

Is it the new tax code?

Is it the economy?

Is it the decline of religious affiliation?

Is it fewer donors?

Is it an underfunded fundraising budget?

Any or all of those might be obstacles. However, none of them is the biggest obstacle. So, what is?

You are the biggest obstacle to fundraising success.

Before you fire off a blistering comment to me, let me explain.

I know you’ve dedicated yourself to a noble profession. If you’re like many fundraisers I know, you continue to enhance your skills by studying books, reading blogs (wink, wink), participating in webinars, and attending conferences. I applaud you.

Unfortunately, none of that matters if you don’t take proper care of yourself, both physically and mentally. You can’t do your best if you’re not at your best. If you want to be the most successful fundraiser you can be, you must first take care of you. That begins with recognizing that workplace burnout is a real thing.

Recently, the World Health Organization announced, “Burn-out is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.” WHO explains:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

      • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
      • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
      • and reduced professional efficacy.”

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Furthermore, a number of scientific studies demonstrate that overwork can lead to real health problems.

Business Insider reports:

  • People who work more than 55 hours a week are 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke and have a 13 percent greater risk of heart attack than those who work 35-40 hours weekly.
  • It gets progressively harder to relax if you don’t periodically get away from external stresses like a heavy workload. Even a 24-hour timeout can have health benefits.
  • Taking fewer vacations can shorten your life expectancy.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent or overcome job burnout. Using your allotted vacation time each year and taking a spontaneous day off can be enormously therapeutic.

My wife and I did just that when we recently played hooky for a day. It was a gorgeous Monday. So, at the last minute, we decided to push all of our responsibilities aside. We jumped in our car, and visited the Philadelphia Zoo. Founded in 1859, the Zoo is in a beautiful, park-like setting. We had a relaxing stroll, and even saw something we’ve never seen before. Whenever we’ve visited in the past, the hippos were always cooling off in their pond. However, on this trip, the weather was so perfect that we got to see the hippos walking around their enclosure. It made a special day just a bit more memorable.

Just our one day away from work, communing with nature a bit, was enough to recharge our batteries. We were much more relaxed and productive the rest of the week. Now, I know you might be thinking, “That’s nice, but that’s just one person’s anecdote.” Rest assured, though, that there’s plenty of scientific evidence backing me up.

Inc. magazine cites studies that show time away from the office:

  • Reduces stress,
  • Prevents heart disease,
  • Enhances sleep,
  • Improves productivity.

Business Insider reports:

  • Even planning a vacation makes people happier before they actually go.
  • Vacations and hooky days can provide greater life perspective and enhanced motivation.
  • Relaxing time off can keep your nerve cells healthy and your mind sharp.
  • Time off can make you more productive when you’re in the office.

Mental Floss reveals 11 hidden benefits of taking time off from work:

  • Reduces your risk for heart attack,
  • Boosts your energy,
  • Increases your chance of getting a pay raise,
  • Makes you happier with your entire life,
  • Helps the economy,
  • Calms your mind,
  • Creates a “viral happiness pandemic,”
  • Forces you to improve your workflow,
  • Makes you a better boss.

So, I encourage you to end your suffering if you have burnout. If you’re fortunate enough not to be burned out now, consider ways to avoid it in your future. Take charge of your life. Plan a vacation. Take a hooky day. Encourage your staff to do the same.

Forbes offers eight great suggestions for enjoying a spontaneous day off:

  • Catch up on rest;
  • Go for a long, leisurely walk outdoors;
  • Take a short trip to a beautiful or interesting spot;
  • Get a massage or facial, in other words, pamper yourself;
  • Engage in your favorite hobby or explore a new one;
  • Attend a non-work-related lecture, check out interesting videos, participate in a workshop;
  • Meet up with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while;
  • Go to a play, movie, concert, museum, zoo, aquarium, gallery, amusement park.

For more helpful tips about re-energizing yourself, checkout my past posts:

Taking time off can make you healthier and more productive. It might even help you to get a pay raise. Just be sure not to double up on your workload leading up to or following your time off; it wouldn’t really be time off in that case, just displaced work time.

Now, it’s your turn. What tips do you have for avoiding or overcoming workplace burnout?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

6 Comments to “What is the Biggest Obstacle to Fundraising Success?”

  1. I say I love this post.

    Burnout is a real threat, but so is being complacent.

    Trust is key, but it’s hard.

  2. Thx Michael. 17 years ago, I was there and the behaviors that caused the burnout were going to cost me big time. Somehow thru God’s Grace I managed to come to my senses and find a more balanced approach, that included taking 4 weeks of vacation every July (yes, 4 weeks in a row). In those 4 weeks I discovered a few more little habits (morning coffee routine in community) that added to a much better pace. I know it saved my marriage and I know it extended my career. Plus it’s nice when occasionally you do have to step down on the accelerator, to not have your foot already stuck thru the floor.
    I always enjoy your writing and expertise, but thanks for speaking to this side of the equation.
    Rev Rick J Fritzemeier

    • Rev. Rick, thank you for your kind message. Like you, I was fortunate to discover the power of vacation time. However, I needed help to make the discovery. Early in my career, I was so stressed that I went to a psychologist for help. After one session, he said, “I wish I had taped this session for my students.” I was alarmed and responded, “Why? Am I that much of a mess?” He laughed and said, “No. Your an example of someone who does not need therapy. You need a vacation. Take a week off. Better yet, take two weeks off. If you don’t feel better when you get back, come and see me. But, I don’t think you’ll need to.” My wife and I took our first two-week vacation. No phones, No email. No work whatsoever. That’s when my eyes opened. I wish you and your wife a fun time next month!

  3. I am writing this comment while lazing around the home of friends in Besancon, France. While not QUITE to workaholic stage, I confess to working around 50 hrs per week and more when on travel status. I have over a month of accrued vacation leave time. Happily, I have people in my life who enjoy being my travel partners and who encourage me in THAT addiction instead. And, also happily, my husband encourages me to go with others since he rarely wishes to go far from home. As hard as it can be to make the time, to clear the calendar and to take care of all the trip details, I have NEVER regretted a vacation taken – only those that have not come to fruition. And I do return to work refreshed and more ready to take on the joys and challenges of the rewarding work that we do to help our donors to achieve their philanthropic goals. Thank you, Michael, for this timely reminder. Au revoir!

    • Sharon, thank you for taking the time from your vacation to write to me. One of the problems I’ve found when planning time away is that there is always something else competing for my time. For me, the secret to vacation-planning success is to plan far-far in advance before anything else hits my calendar. Then, once booked, I treat that scheduled vacation time as sacred. I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation!

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