Posts tagged ‘vacation’

June 14, 2019

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:

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December 29, 2015

Avoid Burnout in 2016 with 3 Powerful, Simple Tips

The employee turnover rate at nonprofit organizations is shamefully high. A number of factors contribute to this, including burnout. While you cannot control all of the contributing factors, you can certainly manage some of them.

With that in mind, here are three powerful, yet simple, tips to help you avoid burnout in 2016:

Tip 1: Step back. Look at your organization in action.

As fundraising professionals, we spend a great deal of time focusing on tactics and numbers. There are good reasons for that. Effective tactics are essential for achieving fundraising success. Keeping careful track of the numbers helps us to know which tactics work best and indicates whether we’re on track to achieve our goals.

Binoculars by gerlos via FlickrUnfortunately, if we overly focus on tactics and numbers, we can lose sight of what really matters. Remember, it’s not just about the money you are able to raise; it’s about what that money can accomplish.

To help avoid burnout, make sure to take the time to plug back into your organization’s mission. Remind yourself of the good you are helping your organization to achieve by helping it secure essential resources.

If you work for a university, take a walk through campus and stop to have some conversations with students. If you work for a hospital, visit the maternity ward. If you work for a homeless shelter, spend some time in the kitchen preparing meals and then have a meal with some of the recipients. If you work for a theater, attend a performance, meet some of the performers, and talk to some members of the audience.

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not just raising money. You’re helping your organization achieve its worthy mission.

Tip 2: Talk to your donors.

A great way to re-energize yourself is to talk with your organization’s donors. I don’t mean just talk to donors about their next gift. Instead, contact donors to thank them personally and learn why they support your organization. Their passion will likely inspire you.

Not only will you benefit from talking with donors, your organization will benefit as well. First, your organization will be less likely to have a staff member (you) burnout. Second, donors will be happy to hear from you and, as a result of the call, will be more likely to continue giving to your organization and more likely to give more.

For more about this, read my post: “The Greatest Idea for Retaining and Upgrading Donors.”

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August 27, 2012

Can You Still be Donor-Centered by Putting Yourself First?

This blog post is a major thematic departure from my usual articles.

Usually, I advocate, either directly or indirectly, for fundraising that is donor centered. My book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, clearly emphasizes my belief in the importance of being donor centric.

This post, by contrast, is about you, your needs, and your happiness.

I got the idea for this post when I recently returned from delivering the keynote address at the AFP Memphis Chapter conference. (By the way, the folks there were wonderfully friendly; the food was amazing; and the sites were memorable. Memphis, home of the blues, should definitely be on your tourism bucket list.)

Anyway, I was on my Delta Airlines flight when I did something I have not done for quite some time. For some inexplicable reason, I actually listened to the pre-flight announcement. The flight attendant mentioned that if the air masks drop, each adult should put their mask on first and, then, help their child with his/her mask.

It got me thinking. To take care of others, we need to first take care of ourselves. 

I learned that lesson in 1983. Shortly after co-founding a pioneering direct response agency, I was a stressed-out frazzled mess. Thinking I really needed professional help, I went to a psychologist. At the end of the first session, the doctor asked me, “When was the last time you took a vacation?”

I responded, “My wife and I take a long weekend every so often.”

He said, “No, I mean a real vacation. When was the last time you went away for a week or more?”

I told him, “With the exception of my honeymoon, I have never taken a vacation in my adult life.”

“Well, I really wish I was videotaping this session for my students,” he said.

“Am I really that bad off?,” I asked with great concern.

“No,” he laughed. “You’re a perfect example of someone who doesn’t need therapy. What you need is a vacation. Take a week off. Better yet, take two weeks off. Don’t take any calls. Don’t bring any paperwork. Just go. When you come back, I think you’ll find you feel better. If not, then come back and see me.”

So, based on doctor’s orders, my wife and I went to a remote area of Jamaica for two weeks. For the first three days, I kept hearing the phone ring. But, it was all in my head. The nearest phone was actually 18 kilometers away from the house we rented. At the end of the first week, I was finally learning to relax. By the end of the second week, I was itching to get back despite having had a fun time.

When I returned to my office, I found I was more efficient than ever. Insurmountable problems I had left behind were easily dealt with. I felt like some kind of superhero. I was more creative, more productive. My stress level was at an all-time low. I became a convert to the idea of vacationing.

From that point forward, I’ve always been sure to take vacations and to make sure my employees also take advantage of their vacation time.

I’ve also always insisted that vacations should not include any business:

  • phone calls,
  • text messages,
  • emails,
  • paperwork.

A vacation is a time of escape, a time of decompression, a time to recharge. You simply can’t fully do that if you’re still connected to the office.

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