Fundraisers are always juggling multiple priorities and deadlines. But during especially busy times, like when the end-of-year giving season is underway, stress levels soar to new heights and it can feel like your to-do list has no end in sight.
Your job is to encourage donors to invest in your organization, but you’ll be more effective in that effort if you invest time in taking care of yourself, too! No matter how hectic things get in your development office, you can keep your head up and your blood pressure down by following these tips from fellow fundraisers:
Clear the clutter. Is the top of your desk buried under remittance envelopes and paperwork? Author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin says that outer order contributes to inner calm. Take an hour or so and clear the clutter in your office. If you don’t have time to sort and file the piles of paper now, put them in a box and label it “Sort in January”—just make sure nothing time-sensitive is in there!
Take a lunch break. You’re so busy that eating lunch as you work feels like the best use of time, but you may be sabotaging your own productivity. Research shows that only 1 in 5 workers take a break for lunch in the middle of the day, and that creativity nose dives if you don’t change your environment. Step away from your desk during lunch, and get outside for a quick walk—even if it’s for just five minutes.
Schedule a weekly power hour. Sometimes, it’s not the biggest item on your agenda that causes you the most panic, it’s all the loose ends that jumble around in your mind and make you feel overwhelmed. Take an hour, once a week, to tackle those loose ends. Gretchen Rubin calls this a power hour. Make sure to schedule this time so the hour actually happens! You’ll find that it clears your mind so you can concentrate on bigger projects and ideas.
Make a list on Friday afternoons. Before you leave the office for the weekend, jot down the things you need to address on Monday, unfinished tasks from the current week, and any other reminders. One fundraiser calls this a “brain dump.” Another calls it her “cheat sheet.” Writing these things down will keep them from rattling around in your head all weekend so that you can actually enjoy your time away from the office. If you think about work all weekend, you’re not giving yourself a true break and you’ll return to your desk on Monday feeling like you never left. Some of the items on your Friday afternoon list can be tackled in next week’s power hour!
Stay hydrated. If you’re working longer hours during this busy time, there’s a good chance you’re drinking more caffeine than usual. This can leave you feeling jittery. Be careful not to overdo your caffeine consumption, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day, too, to keep yourself hydrated and give your brain fuel. One development director in a small shop has a good tactic for keeping himself hydrated as he assembles his organization’s annual appeal: for every 50 envelopes he stuffs and seals, he gets up for a drink of water.
As a fundraiser, you’ll always be working hard to support your organization’s mission. Incorporating some of these strategies into your week will help you manage your stress so that you can be a more effective fundraiser and appreciate all the good that your work makes possible!