Burnout is a common complaint among small shop fundraisers. Nonprofit staff members, especially small shop fundraisers, are often tasked with juggling multiple priorities each day, from writing grant applications to thanking donors and updating the website—even replacing the toner in the printer and placing an order for office supplies! It can feel overwhelming, to say the least.
If you work in a small shop, you are likely to be the go-to person for all of these tasks and more. Without some key coping strategies, burnout is all but a certainty. But, you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling stressed and overwhelmed every day. These five tips will make your work day more pleasant and efficient and help you to avoid burning out:
5 ways to avoid burnout and be more efficient:
- Compartmentalize your tasks. You’ll feel more focused and be more productive if you can establish a routine and some boundaries. For example, you might make Monday your day to work on grant applications (if that’s a day when you’re feeling energized and ready to do detail-oriented work). If one day a week is typically uninterrupted by meetings, reserve it as your day to focus on projects like annual reports and newsletters. If there are tasks that need tending to each day, like gift entry and sending acknowledgment letters, aim to do those at roughly the same time daily, such as first thing in the morning or right after lunch.
- Set expectations with your coworkers. Sticking to the routine you establish for yourself will be nearly impossible if your coworkers don’t know about it. Set yourself up for success by sharing your intentions with your team members. They don’t need to know every detail, but you do need to let them know if you’ll be unavailable at certain times. You may decide that you want to use Friday mornings as a time to regularly do some database cleanup. Once your coworkers know that your door will be closed between 10-11am every Friday so you can concentrate, they can plan around that time.
- Carve out time for loose ends. Of course, unexpected issues will always arise from time to time, and some projects wind up taking longer than planned. Build time into your weekly schedule to catch up on loose ends before they pile up too much. Friday afternoon can be a good time to review your to-do list from the week, tackle some items that are still in progress, and do any necessary follow-up. You can use that time to make your plan for the week ahead, too.
- Keep frequently-used items handy. Do you find yourself on a hunting expedition each time you need a high-resolution logo file? Make a folder on your computer of frequently used items like logos, your mission statement, 501(c)(3) determination letter, and program descriptions. This will save you tons of time and energy.
- Set aside one day each month for new ideas. We all struggle with finding time to explore new ideas when we’re also trying to juggle the priorities of each day. But the fresh ideas you pick up at conferences, workshops, or online are worth looking into and may be just what you need to boost your fundraising efforts to the next level. Keep a running list of these ideas as you come across them, and set aside one day each month to check them out. (Don’t forget tip #2, letting your coworkers know that you aren’t available for meetings during this time!) If possible, bring your laptop to a nearby coffee shop so you’re outside your regular work environment as you explore these new ideas. This is a great opportunity to check out a possible new payment processor for online donations, how to manage a monthly giving program, or how to start a planned giving program. Allowing yourself the freedom to explore new ideas is a valuable use of time that will ultimately serve your organization well.
These tips will help you approach your work with clarity and balance. The work you’re doing to support your organization’s mission is important, and it’s also important that you enjoy the work you do.