Have ongoing challenges drained your team’s energy and creativity? Here’s how you can recover and refuel for future fundraising.
Working as a fundraiser has always been a demanding job. Whether you are organizing campaigns and events, responding to donors, or researching new strategies, there are not many opportunities for self-reflection and self-care. This can especially be true in smaller organizations where you wear many hats and work independently to reach your team’s fundraising targets.
The COVID-19 pandemic added to these challenges, causing many of us to respond to crisis after crisis and even rethink or abandon our fundraising plans and strategies altogether. After years of having to re-learn fundraising and constantly change your approach, it would be surprising if you were not experiencing at least some burnout and lack of inspiration for your upcoming campaigns and events.
Many articles offer suggestions for working with donors feeling overwhelmed and in need of extra care because of the pandemic. But it is also important to acknowledge your team’s need (and perhaps your own) to ease the constant pressure and stress you face.
If you want to revive your team and yourself by giving each other the support that will lead to a more positive fundraising experience and environment overall, here are steps you can take:
1. Rethink and reprioritize your organization’s needs.
Throughout the pandemic, you may have been seeking funding for many new initiatives and projects, including emergency response. Now that conditions in some countries (like Cambodia, where my organization is based) are starting to improve, it might be time to start asking whether these initiatives need to continue, or whether it’s time to refocus on core programming and operating costs. Sitting down as a team to determine phase-out times and strategies is important for your donors and for your plans during the next year and beyond!
2. Start with fundraising efforts that excite you.
Hopefully crisis and reactive fundraisers are slowing down in your organization, giving you time to consider a new fundraising idea or fundraising method that you have been looking forward to. Do you want to move toward more social enterprise initiatives in your organization or put together a new event or campaign? Now is the time! Starting with something you have genuinely been looking forward to and enjoy doing is a great way to build up your motivation.
3. Ensure that you have team buy-in for fundraisers.
Before jumping into a new fundraiser that comes with major commitments and effort, make sure your team is ready and enthusiastic about the idea. Running an event or campaign with team members who are not prepared or interested can result in missed deadlines, working alone or overtime, and, ultimately, not achieving your goals.
4. Redefine roles and expectations.
You do not have to work alone! Current and former volunteers, advocates, and team members can all help you run a successful event or campaign. But their roles and level of involvement need to be clear and agreed upon. Make sure everyone is aware well in advance of what is expected of them, and set up a system of accountability to ensure that everyone does their part.
5. Set realistic timelines and goals.
You do not have to take on more than you can handle! If you plan to participate in a campaign but have only one week to prepare, remind yourself that there will always be more opportunities in the future. Sometimes, it’s better to take time to make an event or campaign effective. Make sure you know how much time you, your team, and your community need to make an event or campaign a success. It may require two to three months of advanced planning to get it right, but it can be worth it! You should also set goals and objectives that are realistic for your organization. If your online campaigns generally raise $5K, making your next campaign goal $25K without major strategic changes sets you up for disappointment. Be kind to yourself and to your team.
6. Set aside non-tech time in the office.
Take a break by closing the laptops during the day for a stretch or for group brainstorming sessions. Movement, sun time, and sharing ideas can really help lift each other’s spirits, reduce your team’s stress, and foster positive relationships and stronger communication.
7. Celebrate and acknowledge small victories.
No victory is too small! When you or your team members help bring in a new donor or finish a project or task, take a moment to celebrate each other. You can come up with a recognition system in your office. For instance, give someone an extra 10 minutes on their lunch break for every 20 donors they call or email, or give weekly shoutouts to team members for securing a venue or event partner.
8. Automate as much as possible.
Save yourself time whenever and however you can! For example, on GlobalGiving, there are so many templates available to you for donor outreach and acknowledgments. Use them to your advantage! Prepare donor thank-you notes before your campaign so you do not have to worry about taking time out of your day after the campaign ends.