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My Tips on Staying Sane as a Nonprofit Fundraiser

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We’re all working our hearts out to help improve the world, through the organizations we work with and for. But we can only give to others as much as we have given to ourselves, so it’s important to talk about how to stay sane and thrive as a nonprofit fundraiser.

Not taking it all on

Fundraisers have a tough job. They have organizations relying on them, and therefore people who receive services relying on them. After all, this work can’t be done without the funds to support it.

As someone who works in fundraising, it can be easy to take on the pressure, especially if budgets are not being balanced and money is not coming in. But this is too much to take on as one individual person. Fundraising is too volatile of a practice to have any one person to blame. You could work for hours on a mail piece that raises a small amount of money or you could get an unsolicited donation that blows everything out of the water. The point is, it is not solely on your shoulders if the money does not come in. You cannot take on the pressure that if your work does not produce the money you were expecting, you failed. There are too many other factors to consider. So let that go, and hopefully, that helps you feel better and stop worrying.

Communicating

A lot of stress comes from not fully understanding expectations, from your boss or your board. When there are misunderstandings, it can be a huge point of stress. Communicate as much as you can with your boss or your board about what you think your priorities are, what you are working on, and what you aren’t working on. That way, they can let you know in advance if they have a different idea. And you’ll feel better that you guys are on the same page.

Staying Organized

Lists…. Ahhhh. OK, I know not everyone is like me and feels better about their projects after making a list. But I know many of us are! Figure out what planning mechanism works best for you and stick to it. Do you like spreadsheets? Post-it notes? Whatever it is, stay organized as much as possible. Having something to refer to every day about your tasks can help you stay sane.

Taking breaks

Did you eat lunch at your desk today? How about yesterday? As much as possible, take breaks. If you’re able to eat your lunch away from your desk, do it! Getting out of your work environment can relax your mind and get you in a better headspace. Sometimes, it can even help you solve a problem. There have been many times where I have not been able to figure something out, I’ve walked away from my desk, and came up with the idea as soon as I sat back down.

Lunch breaks are nice, but there is something else equally as important: vacations. Make sure to schedule and go on vacation. Do as much prep work in advance, over-communicate to others when you will be on vacation, and set an out of office email for when you will be away. Then, don’t check email!!! Even glancing through will just get you back in the mindset of work mode. When you’re on vacation, don’t dwell on what may or may not be happening at the office. It will all get sorted out. And if it makes you anxious, tell one person you trust that they can text you with anything urgent.

No email outside of work

Speaking of email outside of work… try not to check it so much. If you heavily rely on that tactic now, try to wean yourself off. Go in phases… try not checking email from Friday night to Sunday morning, then all weekend, then no weekday evenings… once you get into the habit of not responding to emails on off hours, your coworkers will adapt to you.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, although we’re doing important work, many of our tasks have arbitrary, internal deadlines. If you’re coming up on something stressful, see if you can shift any of the timeline. Breathe, and remember you are doing great work!

-N.C.

Be Mindful of Your Vibes

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In the nonprofit sector, we’re all working like crazy. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and think, what did I accomplish today?? Of course, the actual answer to that is a bunch of stuff, but sometimes the time just flies by. And before you know it, it’s time to go.

We’re all working at 110%. Which is why it’s super important to be mindful of how we talk about that fact. It can be easy to default to complaints:

“I worked 12 hours yesterday, and 11 the day before. This is too much! I just have so much work to do. I’m exhausted and by the time I get home, I don’t want to spend time with my family, I just want to go to sleep. Also, I just gave my first born baby to my boss!”

OK, that last complaint went too far, but you get the picture. And I’m not downplaying the work that anyone is putting in. But I am saying that the way we frame the hard work we are doing makes a difference. It’s very likely that someone heard that venting session and thought to themselves,

“Well gosh. I only worked nine hours yesterday and a measly eight hours the day before! I feel bad, my colleague is working her butt off and I’m sitting around eating bonbons. I’d better work longer hours and put in more time!”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Your colleague working longer days does not mean that your day will be any shorter. In fact, it will probably just make the mood more miserable, since everybody will be stressed out. Instead, I’d recommend framing your feelings this way:

“Because of the board meeting yesterday, I worked a pretty long day. Sometimes things like that happen. I’m planning to leave early tomorrow to make up that time.”

Boom. No additional explaining, no apologizing for leaving early. Of course, you might want to frame this as a question if you’re talking to your boss. But if it’s a colleague, just leave it at that. It’s no one else’s business if you’re working more than eight hours a day. I’d argue that it’s usually something within your control. So, keep it to yourself. And be mindful of your vibes. They really make a difference.

-N.C.

Care Less & Achieve More at Work

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I recently came across this post and found it fascinating: Want to Be Happy at Work? Care Less About It by Kelly O’Laughlin on Quiet Revolution. Whether or not you’re an introvert, you will likely relate to this post if you’re a hard-working Millennial working at a nonprofit. So many of us are working our hearts out for our clients and for the benefits of others, and unfortunately the term “nonprofit burnout” is not one that’s foreign to us.

I was hesitant to completely buy in to the post until she compared my 80% effort to others’ 100%… and then I got it. By not giving my all 100% of the time, I am recognizing that I am not perfect and cannot solve all of the world’s problems all by myself. It’s a moment of remembering my last post, Be An Average Nonprofit Unicorn. This quote specifically resonated with me:

“Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.”

Let’s remember to focus on self-love and self-care first and foremost. Because we can only show up to take care of others after we have shown up to take care of ourselves.

-N.C.

How To Relax

The silliest title to a blog post that I’ve ever written. But – for some of us overachievers, very important to know!! Relaxing is not always something that comes naturally to us in today’s world. We’re used to going full speed ahead, being efficient, and getting it done, always thinking about the next project. We’re not so used to taking time for ourselves and chilling out.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to relax and remember these tips. They’re not intuitive when your mind is always on the go!

  • Clear your mind. This means leave your work at work and put your commitments aside. Relaxing is not going to do any good if your mind is still going over your to do list. Nothing productive comes from obsessing over what needs to be done or dwelling on your problems. When it’s time to relax, put all of that thinking aside and clear your mind of the clutter.
  • Find what you love to do and do it, no matter what anyone else says. We don’t have TV at home, so Hulu is a treat to me. My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy when instead of getting extra sleep, I want to watch an episode of Project Runway. Although it seems counter-intuitive to him that watching TV would actually relax me, I swear it does. For those 44 precious minutes I don’t have to think about anything except for Heidi Klum. So I do it!
  • Schedule it in. You know how I often give a tip that I myself have to work on including in my life? This one is it. It is so important to make relaxing a priority in your life – self-care is something that should always be at the top of your list, to avoid getting sick and being unhappy.

If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to really take to heart the importance of relaxing. Even if you take just an hour a week… it’s so important. And keep these tips in mind! Your body and mind will thank you!

-N.C.

Celebrating One Year of Blogging

I’m commemorating blogging for one year with a blog redesign! I’ve changed my photo, headline, About Me section, and design of the homepage! I’ve even changed my Twitter bio to go along with everything. Please let me know what you think!

What a good exercise this was. Now that it’s been a year, I understand better what I’m passionate about and what comes naturally when I’m thinking about blogging. It wasn’t until I put it into words that I’ve really understood what this blog has become.

Nonprofit Chapin is not just about my experience working in the nonprofit sector. It’s framing my experience in the context of stress management and other important things to incorporate into your life as a nonprofit staffer. It’s about creating personal and professional vision. It’s about getting your needs met, whether that be in the professional or personal sense. It’s about putting you first – something I’m working on as we go! These are the things I’ve felt compelled to write about, and this is what the blog has become.

When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure to write everything from my personal perspective. I didn’t want to pretend to be an expert in the nonprofit sector, in Gen-Y, in anything. I wanted to write from my heart and see what happens. And the product has been something beautiful: writing about the aspects of personal success that aren’t necessarily so prevalent in the workforce – happiness, peace, and love, for yourself and others. These are the things I’m working on for myself, so I’m happy to have you alongside with me.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you are continuing to enjoy this journey as much as I am!

-N.C.