26 Dec Fundraisers: Seven Tips for Recharging in the New Year
Fundraisers are mission-driven. We drive change, we envision progress, we aim to empower people who do not have agency. Yet, as we strive to make a difference for those we serve, we often get caught up in the mechanics and politics of where we work. This feeling can be especially acute in Q4, year-end, as we’re pumping up the energy to meet dollar-goals, pushing colleagues and staff to do more with less, and at the end of the day, trying to preserve our jobs by out-performing our metrics. This time can be an exciting explosion of goodness when the gifts come in, but often we can find ourselves exhausted, not just by the hours and sheer volume of our to-do lists but by our emotional labor in a job we love.
Emotional labor was first identified by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild almost 40 years ago in her book The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling.  Sarah Jaffee, a labor journalist, provided a clear definition in a recent podcast: “emotional labor is the work that it takes to monitor your emotions in order to produce an emotional state in someone else.”  As fundraisers, we are definitely working to elicit an emotional response, our hearts and minds filled with empathy and energy while we focus on the big picture. Come January 1, the clock starts ticking again to meet new goals. When do we get time to re-charge?
Re-Charging: Seven Solutions
In an ideal world, I would have given members of my staff rotating sabbaticals to re-acquaint themselves with their positive emotional investment in the field they love. In the real world, I can offer seven tips to help fundraisers get re-ignited around mission for the new year.
1. If you’re in charge, carve out time for staff to visit the people and agencies they’ve helped. The bonus: they’ll be better equipped to speak first-hand about the impact of your work
2. Organize a field trip for your group to other organizations that are doing beneficent work. Women In Development, NY used to host a terrific breakfast series where fundraisers could visit and learn from other operations before the official workday began.
3. Encourage staff to talk with leaders they admire and give them the floor to report out at a meeting or in a newsletter.
4. If your belief in your organization is waning due to its operational obstacles or inefficiencies, reacquaint yourself with its founding and history. This can be like a shot of caffeine to your caring muscles.
5. Call a donor or a board member you really like and have a personal conversation—without asking for a gift. This will remind you of the kind of people with whom you wanted to surround yourself when you first took your job.
6. Recognize emotional labor for what it is: your output for producing an emotional state in others. This takes stamina. Take the time to congratulate yourself for having this talent in your portfolio.
7. Take time off, yes, even at year-end, to reflect on why you believe in the mission and why you work where you do, recognizing that no one and no organization is perfect.
If you’re unable to close the gap between how your organization operates and your dream of making a difference, prepare yourself for change. How you do this is spelled out in my book, Involuntary Exit, A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Being Fired. Both voluntary and involuntary exits require an ability to relax in the unstructured world of possibilities. The operative word is relax. After working so hard and achieving so much, you deserve it.
Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Managed Heart, Commercialization of Human Feeling (University of California Press, 2012).
Ezra Klein and Rogé Karma (Host and Guest Host). (2021, November 19) The Case Against Loving Your Job [Audio Podcast Episode]. In The Ezra Klein Show. The New York Times Company.
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