Being a fundraiser often feels like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up an endless mountain without ever reaching a plateau. Even when we are successful, our reward is often more of it. Sometimes, only a very fine line can be drawn between a task that is possible to complete and a task that is impossible to complete. It’s a grueling job often without much merit, and little time is taken to celebrate the plateaus we do achieve. But the truth is, we are the backbone of the non-profit world and need to relish in our wins, creating a source for inspiration.
All too often, fundraisers, myself included, achieve a milestone and shrug it off as part of the job. There is a momentary rush of dopamine of course when that grant comes in or a major gift gets signed, but then it is off to the next prospect. As the Dlead team knows, not exactly the best model for job satisfaction, and a stressful one at that. It is time to break the cycle; we must pause and relish in the achievement of our efforts, recognize and applaud those involved with the accomplishment, and reflect and learn from its success.
Coming off a record year in fundraising, it would have been easy for me to enter the new year with a blank slate and move right into my 2022 plan. In past years I might have done just that, but not now and never again. At a time of great uncertainty, negative news, and general anxiety, pausing to reflect is a healthy and welcome change. This milestone is cause for celebration, it is an opportunity to recognize all the people (lay and pro) who have helped get us to this moment – this includes shout outs to key team members at staff meetings, phone calls by our fundraising committee chair to key volunteers, and a virtual happy hour for my team. People like to be recognized and complimented, it is human nature. It doesn’t take much to show appreciation for the efforts of all involved, and it will go a long way in improving staff satisfaction and individual well-being.
In addition to showing gratitude and appreciation and celebrating milestones and successes, it is also critical to reflect on them to learn from them. Our tradition offers many examples of the importance of reflection from Yom Kippur to Counting the Omer to reciting the Silent Amidah each day. It is in our nature and it is necessary for growth. Therefore, it is equally important to take time to reflect on our success and to understand what led to the achievement in order to build upon it: What worked well? What challenges were overcome? What would you have done differently to ease the way for next time? What trends might you notice? How can you repeat the success? What do next action steps need to happen? How have you recorded this to build institutional memory?
When I first got into the field of fundraising, no one told me how stressful it was and the pressure I would feel to perform. Moreover, no one role modeled for me what celebrating success could look and feel like. Perhaps if we took the time to savor our victories and gain insights into the path that lead us there, then our job satisfaction and that of our team members would be higher and future successes would come more easily.
Put the boulder aside for a moment, and share it with a colleague. And if you are not sure who to share this with, DLEAD is a network of like-minded professionals who can help validate and celebrate your success. Breathe and take strength from your wins.