Lately, my mind keeps bouncing back to the idea of scarcity.
It’s probably the pandemic. Something happens to a person when they start panicking about toilet paper.
But it’s also something the nonprofit sector battles – or doesn’t – every day.
Especially for those of us charged with running an organization or with fundraising, money is a constant worry. And it’s a rare moment when we can say “we have more money than we need!”
But if we choose to spend (and I’m using that word intentionally) too much of our energy on money worries, we miss opportunities to build more sustainable support. The simplest example is the organization so focused on money, they give donors very little attention. They go all-in on transactional fundraising – just find it, whatever it takes!
And in the longer-term, that hurts.
Because when you ignore people who want to support your work, they tend to go away.
What would happen if you decided to spend more money in order to attract more support? Maybe that means a few more appeals each year. Or starting a donor newsletter. Maybe it’s investing in professional help with your data or your mailing or your strategy or copywriting.
That’s not an expense you can’t take on because you’re broke. It’s an investment in a less-broke future.
Oh, aren’t we all chasing this one now?
I just had my daily (or hourly, depending on the day) panic about the length of my to-do list. But the problem was that I wasn’t looking at a to-do list. It was all jumping around in my head. Little pieces of things bouncing off each other, and each one getting bigger with every bounce.
Time is not infinite, just as money isn’t. But you can choose how to spend it.
I sat down and did what I often do – write down the same to-do list that I had already written a dozen times. The same one that’s posted on a giant sticky sheet on my wall. And in Asana. And several other places, I’m sure.
But when I took a breath and wrote it down, I realized it was much more manageable than it had seemed. One step at a time…
Life is also bigger than work. And no matter how much pressure you’re under at work, it will fall to you to set those boundaries. For years, I chose less money and more time (with my kids). Even having kids undoubtedly affected my career. But those years fly by so fast!
I doubt there is anyone on the planet right now not feeling the energy drain of worry. 2020 has already been a hell of a year. May we never see another like it.
I am about to drive my younger child off to Ohio for the last year of college. It will be a good ride out – we do well in the car together, mostly listening to music. It will be a much longer, sadder drive home alone. I will be exhausted by the need to be 100% focused on the road for so many hours. Last time I did the drive all at once, it took a few days to recover. But it will be worth it.
Even if you get your time under control, toxic work environments can suck your energy dry. Change what you can, confront what you must, leave when you that’s the only answer left.
Be thoughtful about how you spend your mental energy. Anger takes a lot out of you. It helps if you can address the problem – but you can’t always, at least not alone. But remember to take care of yourself.
Even if you’re a world-champion grudge-holder, try to let go of the title sometimes. It can take more from you than from anyone else.
When so much else is so keyed up, and when worry is a constant companion, creativity can be both hard to exercise and the answer. You don’t even have to be particularly good at something. But do what feeds you.
I get grief from the family when I spend time playing stupid games on my phone. But while the racing squirrels are kept entertained by that match three game, the rest of my mind can wander, as George Harrison said, where it will go.
I’ve found the more exhausted I am, the more time I need to just think. Even if not a single thought is worth anything. The process has value.
So give yourself permission to sit at the desk and stare at the wall. Or take a walk. That isn’t wasted time, that is restorative time. And you cannot be your best – at work or anywhere – if you can’t top up those batteries.
Cultivate abundance when you can
It’s so much easier to say, I know. But if you can flip how you approach things, you will often feel better and get more important work done.
Money is short, and you’ll need to lay people off next month if you don’t raise enough? Resist the panic – it will only hurt you. Spend some time just thinking. What can you work with? If you tossed out everything you’re doing and started fresh, what would be different?
Ask for help. Ask for ideas from colleagues – especially from non-fundraisers. How do we solve this together? Ask for help from those nearest to your organization and its mission – together, what can we do?
Think abundantly in your everyday life. I am here, I am enough, I can do this. And I have enough to give.
So give help, too. If you’re a fundraiser, you know that it makes you feel good. You deserve to feel good, too. Volunteer to give the program staff a couple of hours. Or roll up your sleeves and spend some time with volunteers as if you are one.
Your attitude of abundance will spread – maybe not as fast as this stupid virus – but with much better results.