The Time I Got it Wrong; Getting the Right Work Balance

I got a text late one Saturday night from one of my closest friends.  It said, ‘…I haven’t seen you in ages and I’m worried we’ll drift apart.’

I felt two things; I was so sad that one of my best friends was feeling this way, and secondly I was ashamed.  I was a fundraiser; relationships are what I do, what I’m brilliant at…so how did I get this wrong?

Fundraising is a tough game.  There is no ‘9-5’, you need to remember hundreds of names, stories and appointments, and you have a rolling target that starts again the moment it’s reached.  Add to that a desire to absorb as much learning as we can, volunteering to support other fundraisers or charities, the habit of always saying, ‘yes!’ – oh, and a life outside of fundraising, and you’ve got about ten minutes left in the day.

My mind was so full of work that I wasn’t nurturing my personal relationships with the same attentiveness as I do with supporters.

I’m not alone.  I know fundraisers who work through their lunch because they have loads to do in very little time, the belief that working late is the only proof of working hard, and a fear of saying ‘no’ resulting in a weekend of doing laps around Scotland.

Fundraising is a wonderful profession and I adore every minute I get to work with the supporters and colleagues who make it so.  But it’s so important to have a balance.

We need to chill.  Take a step back, look at the bigger picture and re-approach our fundraising with a vibe of calm and mindfulness.  Not only that but we need to carve out time for ourselves in the day to appreciate the goals we’ve already achieved and take time to do things that we love.

If we’re good to ourselves we can be better in our work; we’ll feel less pressure, get to appreciate the smaller accomplishments that lead to bigger goals and we’ll be better fundraisers – imagine how well we’ll build relationships if we’re always fully present in the moment.

How can we give 100% to supporters when our cup is half full?

As well at that, we’ll be looking after our mental health, personal relationships and be able to focus on what matters when it matters.

So how do we manage it?

  • Take your lunch break.  Already eaten?  Go for a walk, and take someone with you.
  • Block out your lunch break in your calendar.
  • Social media curfew; if you use social media for work, log off when your day is done and turn off your notifications.
  • Use ‘airplane mode’ for a total digital detox.
  • Block out ‘you time’ throughout your week.  Go to the gym, read a book or get some air.
  • To-do list done? Log off, go home.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ and turn it into an opportunity.  Would having volunteers make it doable?
  • Be strategic; always saying ‘yes’ to extra opportunities?  Think of your end goal and the path you need to take to get there.  If this won’t add value, let it go.
  • Work from home; less distraction, more comfort and increased productivity.
  • Turn off your email notifications.  Choose set times each day to check and respond – add this to your ‘out of office’ and manage expectations.
  • 3 minute rule; if a task takes less than three minutes to do, do it straight away. You use more energy putting it off and remembering it.
  • Speak up.  Don’t be afraid to say when things are getting too much or you need help.
  • Help someone out you think might be struggling
me and max

By having a healthier approach to my work time balance, I’ve been able to pursue my rock star dreams

 

I’ve been doing this a lot more recently and have felt a MASSIVE change.  I have more time for the people I love, freed up time in my day to devote to improving myself, and have felt more in control at work with the goals I’m aiming for; and been able to dedicate time to achieve them.

Today marks the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.  Try it now; log off, go home, switch off and take some time for you – because you matter too.

what tips can you share that help you have a healthy approach to your working day?  Tweet me @CharityNikki.

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Are You An ‘Extra’ Fundraiser?

Unless you’ve been offline for two years, you’re going to know what a meme is.

But if you’re like me, you sometimes need to search what the ‘young ‘uns’ are talking about because ya know…getting older.  And when my little sister called me ‘extra’, I was straight onto Google to find out if I should be offended or not.

Turns out she was right, kind of.

‘Being extra’ means trying too hard or going over the top.  And as a fundraiser I’m always going to be a little ‘extra’, and I think you should be too.

If you’re one of six charities pitching for a partnership or you land an interview for the job of your dreams, being extra is the only way you’re going to stand out.

And it works.  During an interview I had to convince my interviewers to share my love for hiking.  Instead of describing the beauty of being surrounded by the forest, I gave them jars filled with lavender, fir tree, pine cones and moss so they could experience it for themselves.  I got the job and my interviewers got a canny air freshener for their mantlepiece.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of knowing a potential supporter would say yes if ‘we could just get them to (insert service centre here) to see it for themselves’…then why don’t we just take the experience to them?

When used correctly, a physical item appeals to your audience’s imagination and goes beyond the impact of a 2D photo.  If they can see, touch or even better, keep, something connected to your message, you’ve piqued their interest and made it easier for them to understand.  Why describe something when you can show them?

And being an extra fundraiser goes beyond props and pitching.  You want to be remembered after that meeting; think of ways you can ignite a spark with supporters to leave them feeling warm and glowy after you’ve gone.  Handwritten cards, a note to say the meeting was the highlight of your day, or even a gift that shows you’ve thought of them will have them feeling nothing but positive about you, and your organisation.

The interviewers still talk about those jars and I think about how I almost didn’t do it; like it was over the top, too much…

Now my motto is, ‘If I think it’s too much, it’s probably just right’ – and I’m proud of being an extra fundraiser.

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