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A Mental Health Checkup for Fundraisers

A little over three years ago I wrote a blog post that changed my life. I was feeling tired, stressed, and burned out - on a whim, I wrote a blog post about mental health in the fundraising profession. In the midst of my own challenges, it was therapeutic to put my thoughts out there.

Turns out, those thoughts resonated.

Sharon saw my blog on LinkedIn, we started a conversation, and three years later I have the great honor of working with Team Kat & Mouse to help clients achieve fundraising success.

I like to revisit that blog post periodically to take another look at its core ideas and make sure I’m still embodying them in my work. Admittedly, I missed the chance to time this around mental health awareness month, but it’s never a bad time to look at how we’re tending to our mental health and the mental health of our teams.

This is more than just how we’re managing our own emotions, too. Last year, 65% of employees said they experienced burnout. There’s no reason to think our sector is any exception. In a field with significant pressure, limited resources, and an existing turnover crisis, there is every reason to believe burnout is affecting nonprofits.

So whether you’re looking at yourself, your direct reports, or your teammates, it’s a good time to take stock and see if you’re doing everything necessary to take care of yourself. 

Some tips to consider:

  • Take time off: I shouldn’t offer advice I’m terrible at following myself, but we’re all works in progress, right? I struggle (and I mean STRUGGLE) to fully disconnect from work. Even when I’m on vacation, it’s hard not to check in on my email and make sure I’m not missing out on anything. We all have to recognize that when we step away, whatever we’re stepping away from will be there when we get back. 

  • Roll with the punches: Fundraising involves some thrilling highs and upsetting lows. I experienced that full cycle over the last month: a client had an informal six-figure grant commitment that was revoked due to budget challenges the funder was experiencing, then committed once again a few weeks later. I was thrilled, disappointed, and then thrilled again over a short period of time. That’s fundraising life in a nutshell, but if we’re putting in the work and taking care of our responsibilities, the lows will turn into highs eventually.

  • Lean on your support system: Family, friends, and peers in the profession can be an amazing resource. Find people who can help you feel comfortable talking to (and venting to!) when the work gets to be difficult. Few things are more comforting than sharing your challenges with someone who genuinely understands them.

  • Talk to a professional: As someone who is married to a therapist and used to work at a mental health organization, I can’t emphasize enough that it’s okay to ask for help from a mental health professional. We work in a high-stress profession; combined with other challenges we face in life, things can get overwhelming sometimes. Confiding in a therapist can help you sort out any difficult emotions you’re experiencing while ensuring that burnout doesn’t affect your career.

We’re all a work in progress in how we maintain our mental health as fundraisers.

The work is intensely rewarding but does not come without its challenges.

I’m no exception;

I have good days and bad days, but I find that creating distance with work and having people to talk to helps keep me on track and able to start every workday with a sense of optimism.

If you need help navigating the ups and downs of life as a fundraiser, drop us a line - we’re here to help!

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