3 things I wish I’d known before the pandemic hit

What were you doing two years ago?

I don’t know about you, but I was going about my business, blissfully unaware that the world was about to be turned upside down.

When I look back at my calendar for this past week in 2020, I was doing so many things I took for granted at the time - coffee meetings with clients, catching up with colleagues over lunch…

But apparently, the universe had other plans.

Since we passed the two year mark, I’ve been reflecting on the last years and wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Here are three things I wish I’d known before the pandemic started.

  1. It’s ALL about relationships

Ok, we already knew this before the pandemic - great fundraisers are great relationship builders.

It doesn’t matter what kind of fundraising you’re doing - from major gifts, to corporate partnerships, to direct marketing, all successful fundraising has a strong relationship at its center.

Organizations that recognized and invested in their fundraising and relationship building prior to the pandemic, have had the greatest fundraising success over the past two years.

Organizations that stopped fundraising for fear of “offending” donors? These are the organizations that struggled the most.

  1. Fear can irreparably damage fundraising when left unchecked

It’s crucial to understand the role emotions play when it comes to working with donors.

But what gets less attention is the importance of understanding how emotions impact OUR behaviour as fundraisers, as well as the behaviour of decision makers like boards and bosses.

During the pandemic we saw organizations making fear-driven decisions, with some boards even ordering a stop to fundraising because it’s “insensitive” to be fundraising in a pandemic.

I’m not pointing this out to be critical - we were (and still are!) in uncharted territory - I’m sharing this because it’s important that we reflect on and learn from our mistakes.

Problems arise when we don’t recognize the role of our own emotions, including fear, and how they impact our decision making around fundraising.

The sooner we recognize this reality, the more we can do to manage it.

  1. Self-compassion is a crucial skill for fundraisers and nonprofit leaders

Self-compassion is a concept I’ve always struggled with. I grew up with the belief you need to be tough on yourself in order to succeed. 

Interestingly, research shows the opposite - being your own worst critic can actually lead to anxiety, depression, and a sense of dissatisfaction with life. And greater self-compassion can actually help you take greater responsibility, and feel more motivated.

Self-compassion is also an important skill for organizations to support and build within teams, especially when it comes to addressing the emotional and financial cost of fundraiser burnout.

So, what have you discovered about yourself, your organization and your fundraising over the course of these challenging years? I’d love you to share your experience!

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