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Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising: Strategies to Help You Survive and Thrive

Resource Center - Foundation

Are you as happy as you could be at work?  And, what does that have to do with fundraising?

How would you feel if I told you that there are two strategies that will help you lead a happier life AND excel at raising major gifts?  It’s true!  The strategies are:

  1. Think Happy Thoughts
  2. Build Better Habits

Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising, one of my sessions at ICON in Baltimore, covers these key strategies in great detail.

Think Happy Thoughts

It has been well documented that meaningful work, happiness, and productivity are all interconnected.

In other words -- if you’re doing meaningful work you’ll be happier, and if you’re happier you’ll be more productive.

But as you know -- perhaps even from your current job -- sometimes even the most meaningful work can be stressful, tedious, and discouraging.

The good news for us is that a study called the Happiness at Work Survey showed that people who work in caregiving or direct service are 75% more likely to be happy. Of course, as fundraisers, we're not always on the front lines, but we’re pretty close, which has got to count, at least a little.

So how can we change to make ourselves as happy as the people on the front lines – so that we are more productive?

It starts with positive thinking

I am a true believer in the power of positive thinking.

If you think you can, you can.

I assure you, this is not a case of “wishful thinking” -- there’s actually science behind it.

So, what if when we’re asking for a major gift, we expect the best, instead of assuming the worst?  How might you act differently if you expected the very best?

We’ll go into detail at the session, but I’ll leave you to think about that for now.

Happier people are more generous

Another reason to “Think Happy Thoughts” is that happy people give more to charity.  That’s pretty important information for you to have as a fundraiser.

Harvard Business School produced a working paper called “Feeling Good About Giving,” which showed: “Happier people give more and giving makes people happier.”  

Incredible!  The more you give, the happier you are, and the happier you are, the more you give.  How awesome is that?

Build Better Habits

According to current research, in order to break an old habit and create a new one, you need to find a reward to help you feel happy about whatever you’re trying to create as your new habit.

So make a habit of meeting with donors

One of the bad habits many development directors have is working from their desks, instead of being out, meeting with donors. How can you have relationships with your donors from behind your desk?

You may feel stuck at your desk and overwhelmed with work. But being stuck at your desk is only a habit or work pattern — and it can be broken. Once your make getting out and meeting with donors on a regular basis a top priority — that will become your habit. It’s not easy, but the long-term payoff is huge.

Properly train your board members

Another bad habit your organization may have is recruiting and training board members without any expectation of fundraising. It’s something I run into all the time. It makes me sad when board members haven’t been recruited properly or trained, and then are expected to raise funds.

So, if one of your organization’s bad habits is recruiting board members without the expectation of fundraising, or not providing your board members with ongoing fundraising training, I strongly encourage you to replace your bad habits. Change the culture of your board and organization by starting to recruit and train your board members properly. You can start now by downloading this board member expectation form from my website.

Reinforcing your good habits

As I mentioned, in order to eliminate bad habits and reinforce good habits you need to reward yourself. So, after you get out and meet with your donors or recruit a new board member with a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities, what can you do to reward yourself and reinforce the new habit? It doesn’t have to be big: It can be a walk around the block, listening to your favorite song or even dancing around the office.

Of course, we’ll go into much more depth at ICON, so I hope to see you there.

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is a respected author, speaker, and fundraising consultant, as well as the owner of Tri Point Fundraising, a full-service nonprofit consulting firm. Her specialty is simplifying the fundraising process for her followers and clients.

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