Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Bloomerang blog.
Nonprofit burnout is real, but so is resilience and self-care
My favorite band is Los Lobos. I’ve listened to their music since (gulp!) high school more than 30 years ago, and I’ve been to countless of their concerts. All five original members have played music together for more than 40 years.
I’m telling you all this to get to the opening song on their latest album, and a line that keeps circling in my head.
“You better know that love is made to break your heart.”
Don’t worry, they have plenty of upbeat songs as well. And what fundraiser among us doesn’t need a little mood lifter now and then?
Nonprofit workplace stress
You see, I think that lyric is in my head because, on many days, working at a nonprofit in general (and then more specifically, being a fundraiser) will just break your heart. Over and over and over.
The unrequited love for your donors who lapse. The barriers put in the way. The belittling of your work from for-profit America. Boards and bosses who don’t understand. All for the low, low price of a nonprofit salary.
Why do we do it? Why do we continue to collectively bloody our heads on that massive wall called the third sector?
1. The cause
For some, this is it. The reason. I have literally been in tears over whether or not I will make my fundraising goal, because in my head NOT making goal ties directly to more people being hungry. Rationally I know that wasn’t true, but it sure felt like it at the time.
2. The feeling
There’s nothing like the success of getting a grant, or a new monthly donor. It’s the best of buzzes. I inspired someone to take action, with words and pictures for nothing but good feelings (and maybe a tax break) in return. Tell me that selling widgets would be as satisfying, and I scoff.
3. The money
Hey, for some it’s a job. And just a job. And that’s totally ok. I wouldn’t be volunteering to do this work either.
4. The people
Some of my best friendships are with people that I worked with at one time or another in a nonprofit. We bonded over the crazy, laughed at the ridiculous and cried at the misery caused by the social condition we were fighting. Those connections don’t cease because the job does, and I’m so thankful for that.
So let me close this on a more hopeful note. I return to my favorite band, this time saying, “The toughest love is the strongest one”.
Take a break and find some inspiration today, fundraiser. Chances are you need it!
Terri Shoemaker is Chief Strategy Officer of Abeja Solutions, a fundraising support firm that helps nonprofits create reliable revenue. A professional fundraiser, Terri has raised millions of dollars for nonprofit and higher education institutions. Read more from Terri.