Take a break.

I’m reading a book right now called Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Deborah Spar. I’m maybe a third of the way through, and in it, Spar is mapping out the impact of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution on women today. When women were told (and it was legislated) that they could do and be anything, there was soon this external and internal expectation that they could have it all. And the question that I think Spar is posing is (a) can we really have it all? (b) should we be trying so hard to?

It makes me think about myself, and any of you readers – no matter your sex or gender identity – who are balancing a number of different things in your life. Trying to stay healthy – eating the right things and getting exercise in. Trying to care for/be with your family. Trying to do life things – explore, travel, play, see new things, try new hobbies, read, etc. Trying to maintain friendships. The list goes on.

Never mind work! Trying to do right by the donors. Trying to meet your year-end goals. Trying to manage interpersonal relationships, navigate office politics, be a good colleague…

We have a lot on our plates, personally and professionally, at this time of year especially. There’s a lot to juggle and more often than not we’re left feeling that we’ve dropped all the balls.

But while reading this book on the plane last night as I flew into Toronto from a client meeting in Ottawa, I said to myself: Take a break.

Our office closes between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, so I’ll get to take an actual break from work, which is key. But also take a break from the pressure you put on yourself, and from the crazy high expectations you set for yourself.

Take a break from feeling guilty or thinking you’ve failed if you don’t “have it all”.

Whatever your cause, by fundraising for it, you do a bit of good every day of the year.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a family to spend the holidays with, maybe celebrating the season with a big meal at some point in a warm house, with people you love… if that’s not having it all, what is?!

So I’m going to take my own advice and this will be my last post of 2016. I need to disconnect from blogging and tweeting for a little bit, to recharge and relax. To take a break.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

My Christmas Wish for Fundraisers

my christmas WISH FOR FUNDRAISERS

Today is the day.

Well, actually, more importantly, today is the last day.

The last day before my holiday from work until the New Year.

It has been a crazy December… and truthfully November was insane… and so was October…

You get the picture. I need a break.

And I’m willing to bet that you need a break, too.

Fundraisers work hard. All year long, but especially in the final quarter of the calendar year. It gets a little crazy.

So whether you’re lucky enough to have a long break away from work, or just a few statutory holidays, my Christmas wishes for you are these:

Take a real break. Unplug from your phone and computer as much as is humanly possible and really disconnect from your work. Give yourself a challenge; maybe it’s just Christmas Day that you spend entirely disconnected from work/electronic devices. Maybe it’s a few designated hours a day. Maybe you take a walk every night and leave your phone at home. Whatever it is – do it. It’s healthy, and you need it.

Indulge! That’s what the holidays are for! Drink that extra glass of egg nog, stay up late to marathon your guilty TV pleasure, eat too much cheese… whatever your vice is, indulge in it a little bit. We can’t do that all the time, but during the holidays it feels so good.

Be with those you love. Work too often keeps us away from family and friends, so take the days you have off and be fully present with your loved ones. Whether it’s your significant other, your kids, your nieces or nephews, your sisters or brothers, your grandparents, cousins, in-laws, or friend who’s in from out of town… take advantage of your time away from work and really be with the people you love.

And come back ready to work! The great thing about taking a real holiday, is coming back on the other side rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running. I want the holiday in and of itself, but I also want to approach January with renewed energy. I know I can’t do that without some real rest and relaxation, so I’m committed to it.

And so I’m following my own advice. I’m going to disconnect from Twitter a bit, and I’m also going to skip my weekly blog post next week to give us all a rest. I’m going to have a spa day with my girlfriend Kate, colour in my new adult colouring book (so therapeutic), finish “The West Wing”, spoil my nephew, have drinks with my best friend Brian who lives in New York, and more!

So with that, Merry Christmas to those of you that celebrate it, Happy Holidays for anyone who doesn’t, and all the best for a very Happy New Year!

See you in 2016!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Finding Motivation When the Sun Is Out

Just over a week ago, I was delighted to contribute a guest post to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter Blog. When I was invited to write a blog post for AFP Greater Toronto, I hemmed and hawed over what I might write about… and then I lost my motivation. That’s been an overarching theme of my summer, and was when I was working for Trinity College School, too. In educational fundraising, summers are especially tough. At first it’s a great novelty to have the students empty from campus at the end of April, but by July it feels like there’s no energy to tap into.

This is not an unusual predicament for any professional to be in, and fundraising professionals are no exception. I hope you can find some inspiration in my post because when the sun is shining in through your window and distracting you from the work at hand, you might need it!

Please enjoy my post here, and I encourage you to check out AFP Greater Toronto Chapter’s blog on a regular basis to see what other fundraising professionals have to say.

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It’s the summer. We’re all staring longingly out our office windows (if we’re lucky enough to have them), wondering why on earth we’re stuck inside working when we could be enjoying the sun, the fresh air, and this brief period of time in Canada where we don’t need a jacket or coat of any sort. Prospects aren’t returning our calls or emails, our colleagues are all taking turns going on vacations, and it’s hard to find the motivation to get back to the work in front of us.

I’ve had a few of these moments lately myself. Despite the lack oSummerKitef motivation, summer is an important time for planning and preparing for the new fundraising year. It’s during these quieter months at work that we have the rare opportunity to sit and think; analyze what worked this past year, strategize about what we need to change, plan out our mailings, and firm up our stewardship processes. It all sounds well and good, but there’s one problem…

I just can’t find the inspiration! Where is that passion I had for my job a few months ago? So naturally I turned to Facebook and asked my friends, what do you do in this situation? How do you motivate yourself?

One of my very wise friends said, “I have stuff on my wall in my office to remind me of the outcomes of my work.” Brilliant! And then I turned and saw a card on my desk that I received from an alumna of the institution who was selected this year for our annual Philanthropy Award. She wrote me to thank me for my help in preparing her for the event that honoured her. She wanted to thank me! She has a great philanthropic story to tell; she’s never given more than $350 in any given year, but she’s given to the university every single year since she graduated.Every year!

Even better, her gifts have been designated annually to pretty much wherever the funds were needed most. In many cases she’s directed her gift to our unrestricted fund, giving the university the flexibility to respond to unforeseen emergencies or even worthwhile opportunities. She’s given to the library many times, too! Her gifts directly impact students, and that’s what I’m here for in the first place.

Speaking of students, next to the card on my desk is a photo of a student and a donor. This donor created a financial assistance opportunity at the university in memory of his deceased son. I had the opportunity to set up a meeting between the donor and this year’s recipient of his award which gave the donor the chance to truly see the impact of his philanthropy. The student expressed – eloquently, I might add – his gratitude to the donor, and he shared what he plans to do with his life after university. It was so rewarding to witness a donor seeing the effect his generosity has on an actual student.

All of us fundraisers, wherever we work, are here to raise money to make an impact. The outcomes of our work are clear; we are so lucky in that sense. Other professionals out there might struggle to see the point sometimes, butfundraising professionals know exactly what they’re here to do, and we have lots of examples that can motivate us through even the sunniest of days.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

End-of-Year Giving

My years so far in fundraising have taught me so much, and one thing they’ve taught me is that we use parts of the year as anchors for good solicitations.  Certain times of the year are better for fundraising than others; the summer, for instance, is a bit of a wash!  Fall and spring seem to be the best time of the year for direct mail appeals.  And then there’s December…

I thought this would be a timely discussion right now: end-of-year incentives to give.  The end of the calendar year seems to be a great anchor for good fundraising.  The question is: what’s your angle???

I sit on the alumni association at my alma mater and had the chance to proofread an end-of-year email blast for the Annual Giving office there.  Their angle was to encourage alumni to give NOW so that they can be receipted for this tax year.  Many donors plan their giving around tax-related things, so this is a worthwhile angle to use; this could really compel some people to give now rather than later.

Then, of course, I also work in an educational institution myself, where we sent out Christmas cards to our alumni encouraging giving with more of a “’tis the season” angle.

Both are meaningful angles; one is more practical than the other, perhaps, but they both strike some kind of chord and hopefully spur action.  Could you say that using the tax year as the incentive is kind of dry?  Well, you could… but you could also say that sending out Christmas cards is risky to those that don’t celebrate Christmas…

At the end of the day you have to make a thoughtful decision on how to make an ask in December, but I think we can all agree that with the spirit of giving in the air, it’s a good time to make the ask.

 

~~~

And with that, dear readers, I am done posting for 2012.  It’s been a great year at What Gives Philanthropy, with engaging content, new guest blogger friends, and lots of interaction on the site, Twitter, and offline.  I hope you have a very enjoyable holiday season, and you’ll hear from me on Friday, January 4, 2013.  All the best!!!

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Time for Giving / Giving Your Time

I don’t know about you, but I am full of holiday spirit lately.  With the weather turning colder here in Toronto, the occasional sight of snowflakes, and storefront displays becoming more holiday-themed, I can’t help but look forward to Christmas, which is what I celebrate. I think of family, food, reading by the fire, attending parties, and general merriment.  I also think of giving and receiving gifts, and how fortunate I am to have such an abundance of blessings in my life.

Between thoughts of giving and thoughts of blessings, I can’t help but think of those less fortunate than me.  At a time when all the love and good fortune in my life is staring me in the face, there are many who are on the other end of the spectrum — cold, lonely, and hungry.

So now is the time to give.  I’m a fundraiser – which you know already – so I focus on the giving of funds.  However, I come back to that great phrase again: time, talent, and treasure.  These are the things we can give.  Today I want to focus on time.

Though I normally think of philanthropy as the giving of one’s financial resources, that’s not the root of the word at all.  Philanthropy is defined as an altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement.  Put simply, philanthropy is the love of humankind.

Large donations of money are often the most recognized displays of philanthropy, but there are many ways in which your love of humankind can manifest.  During the holidays, giving the gift of your time has so many benefits.  You benefit the organization you choose to volunteer with, and you benefit the individuals that organization serves.  You meet people from different walks of life – those who are volunteering, and those who need the services of the organization.  If you choose to volunteer with your partner, a family member, or friend, you share a special act with someone you love that represents what the holidays are all about.  And this experience may bring you some perspective during a time of year that’s often thought to be too commercial and capitalistic, too.

And this isn’t to say that monetary donations during the holidays are less meaningful, because that’s not the case at all.  But for those who don’t have the financial capacity to make the impact they want to, a gift of time is a fantastic and commendable alternative.
Someone reached out to me in October and asked me to share an article called:
“20 Successful Nonprofits Started by Students”.

Take a look and be inspired by these young individuals who gave so much of their time to a student project that it evolved into a game-changing philanthropic organization.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email