Staying Afloat

News | January 3, 2019

By: Tanya L. Downing, Director, Emergency Medicine Foundation, Founder, The Color of Money

As fundraisers, we organize activities to raise funds or otherwise solicit donations or other gifts for our organizations. We design and produce promotional materials. We may also raise awareness of the organization’s missions, goals, and financial needs. We’re often dedicated to the cause. We have the ability to build and maintain relationships. We are creative, imaginative, and have an entrepreneurial attitude toward fundraising. We drive with enthusiasm to carry out projects to the end. Each year, we raise more dollars and renew more donors than the last year. We create and implement our communication / development plan to reflect the sole purpose of raising money for specific initiatives. We get annoyed and frustrated when our boards don’t help with fundraising efforts. Or when we take on responsibilities of the Executive Director.

Our greatest strength is the ability to juggle many things at one time, but when things don’t go as planned our lives can fall apart. At least that’s what happened to me. Last year I lost my Mother. My Rock. My Everything. I was lost and didn’t know what to do; it was truly a tough time in my life.

Many kinds of loss can affect your work – divorce, retirement, job loss, and so on. There were days the grief was so overwhelming I would find myself bursting into tears at work in the bathroom and in the car parking lot. I remember one time crying on a call with a board member and having to leave work for the day.

What happened to the impeccable integrity, the ability to motivate others to give when I didn’t feel motivated…the love for my work when I didn’t have love for myself? Fundraisers have high energy, but I didn’t have the energy to get up in the morning.

The symptoms of grief can affect us in many ways including our jobs. One day I was on top of the world, having raised a million dollars, but during a performance review, my manager told me I didn’t do enough direct marketing appeals, and he scored my performance low.

As fundraisers, how do we stay afloat when life changes?

Here’s what worked for me.

There is NO perfect balance. I allow myself to remain fluid most days. Creating a schedule often creates stress. I set my own rules. I say NO.

Prioritized my health. I have high blood pressure. I make sure I am taking my meds, eating right, and exercising. I get more sleep.

Make sure you like your job or find a way to do what you do better. I am 57, single, and have been fundraising for 20+ years. I want to give back and help other young fundraisers of color, which is why I’ve founded a networking group called “The Color of Money” in Dallas, TX.

Make time for yourself. While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. Be kind to yourself. Reinvent yourself. Find a hobby; something you enjoy. Learn a language or travel the world. In January, I’m traveling to South American for two weeks, staring in Peru and traveling all the way to Chile.

A recent survey reported development professionals are best at taking care of others and not themselves. I hope this helps you keep your head above water.

Death has a way of giving us a fresh perspective of where we are and where we may be headed. I dedicate this to my Mom who would always say, “Keep Shining for Jesus.”

Happy New Year!

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