You are Enough!

by Marcy Heim on January 31, 2018

Fretting over all there is to do is not helpful. But THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO!

Turnover in our profession is at an all-time high. During campaign feasibility studies I like to ask, “How could we serve our very important donors, like you, better?” Too often I hear, “I don’t even bother to learn their name. It will be someone different next time asking the same question, “What inspires you to give to us?” Yikes!
A recent AFP study puts the average tenure of a new development professional at 16 months.

Why do we leave?

1. Our passion isn’t enough to turn down more pay.
We probably took our job because we deeply believed in the mission. We may even have taken a pay CUT. But the need is enormous and the focus is on getting the money. “Feels like you work 24/7 to keep the doors open and the lights on.” A better paycheck, even outside our passion, looks good. Perhaps we leave non-profit work altogether.

2. There is no way to be “more efficient” wearing so many hats.
Just this week I was coaching with two development professionals who both oversee everything from the ‘fruit and candy sale’ to events, the annual fund, data base, research, marketing and, of course, major gifts. The list of tasks is enormous and the long days “to catch up” have become the norm. I had one Dean who announced upon his arrival that he expected everyone in the office Saturday morning…every Saturday morning. Perhaps this is also a “part-time” position.

3. “Opportunity Knocks” and we are not excited.
A donor brings a major gift to the table to launch some new project – maybe on the list – but certainly we don’t have infrastructure in place to take it on now, but oh my the board is excited. Or a matching challenge is made – great news but it won’t happen without a good deal of additional effort. These decisions over time create a model that is unsustainable – we grew beyond where we could function.

4. Seems like metrics only point out where we fall short.
Perhaps your day begins with your “dashboard” of visit, phone, dollars raised blazing forth to remind you to get moving if you want to “meet your numbers.” Who cares about donor satisfaction as long as the money is coming in.

“Anxiety only empties you today of your strength. Focus on the best, celebrate baby steps and drop the rest.” Marcy Heim

You are enough.

1. Focus on what IS being done – and done well.
At times we actually can take on the victimization of the very mission we are supporting and feel their pain. Instead we must constantly celebrate each small victory. When we make a difference in a person’s life today – that is good. Build up the positive non-tangible rewards, beyond the paycheck, that WE MAKE happen. The self-fulfillment that money can’t buy. That very focus brings us more success and lifts our entire budget – including our paychecks.

2. Focus on what to stop, drop, dump, dissolve, quit, end.
As the year begins, look back and dream ahead. Focus on what to DROP and STOP.

STOP working all the time. Go home for dinner. Turn off that blasted phone. A VIP client shared a story about a new donor..very high capacity..who closed his construction company every Saturday and Sunday. Period. His employees worked like crazy Monday through Friday and he was wildly successful, with low turnover.

You know this. Set up boundaries for yourself. Your organization will not do this.
“But I just can’t ignore a message from a donor.” Yes you can.

“I have to get off the social media treadmill.” Yes, you do.

You have MORE value when you value YOURSELF. Self-sacrifice is not “noble” when it depletes you. Serving others at the cost of YOU time is not noble, it’s being a martyr. Long days are often unproductive days. DROP and STOP.

3. Focus on delivering the best results.
The UW Madison Kohl Center is 20 years old. This is our convocation/basketball facility made possible with a $25M gift from Senator Herb Kohl. It was “on the needs list” for over 2 decades…other donor money had been given but not enough to do the project right – and so the money was held until the time was right for success.

A coaching client shared her ED was constantly changing what was “most important” on her list. Get agreement in writing and ASK for clarity about what warrants a change to this chart.

A major gift for a new project was given a timeline that was workable for the infrastructure and didn’t dump more on current staff. We told the donor clearly how we were spending money and why. The Board was told that jumping in to launch this with no sustainable funding or staffing would fail. This is embracing “opportunity” so it STAYS an opportunity.

4. Focus on the quality of the activity more than the quantity of the activity.
I was blessed to work closely with Dave Dunlop, who’s now retired after an exemplary 38-year career with Cornell University. Dave is credited for co-creating, with Buck Smith, the practice of “moves management.” He says, “It can easily be misunderstood, so people start “making moves” and making a game of moves, rather than really recognizing the process that we’re a part of is inspiring people to do the things that we believe they would want to do anyway.”

Steve Engle, a former VIP client, stressed every development team member needs “metrics” that fit their unique gifts and contributions to impactful relationship management. One size does not fit all. The lazy manager will look at numbers. The inspiring leader will read the contact screens.

You are enough.
So listen to me now. You care enough. You know enough. You work hard enough. You are doing enough. Strive to bring forth YOUR special brand of caring and kindness to your prospective and current givers, your colleagues, your family and yourself.

You are enough.

Invest in JOY®



Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at


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