When I decided to make the switch from a career in hospitality and event management to philanthropy many years ago, I was driven by a desire to have a voice in the issues that mattered to me, and to support programs/initiatives that I truly believed in. I was eager to work with other idealists – with colleagues, volunteers, and donors that shared a desire to make a difference and to act on them.
Those of us who have built a career in advancement tend to be optimists at heart, inspired by the opportunity to impact the issues we deeply care about. And likely many of us have experienced periods where that optimism, and the incredibly positive power of our profession, feels far away. We’ve felt very removed after days spent navigating bureaucracy, sitting in meetings that seem far away from intent, and focusing on internal “politics.”
Summer – with its longer days, vacations, nature, and barbecues – brings us the perfect opportunity to reflect and rekindle that passion for the incredibly meaningful work we do. Here are my favorite ways to recharge:
1. Take your vacation time. Get away from work and the day-to-day, and experience something new. Spend some of that time in nature, as there is plenty of research demonstrating the restorative power of being outdoors. It’s hard to find joy in your work when you’re overwhelmed by it, so use your vacation to find distance and reflect.
2. Go look at the impact you’re having – literally! Move away from your computer and go watch students interacting in the commons; see animals getting ready for their new homes; families receiving the assistance they need to stay whole. Say to yourself, “I helped make this happen. Colleagues and donors contribute to something meaningful. We are conduits for change.”
3. Talk to a donor who is passionate about your organization’s work. This doesn’t have to be a major donor, but someone who cares deeply about your cause. See their passion and hope, and let that remind you why you’ve built the career you have, and what an honor it is to work with these individuals.
4. Think about your successes. Have you helped a donor make an exceptionally generous gift? Coached a colleague through a difficult situation? Created a stewardship experience that touched your supporters? It’s so easy to forget what you’ve done that matters – remind yourself instead of all you are bringing to those around you. If it’s not easy to remember, start a file of “jobs well done” to reflect on whenever you need a pick-me-up!
5. Remember that we advancement professionals are not the only ones who feel this way! I wrote this post after being inspired by this Forbes article, about these same issues from the perspective of a funder. Every professional faces challenges in the workplace, but not every professional gets to work toward a better world.
6. If you still can’t find joy in your work, it’s time to ask yourself tough questions. Are you still in the right field? In the right role? At the right organization?
Our profession allows us to take our strengths and use them for issues we care deeply about; to spend time with others who share our passion and who are deeply generous; to see our impact every day, if only we stop and look. I invite you to spend this summer “looking,” and rekindling the passion that brought you to this profession in the first place.
KDD Philanthropy can help your organization strengthen its culture, build tools and provide coaching to yield successful results. Contact us today about how we can help your team achieve even greater success.
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