The Two Magic Words

“Rob, you’ve seen so many Decembers in your career, so many year-ends. We’re bombarded with messages of ‘good cheer’ but for fundraisers it can be just the opposite! Every day brings stress, a new problem and a looming deadline.

“Is there a secret to making it through these weeks without feeling overwhelmed? If there is, can you please share it?”

Gladly, my friend. Just as the newspaper editor wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” yes, there is a secret to our being happy in December.

The secret is two words. Just two words.

Slow down. Slow. Down.

I know, that’s not what you were hoping for. You wanted something techy. Maybe an app.

Sorry. There’s no metric or analytic that will help you as much as accepting the idea of slowing down during a frenetic time.

Sounds incongruous, right? Counterintuitive, maybe? Just consider:

When we race through these four weeks we cheat ourselves out of any chance to enjoy the magic of the season and the magic is there. The surprise gifts we see or learn about, the gifts we never expected that speak of true generosity. The thoughtfulness of a colleague who knows exactly what can boost our spirits. The quick rush of happiness we feel when we put $20 in the red kettle.

You’ve heard it as often as I have. Maybe you’ve said it yourself:

“The whole month was a blur. I barely remember a thing!”

It doesn’t need to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way.

When we rush, we scribble our note to the donor and our signature on the card and the donor knows we rushed to do it. They just do.

When we rush, our thank you for the gift becomes transactional instead of genuine and the donor knows it. They just do.

When we rush, we forget things. We forget the little things, the important donor touches they remember from year to year that are the ties that bind the relationship together.

When we rush, we make those around us, our colleagues, feel our stress and they become stressed themselves.

And when we rush, we risk making the donor feel small. The worst sin of all.

The fix? Early each morning, determine the three most important things to accomplish that day. The rest is gravy. There will be plenty that will come along to fill the day.

Smile. Treat every donor call, every donor email not as an interruption but as the reason you’re there. The trick is to be intentional each moment, not fast.

Think of a fundraising professional you admire. Chances are, this is one of the ways you would describe him or her:

“I don’t know how they do it. No matter how crazy things get, they never become flustered. They’re focused, but calm. All the time. Even though they never rush they get so much done. That vibe, that example helps all of us.”

Be that person. Slow down, and see what happens.