Feeling Alone

“I would never admit this to anyone at the office, but it has been a long time since I felt excited about my job.  Most days, it’s an effort to just do the work.”

Is that you? 

There’s nothing wrong with you.  You’re not a bad person or a bad employee.  Everyone has “down days.”

But if it’s been a while since you felt happy about your job, you owe it to yourself to take a look. 

Because you owe it to yourself to be happy. And we are responsible for our own happiness.

There are five reasons we stay motivated in our work.

One, we take a minute every now and then to remind ourselves, “I am grateful I have a job.  A reason to get up in the morning and go somewhere I am wanted.  And I am glad I have a regular paycheck.”

Sometimes we forget the obvious.

The reason I think most advancement professionals lose motivation is we get caught up in the weeds and forget to stay connected with, and committed to, what our organization does.  Another obvious thing.  But it takes effort to remember.

Get up.  Go find that thing your organization does that makes you proud.  You don’t need to make a big deal about it.  Just go. Trust me, it is the most important think you will do that day.

But what if you don’t care what your organization does?  What if you only want to close gifts and it doesn’t matter to you what the gift is for?

You’re in the wrong business.  Get out.

Three, we stay motivated because we have clear and achievable goals we want to reach.  Do you believe in what your organization does and do you want to close gifts to help make that happen?  Now you’re talking!

We stay motivated because we know we’re on the same page as our boss.  Our boss supports us, and helps remove the roadblocks that keep us from doing what we’re there to do.  Believing in your boss and wanting to do a good job for him or her is a fundamental element of staying motivated.

And last, we stay motivated because we feel a part of a team.  Whether it’s a development team or the organization staff as a whole, there is an underlying desire to do well, to “bring it every day” not just for oneself but for others.

When we don’t feel that way, when we don’t feel part of a team, we begin to feel alone.  Isolated.  That’s a bad thing.  No one wants to be alone, whether you are a one-person shop or a member of a big team. 

There are proactive things we can do to combat that feeling of isolation.  Let’s start with the idea that you are a one-person shop, or part of a very small shop.

Most folks outside of development aren’t always sure what we do.  But they’re sure of one thing – they don’t want our job!  Our work is focused on the “outside” while most everyone else is focused on the “inside.”  Put those together and we sometimes feel we’re working alone.

There are simple ways to fix that. Seek out colleagues on the “program side.” Have lunch with them. Ask their advice about something. Best of all, if they have a big something and need an extra hand, pitch in!

The one professional development expenditure that brings the greatest return on investment is a subscription to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  They do an impressive job of making you aware of “the advancement world around you.”  When you subscribe, be sure to also subscribe to their “Philanthropy Today” daily email.

Visit your donors.  Doesn’t matter if you are a gift officer or the person inputting the gifts.  Say thank you, deliver muffins on their birthday, bring chicken soup if they’re sick.  Stay connected at times when you don’t want to ask for a gift.

Your local AFP Chapter will often have free networking events in addition to the many member benefits they offer.  And there are often other groups of development professionals in your area.  The meetings are not expensive, a solid investment of your time, and a great way to make a new friend.

No matter where you are, at a shop large or small, to me the best way to combat isolation is to work at being a friend.  Always remember, we have to “work at keeping our friends.”  Most development professionals are as eager to make a friend as you are.

Set a goal of one networking coffee every month.  To save time, piggyback a coffee with another appointment out of the office.

Volunteer at another nonprofit.  Do you know someone at another shop who’s having a big event?  Offer to volunteer at the event!

Buy yourself an inexpensive “birthday book.”  What’s that?  A very small pocket calendar.  When you learn a friend’s birthday, or anniversary, or any date important to them, write it in your little book.  The day of the week doesn’t matter, the date does.  When you send a friend an email or a note wishing them a Happy Birthday, they won’t believe you remembered. 

When you get a call or an email from another development professional who’s either recruiting for an open position, or in a search themselves, take three minutes out of your day to really think about how you can be helpful.  That kindness will come back to you many times over.

The point is, to not feel alone, get out there.  Be a friend.  It’s that simple.