Self-Care: The Most Important Thing We All Should Be Doing Right Now (How to Build Your Self-Care Practice)
Brace yourself. I'm going to use a buzz word.
Maybe that’s two words.
Here’s a definition of self-care that I love from Psych Central: “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”
Deliberately. You have to do it deliberately. Plan for it. Schedule it. Make it part of your routines.
Also note, that it doesn’t just help you. It helps others because it makes us better partners and collaborators. You’ll be less stressed, healthier, more patient, and probably more kind.
Taking good care of ourselves now is perhaps the most important thing we can do . It will prevent burn out and boredom and restlessness that will help us stay home and flatten that curve. But, I would argue that for non-profit pros, it's absolutely essential. Here's why:
Non-Profit Professionals and Self-Care
Surely you know, that non-profit and fundraising roles can be extremely stressful and that was true long before COVID-19.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an article in August of 2019 about new research showing that 30% of fundraisers plan to leave the field entirely in the next two years!
There are many reasons for this startling statistics, here are a couple:
I can guarantee that the "tremendous pressure to succeed" will only increase as we move through the coronavirus crisis and into the recovery phase.
What does all this have to do with self care? You might ask.
Well, in order to be the absolutely All-Star Fundraiser I know you can be, you have to be your best self. You can’t succumb to nonprofit burnout. The industry needs folks like you to stay in fundraising. With 3 out of 10 fundraisers planning to depart the entire sector (before this crisis), nonprofits will need YOUR unique skills. So, I’m going to encourage you to take care of you.
Shouldn't we be lobbying for a better budget, higher salaries, more cooperative leadership, and more reasonable goals?
bsolutely! In order to do that, you have to be in top form. You will need even more resilience to raise amazing amounts of money while also changing an industry. I’m going to challenge you just to go just a bit further in taking excellent care of yourself.
Self-care: it isn't (all) about crystals and bubble baths!
Self-care has this modern connotation of it being something over-worked wine mommies do. They're looking for a "Calgon-Take-Me-Away" bubble bath. (I just totally dated myself with that commercial reference, didn't I?)
While those sorts of indulgences and treats do have a place in a well-rounded self-care regimen, they are not the core of a self-care practice.
It is not our grand gestures that keep us healthy in body, mind, and spirit, but the small things we do daily. You can quote me on that one.
You need to identify small, sustaining daily habits that can be done on 80-90% of days to help you be in the best form for yourself and others.
To help you build that practice, I've created the Self Care Mind Map and the 90 Day Habit Tracker. (To download both files in PDF format, as well as view my entire Self-Care for Non-Profit Pros webinar, click here.) The process starts with the Self-Care Mind Map.
Self-Care Mind Map
The Self-Care Mind Map is divided into eight areas of our life and I want you to stretch yourself and think of three things you could do in each category that would improve your quality of life. You are not committing to doing any of these things at this point. Just write whatever comes to mind.
You need to fill your brain with a positive can-do attitude and your mind needs to just rest and be clear sometimes. For my Mind Map, I put that I could listen to positive podcasts, meditate for at least five minutes per day, or take periodic detox breaks from social media. Yours might include affirmations, visualization, reading self-help books, or audiobooks. There are so many options to build a healthy, resilient mindset.
Generate some ideas about how you can feed your mind. For example, I love documentaries, about the British Royal Family and World War II (bonus if it’s about both)! I also like to read on many different topics and I like learning foreign languages using the Duolingo app.
It might seem like we are having to give up too much these days. But think about what causes you unnecessary stress or takes away too much time. For me, I don’t consume news in excess and I’m working really hard to stop scrolling on my phone in the mornings.
If we don’t acknowledge and process our feelings, they either appear in the body as illness or they manifest in destruction behaviors (like addiction) and interpersonal patterns (codependency). I wrote on my Mind Map that could set firm boundaries about my needs, practice focusing on what I can control, and I free-write in my journal three quick pages most mornings. (Morning pages is a practice from The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and I highly recommend this book for any creative person.) Yours may be committing to attend 12-step meetings (yes, they have lots of these online and via phone these days), visiting a counselor (also available online), or writing a letter to express a long-held grudge (even if you don't send it). What, if you were deeply honest with yourself, do you need?
There are endless options for this category: you could floss more regularly, lift weights, eat more vegetables, go for a daily walk, get 8 hours of sleep most nights, the list goes on and on. The challenge here is to narrow it down to what you most need and what will truly provide you with the most benefit. Oh yeah! And it has to be something that you can and will do! My two that make me feel amazing are daily yoga practice of at least 15 minutes and getting 10,000-15,000 steps on my Fitbit daily.
Even if you are a hard-core atheist, you still need to attend to your spiritual side (even though the word “spirit” might make you bristle a little). Hear me out: Even if you don’t go to church, do you have a community, a strong friend group that you can rely on. Do you sing daily? Singing is a powerful kind of psychological medicine. I also like reading poetry (and writing it too). What other things can you think of to nourish your sense of wonder and awe at this whole being human thing?
Play has a few particular characteristics. First, play is pleasurable. Sounds like “duh!” but things in this category should be fun. Second, we enter into play voluntarily and most often it is self-chosen and self-directed. So, no putting things you think you “should” do in this category. Play makes us feel like we can do it all day. There’s a feeling of time not moving when you play. My kids help me play. These days, we love having family game nights and family movie nights. Those are precious moments, yes. But I also enjoy them because they are fun for me.
Now, we are really getting into the nitty-gritty. This is where you can let loose a bit. What are three things you might call “guilty pleasures”, the things you are a little embarrassed to admit to someone you respect that you enjoy. I love a good bath. But, that’s become like the stereotype of the harried mother trying to do self-care. Still, it’s a happy place for me. I also love showtunes! And I have an entire collection of vinyl records from Broadway and movie musicals because no one else wanted to buy them! I also love really giant (like Alice in Wonderland-style) ridiculous cups of hot tea. This list will be your go-to when you are ready to indulge.
90 Day Habit Tracker
Ok, now that you’ve filled out your entire mind map, pick 3-5 that you know would improve your quality of life if you did them every day (or most days). If you do this with 80-90% adherence, I’m telling you it will completely change your life. Feel free to throw out a habit if it doesn’t work after a couple of weeks or a month, then replace it with something else. You can also change the duration that you do one practice. For instance, if you started off with 20 minutes of meditation and you find you cannot fit that in, drop the goal to only 5 minutes a day. Have fun figuring out what makes you feel the best.
Back in 2017, I set myself a challenge like this. I wanted to do #yogaeverydamnday and get 10,000 steps every day for 30 days. At the end of that month, my mind was sharp and clear, I had lost a bit of weight without much strenuous effort (and while eating pasta and cannoli when traveling), and when I woke up in the morning I didn’t creak with aches and pains. It was nothing short of remarkable.
When I described the amazing benefits I gleaned from this experiment to my aunt, she stared at me seriously and asked, “Well, why the hell did you stop?” I did not have any good reason. At that point I realized I needed to build this into my life in a sustainable way. There will be days that I twist my ankle and can’t achieve the 10,000 steps. There will be days that I'm too busy with meetings for yoga. That’s ok, too. But working toward 80-90% adherence to healthy habits bring tremendous results.
Also, please remember to find beauty and practice gratitude. I have been snapping pictures of flowers every day, because I’m so genuinely grateful that I can get outside and walk. The weather has been beautiful here (whereas my brother and his family are stuck in late season snow in Colorado) and I have other friends who are stuck inside their homes for the foreseeable future. So, the best thing we can do for ourselves and others right now is to look inward and tend to ourselves like one would tend a garden, cultivating compassion for self and others. The result will be grace.
Grace for ourselves, for our families, our kids, our elders, the healthcare workers, the UPS drivers, our neighbors, everyone we interact with. And please tip your cashiers and delivery drivers very generously, as you are able.
To get through all of this, we will need to take this extra time at home with our family to cultivate our best habits of self-care, which will fortify our body, mind, and spirit. These practices will give us the resilience we need to get through this crisis successfully and come out the other side of stronger in many ways.
If you already have a self-care practice, what does that look like for you? If you used the Self-Care Mind Map, what kinds of things did you come up with to try? Did any of them surprise you? In a couple of weeks, I want to know what benefits you've been able to garner from making some of those things habits? Please let me know in the comments below.
And of course, if any of this stirred up questions, send me your question in the comments and I'll address it.
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Most fundraisers travel at least some of the time. Many of us are “road warriors” who travel at least 25%-75% of the time. After almost two years of 50% travel, I have found some iPhone apps to be nearly indispensable to me for smooth and safe travel. Here's 10 of my favorites in no particular order. All of these are free to download.
I’m not really sure how I would have done this job before Google maps! I would have a stack of old MapQuest print-outs as tall as Moby Dick without it. I’m a bit of a control freak and I hate being late, so this app is great for me because I can plan what traffic is likely to be at the specific time of day I plan to be somewhere. I also like that I can select car, public transport or eve walking.
Furthermore, I use this at home when planning a trip to select restaurants convenient to the donor’s home or work, find centrally located hotels, and assess how far constituents live from a metro center I’m visiting to determine whether I could make it that far to see them. Bottom line, it is a crucial tool for my work as a fundraiser.
Clio is a landmark and history app. It senses where you are and tells you which historic landmarks and museums are near you. It’s fun when you have some extra time to fill between meetings or when you are traveling with kids. I’ve learned a great deal about cities around the country that I wouldn’t have learned without Clio.
Feeling like Mexican? How about Lebanese? Just type it into Yelp and it will tell you where the closest restaurant of that type is to you, whether it is open now and how much it is likely to cost. The ratings and reviews are good too if you can’t decide.
Lyft is my new favorite app. I’m from the South and wouldn’t know how to hail a cab if my life depended on it. So, when I needed a cab, I would walk to the nearest taxi stand. Now, wherever I am, Lyft gets me to my next destination. I’m so excited that they are expanding into the South now too.
Lyft usually arrives within 5 minute or less, shows me my driver’s picture and tells me the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle. It texts me with a “bing!” to let me know when my driver arrives. I don’t have to pull out a credit card, as it is saved in the app. When the ride is over, I pull up the app to add a tip and the receipt arrives in my email inbox.
And if you are traveling with a group or with children or strollers/luggage, Lyft will let you select a larger vehicle so you are sure to have space for everyone and everything.
The Hilton app keeps all my reservations in one place. I can check in the day before I arrive, letting them know when I’ll be there. I usually can select my room in the app. It’s nice to have the addresses and phone numbers of the hotels at my fingertips.
Airline Specific Apps
United and Virgin have great airline apps. You can check in and even pay for your baggage via the app. Both of these have the ability to use a digital boarding pass on your phone. Delta and American also have apps but they aren’t quite at the level of the others I mentioned.
Quick and easy and more reliable than Skype on the road. Essential for keeping in touch with my kids and my husband when I’m not home.
I love audiobooks. Hoopla Digital is a service you sign up for using your local library card. With my library, I can “check-out’ 8 titles per month via the app. They have e-books and videos too, but I like to use mine for audiobooks because you get more hours of content per check-out. Being able to download a specific title is a nice feature because then you can continue to listen even in airplane mode. I listen to fiction, non-fiction, business and personal development titles.
Your iPhone camera is good for so much more than just pretty pictures. I like to take photos of my parking space numbers at the airport or my hotel room number, so I don’t forget. You can snap photos of posters for events that you want to remember later. I also use my camera to take pictures of flowers and other little things that my daughter would love and I send them to her (via my husband or my mom) to let her know that I’m thinking about her.
For the school that I work for, showing up at donor meetings with a notebook or executive pad would be wildly too formal. But often, a donor will get energize and begin throwing out names of people I should meet or follow up with. The Notes app takes the place of paper. I also use it to jot down any ideas I might have when pulling out my journal at that moment would be a pain. I’ll get a ton of ideas as I’m listening to audiobooks (via Hoopla) and I use notes to record those on the go.
Are there other apps that I didn't list? What are your favorites?
As always, comments and questions are welcome and encouraged!
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One of the most important alliances at a nonprofit organization is between the fundraising staff and the marketing/communications staff. Making sure that the message about the funds needed and how those funds connect to mission is a crucial element of success.
Despite the importance of cooperation, it can be frustrating for fundraisers to work with public relations officers who don't have much experience with advancement work. The communication folks may find messaging about fundraising to be crass or pushy. Consequently, they might not want to give development the appropriate amount of space in the marketing channels.
Here a few tips I've used to improve the working relationship between development and marketing/communication colleagues:
Educate them on what it takes to do your job! Let them know what your goals are and let them know how many messages and how many different channels you need to be participating in order to reach those goals. Show them statistics and analytics. Help make your goals into their goals.
HELP THEM HELP YOU
Make it as easy for them as possible to assist you. That means drafting a lot of your own messaging whenever possible, selecting your own images and putting all of that together into a comprehensive plan. Whether the plan is for social media or email or even your direct mail, if they assist you in managing any processes, be very clear about dates, times, and details. Having your plan together will help get them on board.
SET THE TONE FOR TEAMWORK
Like any important colleagues, acknowledge what it is that bring that they bring to the table that is unique. Make them understand that you're on the same team. As fundraisers, we strive to be donor-centric and therefore we are advocates for our constituents. Assure them you don't want to over-message to your constituents either. You're both playing on the same team and the goal of that team is to bring in the resources necessary for the organization to complete its important mission.
BE FIRM ABOUT THE CALL TO ACTION
Being a team player doesn't mean being a pushover. You understand the best way to motivate your prospects to give. Don't let your calls to action get buried in more general promotional materials. Insist upon clarity in this portion of your communication and you will see success. Similarly, be firm about deadlines. More general marketing materials aren't as time-bound as annual giving. It's called annual for a reason. You only have one year to get it done.
FOCUS ON STORYTELLING
Play to the strengths of your communications colleagues by asking for their assistance with storytelling. Framing a moving and emotional narrative will only make your fundraising materials stronger. This is a skill that should come very naturally to your communications allies. Tap their creativity in this area and not only will your messages improve but your colleagues will feel like an integral part of the team.
I've worked at institutions where the dynamic between these two departments was less-that-optimal and it hampered fundraising productivity. I've also worked at institutions where there was a team atmosphere and mutual understand of goals. Everything is much easier when you focus on relationships first and foster learning and communication surrounding goals.
How does the development team work with the communication staff at your institution? Do the two groups function as partners or as a client-service relationship? Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
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I was a bullet journal skeptic. Lots of smart friends that I respected seemed to be jumping on this bandwagon but it seemed to me to be a way to waste a lot of time color coding with fancy pens.
So, I asked on Facebook for someone to explain to me what all the hype was about. If you aren't familiar with the concept of a bullet journal, watch this video below. Then you can read about my conversion to bullet journal or bujo (as the bullet journal junkies call it) below the video.
After reading comments from my friends and watching this video and others, I decided to try using a bullet journal as a way to help me organize my work more effectively and to integrate my home life and work life. I've been doing it now for a little under a month and I'm a fan. Here are some reasons why I recommend you experiment with this method.
If you love your bullet journal, let me know why in the comments below. If you want to try it out, do so and report back here to tell us how it's working for you!
Bear with me for a minute.
Let’s say there’s an email type that you write regularly, maybe three times per week. Maybe it’s a report that has the same format each time. Even if it takes you only 5 minutes to compose that email, that’s 15 minutes per week. Doesn’t sound like a lot does it? It’s 0.6% of your week, no big deal, right?
That’s roughly 12 hours per year (taking out 2 weeks for holidays and 2 weeks for vacation) just for one report email. If you have routine 8 tasks that take you 15 minutes per week, that 96 hours (or almost two-and-a-half weeks of work) that you spend completing those mundane to-dos per year.
Take the time from 15 minutes per week down to 5 minutes per week and you’ll save yourself 8 hours per year on each tasks (from 12 hours to 4 hours annually). That’s a huge time savings. Annually, if you cut the time on all 8 routine tasks, you will only spend 32 hours per year on these kinds of things. What could you do with an extra week-and-a-half of work time? What important projects could you launch that you never seem to get around to? What contacts could you make? What donors could you re-ignite with passion for your organization's mission?
Which brings me to my Tuesday’s Tip. Always use cut and paste (whenever possible). If you send a routine email, never re-compose it fresh. Pull up the old email and set it to forward. Then just remove all signs that you are re-purposing the previous text and then put in the up-to-date information. Better yet, keep a word document with the language for the routine email in it and paste your template into an email anytime you need it.
And this is not just for reports. If you must routinely ask donors for a meeting, or try to get staff to fill out a poll to settle on a meeting time, just create a template and customize it each time. Also, you’ll save yourself time and headaches if you cut and paste file names and just put the correct date on the end. This makes files easy to organize and you can just CRTL-C and CRTL-V your way through it when you are saving files. A side benefit to this method is that you will make few mistakes. You’ll have fewer typos because you will have proofread your template many times. And the template will serve as a checklist of sorts that prevents you from forgetting something important.
This may seem impersonal but it is anything but if you do it right. Instead of spending time trying to re-invent the wheel each time, you can spend half of that time really thinking through how you want to customize this message for that donor or colleague or situation. More time on personalization and less time on merely typing. Yes! That’s donor-centric and makes you a better steward of one of your organization’s most important resource – your own time.
You might have seen the various memes with 10 things that require zero talent. It’s a great list. Here are the 10 things:
It’s worthwhile to look at each of these and evaluate yourself as to whether or not you are maximizing this category for career development and self-improvement. I try to cultivate all of these qualities and habit in myself and my work, but there are ones that stick out as potential areas of improvement. For instance, I know that if I get bored or feel helpless/hopeless in a role, I will check out in the passion area. Also, my “coachability” varies based on the demeanor and presentation of the person doing the “coaching”, if you know what I mean. I could stand to work on both of those things.
Beyond that, here’s my key insight for your Monday: While none of those ten things require talent, they do -- in aggregate -- create what we call talent.
If you practice all of the ten skills (behaviors, habits, etc.), you will get better in your chosen vocation and if you practice them all long enough, you will become an “overnight sensation” so to speak. You will slowly build up a critical mass of knowledge and self-correct from potential mistakes so often that you will break through. Keep plugging away at the little things. It becomes the big stuff.
I work from home and it is difficult to get enough movement when you walk basically to the kitchen, your office and then to your bedroom every day. I had gotten lax in my exercise regimen (what there was of it) and was waking up feeling stiff and sore every morning.
So, for these reasons, I decided to challenge myself. I wanted to do two things every day: at least 20 minutes of yoga and get 10,000 steps. I add a daily entry indicating that I have done it on my Facebook profile with a status update and the hashtags: #yogaeverydamnday and #10Ksteps. Probably it annoys more than 3/4 of my Facebook friends, but I don't care. In my opinion, I'm helping them with their own practice of scrolling past things that annoy you.
By Day 10, something weirdly amazing started to happen. I had had a terrible day. My kids had gone bonkers. It was a weird, off day and I basically ate my weight in Mexican food to cope. It was 9PM, my children were finally asleep and I only had like 3,000 steps.
What did I do? I stayed up until midnight and got those damn steps, that's what I did!
I could have just stopped posting about it on Facebook and no one would have noticed or cared. But, at this point, I was invested. I didn't want to stop for one bad day and have to "start over" with another 30 days.
Intractable stubbornness had set in. That stubbornness made me do it because I wanted to, just because. Even though it was hard. Even though there were no gold stars and no one would have cared if I stopped. Now, I'm on Day 15 and I'm starting to see more and more benefits, but the biggest is just the satisfaction that I didn't freaking quit.
Why am I posting about stubbornness on a blog post that's FUNdraising Friday? For a few reasons:
All that said, where in your work can you activate the power of intractable stubbornness? What areas of your personal life could benefit from the same mindset?
When I was in high school I went to a leadership conference and the organizers had each attendee take the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. (If you aren't familiar with this personality assessment, check out 16personalities.com. I found their analysis to be spot on and helpful as well.) I’m always the same type: ENTJ, the Field Marshall. It’s a relatively rare type and I had never met anyone else that was also an ENTJ.
On the last day of the conference, the organizers did something fiendish. They split the group of about 200 student leaders up into smaller groups by personality type. We were given a project to accomplish with those who were our same type.
There were only 2 other ENTJs. I immediately loathed both of these people. We all were supremely confident that we had the answers to lead the group to victory and we were all quite vocal about it. I began to wish that I had never met another ENTJ. Was I this terrible to be around? Our group made no progress on the project because we could not stop arguing.
After a certain amount of time, these conference organizers gave us all new groups. We were matched with a diverse group representing many different Myers-Briggs types. What a relief! The other groups had struggled too, in different ways. Certain groups couldn’t finish because they just socialized and never got on task. Still other groups over-deliberated. Some never had a leader step forward at all.
Each person in our new group had a natural role. I assumed the executive role and others helped the group cooperate and still others made sure we took all details into account. Compared to my ENTJ group, this was project bliss.
What I learned from this experience was that there is truly strength in difference. Hiring others who are just like you is not a winning strategy. Also, work is more fun if everyone is a little bit different. Quirks emerge when folks are not all the same. Not to mention that it leads to more productivity when skill sets complement each other rather than clash.
So, next time you take one of those personality quizzes on Facebook, think about the results those around you might get too and how that helps you succeed together. Consider this too in your choice of mentor and in your hiring decisions. If you are a big picture “N” (Intuitive), it might be worthwhile to have a “S” (Sensing) perspective in your office to balance your tendencies. You might be so idea driven, you miss critical details that would affect implementation. As a manager, if you are a “TJ” combination (Thinking-Judging), you’ll tend to make snap decisions based on rationality and you’ll often alienate those who are make slower decisions based on feelings. It’s a good idea to consult someone who approached problems differently, especially if your decision will affect many other people.
Learning more about yourself is fun and, like a horoscope, it’s entertaining to see how your profile "matches" you. But, I would challenge you to use these types to learn more about those around you for better understanding and perspective.
Like many fundraisers, I’m goal-oriented. I love that feeling of accomplishment when the goal number has been exceeded or the big gift comes in. In fact, I might be addicted to this feeling. Because when I am plugging along doing my regular work without the big hoopla, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being productive.
I was feeling unproductive this week. Not because I wasn’t busy or hadn’t made significant progress, but because July is this time of sowing, not reaping. One of my marketing colleagues was complimenting me on some of the important steps I had made for my organization this year and particularly this summer, and suddenly, it was clear to me.
I need to honor the sowing part of my work, not just the reaping.
Success is not all about the big gestures, the payoff, or the celebration party. Most of the time, success is about the small but consistent daily efforts that move your career and your institutions forward. The real measure of success isn’t like skydiving, it’s more like ten minute daily walks.
So, put your plans together. Write those daily thank-you notes. Build those relationships. Plant those seeds. The harvest will come. But it’s those unremarkable daily actions that pave the path to success.
What do you want to accomplish this week?
No, that question is flawed. That's a pie-in-the-sky question that lures you into making a to-do list that spills over the edge of your desk and onto the floor. The list will be unrealistic and you will feel like a failure come Friday. Buzzkill.
What are the 3 things you MUST get done this week?
Write them down and write down ONLY three. If you get all three done today or tomorrow, you can always do it again and make another list. But start with just three things.
For most, summertime is a time to plan and prepare. This can cause us to feel like we aren't doing much and so we load on too many tasks to feel more productive. Pull back from this instinct. You'll ultimately get more done and be more successful.
Start with just three things. It will feel attainable and once you feel you can attain it, you can and will. One task is too few to feel productive, two tasks just feels weird, and any more than three and your list is too long. Just three things. As the song goes, "Three is a magic number."
Just. Three. Things. What will you accomplish this week?
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.