chapter 36 Dealing with Anxiety

During the thirty-five years I have been in fundraising, I have observed that the greatest factor causing people to leave fundraising or to burn out is not the work itself or even the challenge of having to ask for money. It is the constant, gnawing anxiety that the money won’t come in and the knowledge that once you have raised money for one month or one quarter you must simply begin fundraising for the next period of time. A colleague of mine observed that the best day of her year was immediately followed by the worst day. The best day was the end of the fiscal year if the organization had raised or exceeded its goals for the year. Staff and board would celebrate and everyone would feel good. The worst day was the next day—the first day of the new fiscal year when everything started over. Fundraising for small organizations means there is rarely any rest, success is short-lived, and lack of success shows up immediately. Fundraising can also be an isolating job, with the burden of producing money too often placed on one or two people.

Many paid fundraising staff have told me that they wake up in the middle of the night worrying and that they never really feel free to take a weekend off, let alone a vacation. Fundraising staff often watch their enthusiasm and self-esteem get eaten away by the constant pressure of a job that by its nature can never be finished.

Aside from seeking psychotherapy or quitting one’s job, there are five ways to deal ...

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