Fundraising and the “always on” culture

In Spring 2024 I took a month off work, off screens and away from “normal” life to take the trip of a life-time to Australia with my family.

I thought I’d return from my sabbatical with loads of ideas on how I can help charities and fundraisers with their major donor fundraising.

I thought I’d come back with new thinking on philanthropy.

Instead I came back having learnt a lot about myself, my family and some perspectives on our modern way of work and life.

I shared these perspectives with the Summit major donor community in an email and I got such a big response; they seemed to resonate:

  • Fundraisers struggling with workload & always “being on
  • Not enough flexibility for caring responsibilities and pressures;
  • Working from home feeling demotivated with little connection to others.
  • And above all, rushing with little time to think.

So I’ve put my perspectives below in a blog too. And while I know you may not be able to take time off like I did, I hope they might be helpful for you working in a sector that is increasingly burnt out and so very tired.

1. A digital detox

This was a difficult things for me to consider ahead of my sabbatical. But not checking work emails or scrolling social media meant I could be truly present on our trip of a lifetime. I was visiting the closest of friends that I have and will miss so much, and seeing rainforest, reef and wonders I may never see again. I’m so glad I wasn’t on my phone during it. And it’s something I will try and do more regularly, whether having a bank holiday weekend at home or during a week in Cornwall.

Image Description: Azure blue water with an island in the background with white sand, blue sky and sunshine

2. Delegating to others

I was forced to trust other people by taking so much time off and committing to not being on-line, My incredible virtual assistant did a fabulous job filling in gaps I’d anticipated might come up and managing enquiries that I hadn’t foreseen. The brilliant Andy King continued Major Donor Fundraising from Scratch by running the Storytelling from Scratch workshop. The fabulous Davinia Batley continued coaching sessions. Thank you!

In the past in my fundraising roles I didn’t have any assistant support and I never wanted to bother team members, so I tried to do everything before I went and when I came back. It was always stressful. Looking back, I’m sure I could have asked and trusted other people more with things when I was away so I could truly recharge…

Image Description: Koala asleep in a tree, it’s arms and legs hanging down, with blue sky behind.

3. Learning in a different way

We can learn so differently. We didn’t take our children out of school for a week lightly. I love to read (as you’ll see from the Summit Summer reading lists) and listen to podcasts, but travel and adventure was a huge education itself. It was a different way of learning for me and my children; away from books and the classroom. From the saltwater crocodiles recovering after being nearly hunted to extinction, the way Australia over time is valuing the history of its indigenous communities, and seeing and understanding different ways of life at a different pace; we all came back richer for all that we saw and learnt.  And I drove a campervan for the first time! A new skill!  With a lot of concentration at first as you can see below!😂

Image Description: Louise in the driving seat of a campervan holding a large steering wheel.

4. Rest is not just Netflix

There are many ways of resting. Although not for everyone, for me planning an amazing adventure up the East Coast, watching sunrise on a deserted beach, sea kayaking, snorkelling with manta rays, exploring caves with bats, crocodile spotting and exploring the beaches of Sydney with amazing friends has invigorated me. I feel more recharged than I have done for years and I think the lack of screens was a huge part of that too. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book, Rest, is  fascinating about different ways of resting for anyone interested and is one of my past Summit reading recommendations.

Image Description: Louise standing wearing shorts and t-shirt and a rucksack looking out over rocks and trees with azure sea and blue sky.

5. Family and friends v saving the world

Those we love and who love us are the most important things in life.

Having worked in and with the third sector for nearly two decades and seeing the dedication and determination to improve things is inspirational. But it can lead to fundraisers and leaders putting themselves and their families and friends second to the mission.

Our trip brought us closer together as a family of 4 with my eldest 12 year old son and I interacting differently now we’re back having had so many shared experiences. And it gave my husband and I some time to reflect on the important stuff at just the right time, after a stressful year or so juggling jobs and lives.

Image Description: A man and two boys with their backs to the camera, standing on a beach looking out the sea and sunrise in the sky.

I’ve known the friend we visited for 25 years, since we were rolling up our uniform skirts in our GCSE years! We have hung out with her husband and family for the past 10 years without thinking how lucky we are to have them in our lives. I’ve missed her so much since she moved to Australia. Although saying goodbye was incredibly teary, we made the most amazing memories. Life can be short and without them moving away we never would have had our Australian adventures!

Image Description: Louise and her friend Emily smiling at night time with the Sydney harbour bridge in the background and the lights of the city twinkling behind them.

It felt great to focus on the most important people in my life, including myself.

I hope you find a way to fully recharge, however that may be. Fundraising and charity leadership is tough, and you deserve it.

Louise Morris is the Founder of Summit Fundraising. She is a major donor fundraising specialist and has worked with over 200 charities helping them raise large gifts.

This was posted on 16 May 2024.


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