Association of Fundraising Professionals – Ottawa Chapter
Saving lives. Changing the world. Making a difference.
BUT WHAT ABOUT SELF-PRESERVATION? A challenge for professional fundraisers and those around them By Leah Eustace When people ask what I do for a living, I’m proud to tell them I’m a professional fundraiser. I share that I spend my days working for a variety of causes that I care about, and I talk about how much I love the work that I do. Invariably, they respond with something along the lines of, “It must be amazing to sit back at the end of the day and know that you’ve done such good.”
Yes, it does feel good. Most of the time. Maybe even just some of the time. What those outside the fundraising profession don’t see is what it takes out of us to do the work we do. Often we’re in this business because we’ve experienced injustice or adversity. We can’t imagine not doing something to make the path easier for the next person who walks in our footsteps. Using passion as our fuel works for a while. But it isn’t long before the high expectations, lack of leadership support, poor salaries, long hours, tremendous workload and lack of resources catch up to us. That’s why I wasn’t all that surprised by the findings of a recent study published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The study looked at job satisfaction and workplace issues in the nonprofit sector, and some of the stats that emerged were downright disturbing:
30% of fundraising professionals are likely to leave the fundraising field within the next two years; 61% of Canadian fundraising professionals are likely to leave their current organization within the next two years; 20% of respondents cited workload as the primary reason they’re considering leaving; and 35% intend to leave (or have left) because of not having enough staff (the No. 1 reason chosen by Canadian respondents).
Implications Canada’s charitable sector is the second-largest in the world, generating $176 billion in revenue, and contributing eight per cent of Canada’s GDP. That charitable sector is reliant on the good work of fundraisers to generate that revenue. If there’s an exodus of professional, knowledgeable and ethical fundraisers, what does that mean for the future of the charitable sector?
If you see someone who is struggling, go and be with them. You don’t have to say anything. Just sit with them where they are. Certainly there are things we can do to change systems, but I’d like to focus on how we approach this crisis from the perspective of the fundraiser. System change takes years, but changing how we take care of ourselves and each other is much quicker. Imagine a sector where professional fundraisers (and all staff and volunteers) are respected, heard and treated with true caring. Where they have someone to turn to if they’re feeling mentally unwell. What a tremendous difference it would make in preventing burnout and creating psychologically safe workplaces. As a professional fundraiser who happens to live with PTSD, anxiety and depression, I know first-hand what a difference it makes to be surrounded by people who care. That’s why I’m choosing to speak out and say, “Hey – I see you. You aren’t alone.” I leave you with a challenge. If you see someone who is struggling, go and be with them. You don’t have to say anything. Just sit with them where they are. And, if you are the one struggling, do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Take a walk, call a friend or find an ally at the office. Remember that no cause is more important than your health and happiness. Leah Eustace is the president of Blue Canoe Philanthropy and vice-chair of professional development on the AFP Global Board.
GIVING GUIDE 2019
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