Throughout any typical year, most fundraising teams experience their ups and downs. The lead up to a big event is always exciting and invigorating, while the summer slump can be somewhat of a downer, and then we feel the rush of energy and even pressure of year-end fundraising. Raising money to support your nonprofit has a natural ebb and flow that we come to expect. Add in a global pandemic, and it’s completely natural that your employees are probably feeling more unmotivated and stressed than usual. Right now, we are all managing pressure and anxiety to work as normal, despite other feelings from being cooped up in our homes for the past few months.
We could all use extra motivation - so why not be the one to bring it to your team? Here are a few ways you can help motivate others, even when you might be facing your own difficulties:
Be open and available
You might not have noticed how you’ve shut yourself off recently, or how you are focusing on the never-ending task list between needs from leadership and donors, but it’s possible that some people on your team are feeling left out or unheard. It’s certainly not on purpose and they are probably understanding based on the given situation, but this leaves room for opportunity for you to create more open space for everyone on your team. Create open forums for everyone to get together without an agenda or task list — instead, opt to hear everyone out and shed light on their particular situations and contexts. Some team members might want to do this in private, and that’s okay—give them that option to by offering office hours or an open door policy to call, text, or email with any thoughts, stresses, and frustrations.
You’re facing a lot of what they are facing too—and perhaps at an even elevated level within your position and personal situation. Within your open sessions, be honest about how you are feeling and how this is affecting you too. This will help create bonds and break down barriers any employees might have with sharing their situations. While you can only do so much within your capacity, knowing that others are sharing some similar anxieties, stresses, and questions can actually be very comforting.
Be giving (of praise)
You know hard it is to do good work right now. You’ve got a lot to do and some of it might feel like you're going through the motions. And you can imagine that if you’re feeling that way, your team is feeling something similar, if not heightened. In between your donor calls and emails, take the time to praise them for their work! This could be as simple as sending them an email letting them know that you appreciate them and think they’re doing really great, despite the circumstances. You could go a step further and write individual emails or letters, or set up individual calls to each staff person, laying out a few specifics that each of them is doing. While complimentary, it can also demonstrate to your team that you are really watching their work and take the time to see what each is doing every week. This can be both inspirational based on the kindness of the gesture and motivating based on knowing that your boss is really keeping track!
Be flexible and forgiving
While your team is probably still operating near capacity, it is important to continue to keep in mind that this is a stressful time, and adding more stress from your job can be incredibly damaging to your staff’s mental and physical health. When you’re having these calls, meetings, or open forums, let them know that you realize all these things - you told them you’re feeling it too! - and you can be flexible with certain projects or deadlines. In normal times, working from home has shown to increase productivity and performance, but with these recent circumstances, the normal workload and abilities of your staff have probably shifted as they’ve come to balance more every day.
Getting excited yourself might seem difficult, but there are plenty of ways that you can build something fun and exciting to help motivate your team. Try sending them a surprise gift basket or box, or schedule a day of just games, team building activities, and connection time with your team. They’ll appreciate the day “off” and the ability to connect about topics outside of work. While you don’t have many options to replace the “water cooler” talk typical of your office, you can still try to offer opportunities to help them remember why they love working with you and your organization.