Fundraising requires pressure, but it has to be just the right amount: too much pressure and we implode, too little and we underperform.
Mother Nature shows us the benefits of pressure. Consider the pressure that a forest is under from the threat of wildfires. The ecological benefits of wildland fires outweigh their negative effects. A regular occurrence of fires can reduce the amount of dry debris thereby lowering the likelihood of large wildland fire. Fires often remove alien plants that compete with native species and remove undergrowth, which allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, thereby supporting the growth of native species.
The ashes that remain after a fire add nutrients often locked in older vegetation. Fires can also provide a way for controlling insect pests by killing off the older or diseased trees and leaving the younger, healthier trees. Burned trees provide habitat for nesting birds and mammals and a nutrient base for new plants. When these trees decay, they return even more nutrients to the soil. Overall, fire is a catalyst for promoting biological diversity and healthy ecosystems. Fire fosters new plant growth and wildlife populations often expand as a result.
Wildfire is real pressure for a forest, and everything about it applies to your fundraising program.
Exploring these questions will help you discover the right focus for what pressure you need in your fundraising program.
These questions are meant to stimulate your thinking, but please add other questions that are the most relevant for you. Or call me to discuss your dilemma and I can suggest what questions may be worth exploring.
If you’re feeling stress, that is different from pressure. I encourage you to pause and examine those feelings because it is fertile ground for deepening your fundraising approach. Ask yourself, what is the source of the stress, what is the trigger for it, how have you dealt with it before, or not?
Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D., a world-renowned psychologist and senior author of “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most,” (Crown, 2015) highlights the critical difference between stress and pressure. Weisinger says that while we all face both stress and pressure in our personal and professional lives, there’s a clear distinction between the two. “Stress refers to the situation of too many demands and not enough resources – time, money, energy – to meet them. Pressure is a situation in which you perceive that something at stake is dependent on the outcome of your performance. Stress may involve a variety of problems that lead to feelings of overload. A meeting that runs late, a long list of emails that need responses or several looming deadlines that need to be addressed may cause a fair amount of stress. But that doesn’t mean you’re under pressure.
Pressure involves feelings–often of an anxious and fearful nature–of a “do or die” type situation. When you’ve only got one shot to get it right–like being at-bat in the ninth inning of the World Series with the tying run in scoring position, or a presentation to a client or job interview–you’ll experience pressure. To help you hone this distinction, Weisinger recommends that any time you feel the “heat,” ask yourself, “Am I feeling overwhelmed by the demands upon me, or do I feel I have to produce a specific result?” If your answer is the former, a feeling of being overwhelmed, too many demands and not enough resources, you are stressed. If you are in a situation or entering one in which you feel you have to deliver the goods, that’s pressure.”
Overall, I encourage you to welcome pressure and explore the deep questions deriving from it. Doing so will help you grow. Pace yourself, though, and choose the pressure points well so that you can make the most of it.
What’s your experience of being under fundraising pressure? Please let me know on our blog.