In this week’s video interview, I sit down with Shanon Doolittle, who helps fundraisers take better care of themselves and their donors.
What sort of work habits do you have? In this video interview, Shanon discusses the importance of good work habits for successful fundraising.
Interview Highlights (Transcript)
Watch the full interview above or read the highlights below.
What is a Habit Really?
AE: Today we’re going to talk about habits of successful fundraisers. Why don’t you start by telling us some of your favorite habits of successful fundraisers?
SD: Let me start by explaining what a habit is. A habit is a routine of behavior that you unconsciously do.
One of the things when it comes to being a successful fundraiser and habits is this idea of… let me give you an example — gratitude. Obviously, we know that if we want to keep more donors, we need to be grateful and we need to appreciate them. A habit would be something that has a cue, a routine, and then a reward. Because that’s what creates a habit loop. It’s something that has to happen over and over again for it to become a habit.
One of the things that maybe you want to think about from a gratitude perspective is… let’s say you get your gift report and you see, your organization got four gifts today. That is my “trigger” — seeing the list and I automatically know that my routine is to get into the database, find their phone numbers, and make a phone call… to say, you are so wonderful, you’ve made our day, we’ve just received your gift, we’re going to put it to work right away.
And then the reward is the endorphins of what happens in your body when you practice gratitude. One of the things about forming habits is that you can have an intrinsic reward, which is that it feels good. Or sometimes to make a habit stick you must have an extrinsic reward. Maybe it’s a gold star sticker.
Productivity and Efficiency Increase with Good Habits
AE: We all did that with our kids, right? Maybe it works as well with adults.
I talk about habits too, and I like to talk about an impromptu dance party at your desk… turn on your favorite song, crank it up. You get one minute to have a dance party after you’ve done your donor calls.
SD: That’s an awesome reward.
Another habit is around productivity or efficiency. So one of the things as fundraisers is that we have goals we need to meet. What’s a habit that you use for yourself to try to reach a goal? What’s a cue you use when you’re trying to be productive?
AE: I set big goals every year and then I break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. I don’t know if I have a specific reward, but at the end of each day I write down what I’m going to do the next day to get me towards that goal… maybe I don’t need the reward… maybe I’m trained already.
SD: Because it has become a habit for you already. But I think the reward is for you intrinsically that you start the next day automatically knowing what your focus is for the day.
As fundraisers, we are put in situations on a daily basis where we need to make decisions, and it takes a lot of brain space to make certain decisions. Where if you had a habit around it, you don’t have to use the brain space.
Specific Habits for Fundraisers
AE: Give us one or two other habits that fundraisers can focus on.
SD: Once you do an ask, what’s really important is that you follow up. A lot of times we don’t follow up, which is why we don’t get the money.
The cue after the meeting is to set up an appointment in three days to follow up to ask if they have any questions. That becomes the routine. The reward of course, is that you get a generous gift.
Another habit is the idea around boundaries. We’re all helpers. We have a hard time saying no.
A habit could be if someone asks you to help them with something… the routine is to say, “Can I get back to you.” We have to set our own boundaries. We have to remember that “no” is a complete sentence.
AE: Those are some great tips. Do you have any parting words?
SD: Find a habit you want to change and figure out what’s the que, define the routine, and then what the reward is going to be.
AE: I think that’s a great three point system… I recommend coming into work and immediately picking up the phone to call donors.
SD: One thing I would add is “track it.” Progress over perfection.
Habits are hard to change. If you miss a day, let it go. Start again. You will become a successful fundraiser.
What poor habits do you have or wish to change? Let me and Shanon know in the comments.