Ann Franzenburg

Senior Writer

About Ann

One of our Advancement Resources team members recently attended the Case District 3 Conference in Orlando. Two sessions stood out to my colleague in particular. On the surface, the sessions seemed to have nothing to do with development work. However, on closer examination, they were both tied to the growing stress and anxiety that development professionals are feeling.

The first session was about mental and physical health. The facilitator acknowledged that development work in general and meeting metrics in particular is stressful. Most people’s bodies and minds deal with stress in negative ways. We’re strapped for time, so we skip exercising. We eat food that comforts us in the short-term but is unhealthy in the long run. Let’s not even get started about work-related travel.

The amazing thing about this session is that when a woman bravely shared the challenges she is facing, others in the room leapt to offer suggestions. The nuanced work that development professionals do in connecting philanthropic opportunities with donor passions often happens in the background—but they shouldn’t put their own needs in the background. The outpouring of support showed that your development colleagues want to help. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

The second was session was led by an amazing keynote speaker who urged the audience to find their passion. When those working in development feel stressed about or dissatisfied with work, the easy scapegoat is that we aren’t making enough money. This speaker argued that when you find your passion, you will find your worth. The next time you are feeling stuck, ask yourself if it’s really because you aren’t making enough money. Ask yourself if what you are doing professionally is meaningful to you. Those feelings might be masking the fact that the cause you are fundraising for—no matter how noble—just doesn’t resonate with you.

The growing sense of stress and anxiety people in advancement are experiencing isn’t going to go away on its own. Individually, we’re going to have to do the hard work of seeking out positions that—in addition to an ample pay and benefits package—are meaningful to us. It’s going to take open communication and then applying what we hear to create thoughtful solutions to the problems our industry faces so that together we can continue doing advancing causes we truly care about.