Will YOU survive December?


If you are like many fundraisers, December is the biggest month of the year for you and your non-profit.  This can put a ton of pressure and stress on you.  You’ve got year-end giving and goals to meet, events and donor visits…not to mention getting ready for the holidays yourself.

Quite frankly, December is a fundraiser’s deadliest month.  More fundraisers die of heart attacks at this time of year than in any other month.  Men and women.

I don’t want you to be one of them.

I’m warning you, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll be sick over Christmas and the new year, or worse…dead. I see this happen to MGO’s and development professionals every year.  So, I’m going to give you some very practical advice on how to get through December without going nuts or getting sick.

You can choose to ignore this advice at your own peril.  I know, because I used to get sick every January 1st from being so stressed out in December with all the pressure.

Okay, so here you go:

  1. Breathe—I’m serious.  What I mean is, take time to meditate, pray, practice yoga, whatever, but take time out of your day to clear your mind.  I know what happens to you.  You have a thousand things racing through your mind everyday.  It’s stressing you out.  My wife, Julie, has this cool exercise she does everyday.  It’s called “20 breaths.”  All you do is sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes  and take a slow, deep breath, focusing on the breath.  Repeat it at your own, natural pace for 20 breaths.   That’s it – a little stress reduction exercise anyone can do in the middle of the day.  Try it.
  2. Eat Right—Probably the worst thing I do personally when I’m under extreme stress is to eat food that’s not good for me.  And that just makes it worse.  Force yourself to eat balanced, healthy meals.  I know those vendors love sending all that high-calorie, high sugar stuff to you.  Resist!  You will appreciate it in January.
  3. Exercise—If you are someone who regularly exercises, don’t stop in December.  You’ll be tempted to because you “just have to get to the office early.”  Keep it going.  If you don’t exercise that much, then I encourage you to at least take time to walk everyday for 20-30 minutes.  This goes back to clearing your mind.  It will do that and at the same time release endorphins that make you feel good.
  4. Laugh.  There, I bet you just smiled at that one.  Good.  Keep it up.  Look, the world isn’t going to end because you took some time to have fun with your colleagues and family during the weeks leading up to the holidays.  Don’t be thinking that “the good times” can wait until you are off.  Laughing can ease a lot of stress.
  5. Do something nice for someone else.  I know you have a lot to do.  But, if you want to be less stressed and happier during this crazy time of year, one of the best things you can do is something nice for someone else.  Help ease your burden by easing someone else’s burden.  You will be amazed at what will happen to you.

Okay, so there you go.  If you can put these five things into action this December, you will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick while everyone else is enjoying the holiday and having a great time.

You can make it.  And, especially remember that breathe thing.  You’ll thank me in January.


About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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3 Responses to Will YOU survive December?

  1. Connie Harris says:

    Regardless of how crazy Decembers were in our development office, I still made sure that we could celebrate the holiday with a staff outing/dinner or party/carry-in. It gave us all a little breather and allowed some fun during this most stressful time. We’d do Secret Santa gifts, decorate the office tree and offices or adopt a family for the holidays. Great suggestions, Jeff, and happy holidays!

  2. Hey Jeff,
    Let me add this idea . . . Be humbled by the generosity of those who are giving sacrificially. Near the end of the year, ministries and NFPs are looking for the big donor gifts. But when white mail comes in with a check for $7 or $15, we need to marvel at that. It’s the widow’s mite from Mark, chapter 12. Those are the kind of things that should make us stop in our tracks and reflect on all the blessings in our lives. That’s Christmas!
    Jay Payleitner, author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad

  3. Rob Daly says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Great advice to look after our health. I didn’t know that fact about fundraisers and heart attacks.

    It would be remise of me not to mention one more healthy tip – ‘Know the warning signs of a heart attack’ for yourself and those around you. People delay taking action because they don’t realise that majority of heart attack are not the classic chest pain or pressure, but in the jaw, back, shoulder, arm or back.

    This is an Australian site, but the facts and warning signs are the same – http://www.heartattackfacts.org.au/

    Keep up the great blogs.

    Rob Daly – MBA, MFIA

    Fundraising Director (Victoria)

    Level 12, 500 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic, 3000

    Tel: (03) 9321 1514 Mob: 0434 600 482

    You can help save children this Christmas. Last year, six-year-old Lily had a cardiac arrest while jumping on her trampoline. She survived, but nine out of 10 children do not.

    Donate to the Heart Foundation this Christmas to help save children like Lily. Watch Lily’s story at http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/LilyStory

    Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

    Connect with us

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