The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Happiness and Fundraising: How Are They Linked?


Reposted from Tri Point Fundraising

Read a transcript of this video:


Today's question comes from Sasha. Sasha got into fundraising because she wanted to change the world. But lately she's been feeling discouraged and unhappy at work. Her question is this:

"How can I get my passion back and can you help me put the fun back in fundraising?"

Great question, Sasha! Thank you for being brave enough to ask such a tough and important question.

It's actually a sentiment I hear a lot—maybe not in those exact words, but is certainly a recurring theme in nonprofits I work with. So much so, that I started to ask myself what was happening, and started to do some research on the subject.

As a result, I developed a keynote speech called "Happiness, Habits, and Major Gifts Fundraising: Strategies to Help You Survive and Thrive." ...

Happiness Is Linked to Productivity

In my research on the subject, I found that study after study shows that happiness is linked to productivity. Which tells us that if you're not as happy as you could be, you're probably not as productive as you could be.

The good news for us is that a study called the Happiness at Work Survey showed that people who work in caregiving or direct service are 75 percent more likely to be happy. That includes lots of people in the nonprofit sector.

Of course, as fundraisers, we're not always on the front lines. But I figure we're pretty close, which has got to be good for our souls.

The survey also found people who were happy were 31 percent more productive, and three times more creative!

But What if You're Unhappy at Work?

But, what can you do if you're unhappy at work, like Sasha is?

Well, I'm a true believer in the power of positive thinking. If you think you can, you can.

Henry Ford said it best when he said:

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right!"

And, in the great words of Peter Pan: "Think Happy Thoughts!"

The fact is that if you change your beliefs, you will change your outcomes.

However, let me reassure you, this isn't a case of "wishful thinking." So how does it work?

Change Your Beliefs to Change Your Actions

When you change your beliefs, you change your actions to support those beliefs.

Let me say that again: Once you change the belief, you'll change your actions to support that belief.

(Watch the video above for two quick stories—one of Debbie, a great fundraiser, and one of Kelly, who is not such a great fundraiser. Watch the video to see what makes them different.)

What if you expect the best (like Debbie) instead of assume the worst (like Kelly)? Then how would you act?

Now, I realize that you may have an incompetent boss, or an unhelpful board, which can be frustrating, but I've seen people overcome these challenges.

Happy People Tend to Give More

Another reason to "Think Happy Thoughts" or think positively is that happy people give more to charity.

A working paper produced at Harvard Business School called Feeling Good About Giving, showed that happier people give more ... and giving makes people happier, which means that happiness and giving generate a positive happiness cycle.


The more you give, the happier you are, and the happier you are, the more you give. How awesome is that? And doesn't it make sense that happy people would want to be around other happy people?

So if you're happy, it's more likely that your donors will want to be around you—which is important for fundraising.

Bottom Line ...

If you think happy thoughts, AND act on those thoughts—you can do anything you set your mind to.

So, Sasha, I hope that answers your question and helps put the fun and passion back into your fundraising!

Amy_Eisenstein-1.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Amy Eisenstein. Recognized as a leading expert in her field, she's helped small and large nonprofits alike raise millions of dollars through major gift and capital campaigns, board development, annual fund campaigns, direct mail, and planned gift solicitations. Amy's primary mission is to make nonprofit development simple, helping them to clear away the complexity and raise funds much more effectively.

Topics: Fundraising