About two years ago, I finally relented to my friend’s endless invites to join his trail running group. I didn’t like the idea of moving faster than a walk, sweating, and talking to people (I’m an introvert). However, what pushed me over the edge was the path I was currently on – high blood pressure, increased risk for heat attack and probably diabetes. I had to do something. So I showed up and gave it a try.
I’ve now been running for two years and honestly, I’m not that much better at it than I was when I started. Some of that can be chalked up to a lack of complete devotion, to diet, frequency and training. However, the rest I would attribute to the real reasons why I endure the sore muscles, smelly shoes and lackluster pace. I run so I can stay moderately healthy. I care more about the reduced heart rate I have now and the lower blood pressure. I care much less about the act of running and more about the secondary benefits. This is key to the article: I run not because I like the sport, but because I can address the issues I’m most concerned about with running.
What I learned from trail running?
After two years of running trails I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. I started running to improve my health but there have been even more benefits to this journey. I’ve lowered my overall stress, built strong relationships with other runners, worked through difficult problems during my solitude in the woods and more. I went into this knowing I needed to improve my health but I’ve since learned that there’s even more benefit to this one activity. I finally picked an activity to work on and the benefits bled over to other areas.
How does this relate to fundraising?
There’s a correlation between learning to embrace trail running and fundraising (yes, really). If you’re an introvert like myself and you’re trying to grow your non-profit, then you probably know that you need to reach out to constituents and socialize (not our strong suit). That can be as difficult as pounding out 5 miles in the woods. However, think of a few things that can come from a few hours of reaching out: awareness, donations, advice, etc. To make them even more tangible: “I reach out consistently to cover payroll.” or “I connect with donors so I can educate myself.”. These very specific goals help you when you’re in the grind.
Keeping my motivation
I find that when running, I’m least motivated right in the middle of my prep for an upcoming run. The rush of signing up is gone and the race is down the road so the only thing I’m working on is consistency and putting the time in. Therefore, the simpler the goal, the easier it is to stay focused on when I’m not motivated.
I also invest in running. I bought a running watch from Garmin to keep track of my miles and heart rate. It’s literally a constant reminder that I’m working on improving myself. When I think about the correlation to fundraising, I imagine a small banner or framed picture by my desk that I look at every day. It’s not on your desk to motivate you today or tomorrow but next month and the month after. I think that’s why we struggle so much with this easy motivator. We think “I’m motivated right now so I don’t need a note.” However, we make these notes to be motivated next week and the week after when we’re distracted by other things in our jobs and life.
Hitting “The Wall”
Most runners will talk about hitting the wall and how hard it is to get over it. Your energy is gone, you’re exhausted and you can’t even imagine one more mile. Honestly, I’ve never hit a wall during a race. I don’t run hard enough, fast enough or far enough to earn “The Wall”. Instead, I hit walls of motivation to even go out in the woods. A week will go by and I’ll have 99 reasons why I don’t have time. When I finally catch on that I’m being lazy, I try to re-focus myself and start a step challenge with a friend. I get aggressive at re-engaging so I can cut through the excuses.
It’s the same with fundraising. It would be awesome to tackle socializing and reaching out like a boss and kill it every week. However, things happen and you get sidetracked. It’s important to think about today instead of yesterday and the past week of procrastinating. Put up a goal that you can try to reach in just one week. Focus on that goal and not the future beyond it. You want to work on getting the wheels moving again. Later, you can keep them moving, but that’s not today’s problem.
I also learned a pretty cool thing about muscle pain that I think can relate here as well. I work near a wonderful personal trainer and one day I told him that my knee ached after running on it. He told me that a lot of muscles connect at the knee and often times stretching other parts of the legs and hips will relieve the pain. Sure enough, I stretched my quads and loosened them up. Within a few minutes, my knee felt better. The connection to fundraising? You may feel the pain of connecting with donors but perhaps it’s masking something else. You may not realize it but your actually feeling overwhelmed with other things. Look at your desk or office. Do a quick clean up of your space. Clear the clutter. Perhaps something in your personal life needs attention like an unfinished project. Sometimes a lingering issue that isn’t complete can overshadow your desire to work on other things. Clearing that item can clear your head and get you back on track.
Ultimately, being out in the woods, just like fundraising, isn’t a one-time accomplishment. There’s ups and downs and it’s easy for laziness to creep in and get you sidetracked. However, being a consistent activity is a good thing. If you fall behind, that’s ok because starting back up can give you immediate results and put you back on track. Simply put, you don’t have to be 100% to be getting results.