You never started out wanting to be a fundraiser.

But here you are.

What do you think of your career so far?

Are you satisfied?

Are there things you wish you could change, but “oh well, I’m 10-20 years in now, can’t stop?”



you are now less dumbI was re-reading “You Are Now Less Dumb” recently and one of the cognitive biases David McRaney talked about struck me.

Namely, we become what we repeatedly do.

My dad started out as a plumber, like his dad. then he was interested in sports, and then became interested in helping athletes. So he studied to become a physical therapist.

Then he met my mom. Her dad was an orthodontist. And he said, why don’t you become a doctor, you already have half the courses you need!

So my dad became a doctor. And now that’s his identity. It’s different than the identity of everyone else in his family, who did not go to college for one reason or another. They identified with being plumbers. They stayed with what they did.

Be careful what you do, because you become that mask, and then you can’t take it off.

What does this mean?

It means that when we become fundraisers, or teachers, and identify that way, that mask stays stuck on our faces. So all of the things we think about ourselves, how we value ourselves, becomes wrapped up in that mask.

I teach fundraising. It’s something I’m proud of doing. But I also love to write poetry, paint, draw, read, hang out with my friends. Society rewards me for doing the former. Not the latter. But it’s still who I am.

Wrapped up in our fundraiser identities become:

1. Getting compensated for what is seen as women’s work- to build relationships, reach out, throw parties, keep the tribe together

2. Often, the martyr mentality- I can’t make more money, my nonprofit doesn’t have the resources, or I do this for the mission

3. I can’t leave- I have too much invested in the sector, in this org, in the mission

Why do you feel that way? Because, as McRaney says, “… In the absence of extrinsic rewards you will seek out or create intrinsic ones. Take into account the higher the price you pay for your decisions the more you value them. See that ambivalence becomes certainty with time. Realize lukewarm feelings become stronger once you commit to a group, club or product. Be wary of the roles you play and the acts you put on, because you tend to fulfill the labels you accept. Above all, remember …the more kindness you deal into the world the more you come to love the people you help.”

The reality is…

You are not your masks.

You’re IDENTIFIED with your masks, but you are not your masks.

Think about it.

We are a different version of ourselves, all the time, depending on who we talk with.

These different masks compete with each other-when, for example, you have to stay late at work, missing time with your family or friends. According to Heifetz’s Practice of Adaptive Leadership, you have 3 main loyalties tugging at you all the time. The colleague loyalty. the family loyalty, and the friend loyalty. This makes you feel weird when they all collide.

So that means you’re not a fundraiser with your mom, your partner, your friends, your grocery store clerk. You’re different. You’re a daughter, a lover, a good friend, or simply a customer.

Your mask is not your value

You can wrap your identity as a fundraiser around you, to show that you matter, that you have value in this world, and believe me, for years, I did that.

BUT then I met a man who taught me that values are slippery things. And that if you get caught up in your masks, your life becomes a parade of the masks. that you actually do have value, right now, just as you are.

And perhaps, you always did. And you didn’t have to do anything to prove your worth, your value, or your self, to anyone.

If that’s true, then can we just step away from this mask, and BE?

What would that look like?

I’ve been wrestling with that lately. Because ultimately, we can stay with our masks, as long as we want to.

I could go deep into the motherhood mask. The wife mask. The child mask. Even go into the corporate world mask, become the marketing director of some faceless corp. I could go into the government contracting mask. Get people psyched to get government contracts. Help them market their businesses. And I have done this, I feel powerful and good when i can use my knowledge to help others. I enjoy the work.

But the trouble was- I had become too identified with it, to ever really take a break. to never NOT be on, in my mask, working. it was easier to work than to feel. Once I took the mask off I had to ask, how am I living my life? Do I really want to be living this way? Haven’t I done enough, yet, to have value?

What a mistake I made! It’s easy enough to take off the mask, if we want to.

What rewards do we get when we take off the mask of fundraiser?

1. We can go to an event without any expectation of doing something for our cause there
2. We can take a real break, and not take work home with us.
3. We can dream bigger for the vision of our lives, of making a higher salary straight off the bat- of saving for college, or saving for retirement.
4. We can enjoy a sunny day without thinking of our endless to-do list.
5. We can throw a party and just let everything happen, without worrying about how people are feeling, managing emotions, expectations, experiences.
6. We can enjoy our hobbies, take a walk in the park, just BE.

What if you took off your fundraiser mask for 2 hours today?

What would you allow yourself to do?

Please leave a comment.