Monday Mixtape 024: A Fundraiser’s Guide To Developing Good Habits & Focus

Monday Mixtape 024: Fundraiser Habits

Here’s your Monday Mixtape, a weekly newsletter from CauseVox designed to jumpstart your week, challenge your thinking, and inspire you to keep at it.

Each week, we’ll hand-pick must-read articles, thinking, resources, and stories for nonprofit fundraisers and leaders and drop it in your inbox. Have suggestions or questions? Let us know at Enjoy this week’s Mixtape!

If you succeed, it will probably have less to do with your luck, genius, or inherent specialness.

It’s much more likely to depend on your habits.

Habits are the little actions we automatically do every day. For good or for ill, they determine whether or not we reach our goals, do what we truly want to do, and make the changes we want to make.

I know, I was hoping for some kind of magic, too, but this is actually kind of good news.


It means that you don’t need to be lucky, or a genius or extra-super-special to change your life, or your fundraising, for the better.

You just have to build the right habits.

This week, I’m looking at how we choose, develop, and stick to our habits, and how they work. I’d love to know which habits have helped your fundraising, and which habits you’re trying to kick.

Enjoy this week’s mix!

Here’s this week’s mix:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle

Track #1: Habits vs. Goals: A Look at the Benefits of a Systematic Approach Towards Life by Shane Parrish at Farnam Street

Goals are necessary, especially in fundraising, but setting a goal for a change is not the same as making that change. Habits are what makes change happen. In this piece, Shane makes the case for focusing on habits rather than goals.

By focusing on small daily habits, Shane suggests, you don’t have to rely on external circumstances lining up just right or the endurance of your finite willpower. Instead, you’ll transform the change into automatic behavior, and maybe even achieve more than a goal you’d set.

This is a great piece if you’re facing a big goal, or want to make a significant change in your life. What kind of habits would support that change?

Track #2: Focus–The One Thing That Will Ensure You Raise More This Year, by Emily Hunsaker at CauseVox

Do you pride yourself on your ability to multitask? Then you’ll probably be as annoyed as I am to learn that, according to neuroscience, it doesn’t actually work. Unless one of those tasks is so well learned that it’s automatic, and each of those tasks uses different processing centers in the brain, you can’t really do two things at once.  Instead of dividing your focus between tasks simultaneously, what we call “multitasking” is constantly interrupting your brain, which makes it harder to get things done.

In this piece, Emily looks deeper into the power of doing one thing at a time. She draws from experts to offer several strategies for narrowing your focus and outlines the benefits that focus offers. More time doing, less time deciding? Learning more and progressing more quickly? Building confidence and value? Sign me up!

In addition to this analysis, Emily explores barriers to focus, which I think could be particularly helpful if you’re caught in a multitasking trap. She follows up with tools to cultivate organizational focus and to lead the charge on becoming a more focused organization.

Weekly Wow: How Look What SHE Did! Uses Peer-to-Peer & Women’s History Month To Activate Their Community

If you’ve worked for a charitable organization, then you know how hard it is to inspire and activate supporters to give to an established nonprofit, let alone one that’s in its early stages. Fundraising is usually one of the major challenges startup nonprofits face.

But Look What SHE Did!, a 501(c)3 organization committed to telling stories with amazing women, about amazing women, found that peer-to-peer fundraising was a phenomenal, effective means to rally a new community of supporters and fund their worthwhile efforts. Incredible!! ????

Read their story here.

Track #3: The Three R’s of Habit Change: How to Start New Habits That Actually Stick by James Clear

Okay, okay, so good habits are important. How do we actually create them, though? Anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s resolution can tell you that habit formation is tricky business.

James Clear examines the structure of habits and how they work. He divides the structure into three R’s: Reminder, Routine, and Reward. By approaching the three R’s intentionally as you build your habit, you can make them more likely to stick.

This makes a lot of sense to me. If I wanted to start calling donors more, I might structure my new habit to be: turn on my computer (reminder), make one phone call (routine), and then pour my coffee (reward). That feels a lot more doable than “call more donors,” or even, “call one donor everyday.”

Track #4: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Fundraisers by Joe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority

If you’re thinking all this habit information is going to be great for getting you to exercise, but won’t necessarily improve your fundraising, check out this post for some inspiration Joe lists seven traits of effective fundraisers, and within those traits, you’ll see the potential for habits.

Joe notes that the best fundraisers he encounters: get on the phone, focus on metrics, ask for referrals, diversify revenue streams, strengthen their board, prioritize work with the highest reward, and practice their craft. You could choose to build a habit of asking every new person you meet if they’ve ever served on a board, or checking your fundraising metrics at a specific time each week, or always starting your day with the highest value task.

What fundraising habit to you want to develop?

Bonus Track:

You’ll notice Charles Duhigg comes up a lot in these articles. Here’s his TEDx Talk about habits.

By the way…

Is it too soon to start talking about #GivingTuesday?

We think not! In fact, the one thing we hear over and over again from successful campaigns is that they started planning early, and wish they’d started even earlier.

So, we’re hosting a webinar on August 23 at 1 pm EST to help you kickstart your planning!

In this free live training, you’ll learn why the global day of giving matters to your organization, how to run a campaign, and how to rally and organize your supporters. We’ll share some best practices and tips to help you get the most out of #GivingTuesday and have a Q&A session so you can ask our team questions.

#GivingTuesday will be here before you know it—stay ahead of the game! Register here.

Thanks for reading!

– Megan

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P.S. Questions about this week’s mix? Suggestions for next week? Don’t leave me in the dark. Let me know by emailing me at

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