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Tips for Working With Difficult Colleagues in the Fundraising Department

By Jacquelyn Bode posted 02-01-2022 16:15


Working in a fundraising department is not always the easiest department to work in on the best of days. It is important to be able to work with everyone, which, unfortunately, can be easier said than done.

While you may show up everyday with a smile and enthusiasm, you may encounter those curmudgeons who have decided to sprinkle extra stress into your day. In our personal lives, there is greater agency to end toxic relationships and walk away from those people who create more issues than they solve. However, in a workplace, we can’t fully avoid those problematic colleagues bent on bringing us down.

In my role, I regard everyone I come across as a potential donor because my donors can be colleagues as well as those from outside my office, so I must maintain strong relationships.

Unfortunately, not all colleagues in fundraising have the same goals. Professionally, I have come across difficult colleagues that I have had to figure out how to work well with, even when they intentionally make things tough. If you can  navigate these tricky relationships, you will feel a sense of strength and confidence that enables you to be a more confident working professional in the future.

Tip #1 – Be nice. Even when someone is not nice, be nice back. You don’t want to be the reason for them to become even more difficult.

If you are nice, everyone else will know that you are that type of professional. I t is also easier to deal with difficult people if you are polite to them. They don’t know how to respond, and it does not give them a reason to be more difficult. Oftentimes, difficult people expect you to be difficult back to them. When you keep your cool and remain cordial, it can leave them confused and somewhat disoriented.

Problematic colleagues often thrive on conflict—which is one reason why they enjoy stirring the pot. By avoiding the trap of mirroring those colleagues’ combative behavior, you set a leadership example while reinforcing you aren’t someone easily drawn into drama.

Tip #2 – Your donors are your top priority. Difficult colleagues might stress you out and make you want to focus your time and effort on that relationship. Remember, ultimately you are here for your donors and nurturing those relationships will advance your organization’s work.

Focus on your donors and why you are here. If you keep them as your priority, this will ensure you continue to move in the right direction. I have noticed if I allow those difficult colleagues to take my energy, I do not have the positive energy I need for my real job which is fundraising. Don’t let anyone quash your fundraising mojo!

Tip #3 – You aren’t the reason they are difficult. If someone has a difficult personality, don’t take it personally. I’ve learned over time it isn’t you. There is a reason and potentially if you stick with your positive personality maybe you can help them change and become easier to work with.

You were hired for a reason. Typically hiring managers bring on people who fit the areas where they themselves are not strong. Consider it a compliment when they bring you on to help fill a gap that they are not meeting.

My last thought is to remember you are not the only one experiencing this. Find a group that can support you in a positive way. If you cannot find that at your office, find it in an outside professional organization.

I never thought there would be difficult people that work in fundraising, but I was proven wrong. Whatever you can do to remain positive and easy to work with will benefit you in the long run in many ways.