#155 Sybil Speaks: Eliminate Overwhelm and Burnout in Your Giving Strategy

Nov 22, 2023

Sybil addresses burnout in philanthropy and provides strategies to overcome overwhelming feelings in giving strategies. She shares four steps to help listeners refocus their giving strategies and avoid burnout. Sybil emphasizes the importance of funding causes aligned with personal interests and daily life to maintain enthusiasm. 


Episode Highlights:

  • The four steps to take to avoid burnout and overwhelm in your giving strategies
  • Identify places and sources of inspiration


Sybil Ackerman-Munson Bio:

With over 20 years of experience as a nonprofit professional and foundation advisor, I work with philanthropic institutions and foundations interested in successful, high-impact grantmaking so that you can make a real and lasting positive contribution to the world on your terms.




If you enjoyed this episode, listen to these as well:





Crack the Code: Sybil’s Successful Guide to Philanthropy

Become even better at what you do as Sybil teaches you the strategies and tools you’ll need to avoid mistakes and make a career out of philanthropy.

Sybil offers resources including free mini-course videos, templates, checklists, and words of advice summarized in easy to review pdfs.


Check out Sybil’s website with all the latest opportunities to learn from Sybil at  https://www.doyourgood.com


Connect with Do Your Good

Would you like to talk with Sybil directly?

Send in your inquiries through her website https://www.doyourgood.com/ or you can email her directly at [email protected].



Hello, everyone. If my voice sounds a little gravelly today, I'm getting over a cold, and I waited as long as possible to do this “Sybil Speaks” until my cold got better. I couldn't wait any longer because I wanted to keep to the schedule, and this is due soon.

So here we go. 

So again, I apologize if my voice sounds scratchy. I want to talk to you about this topic. Today's focus is eliminating your overwhelming burnout in your giving strategy. All right. I see this a lot. I see them a lot of times with my clients. As they say to me, Sybil, I care so much about many things. I don't know what to give to. I feel overwhelmed. 

Or my clients have been giving money for a long time as philanthropists, but they're saying, Sybil, I've been giving money for so long, and I'm burned out because I'm not really that connected anymore to my giving strategy.

So, this Sybil speech is going to help you focus on strategies taking key steps to avoid burnout: let's get into it now. 

So, like I said before, at one point or another, you're going to tell me you feel unfocused and lost in your giving strategy. You will tell me that because it's happened to me repeatedly with my clients. You're going to get overwhelmed. You need help finding out what to fund first or lose touch with your original reason. This feeling can hit you when you're just starting out or even if you're a seasoned philanthropist.

So let's talk about this. So, what happens when burnout happens? You might be saying, I'm not sure I'm there yet. Let's talk about what it is—what happens to you when you have burnout. And you're giving when you donate to an issue or cause, but other people tell you it's important. But you have no personal connection to it, so you're just losing your interest and energy to give. OK, what do you want to do to stop this? You're like Sybil. I want to keep giving. I want to ensure I stay inspired by what I'm giving.

So here's what we do: Let's go through a short exercise. Just refocus yourself and make sure that what you're giving to or caring about is something that you're leaning into. 

OK, the first thing I want to discuss is four steps. Get out your pen and paper. Stop multitasking and listen to me here because this is important. Start journaling on these four steps first. 

First, think carefully about what you're doing in your daily life—every single day. Stop thinking about what you should be giving to, what the most important thing or heady cause is, or something like that. Just think about what you are doing daily and write all that down.

Step 2. Think about what your hobbies are and write all that down.

Step 3. What place do you go for inspiration? It can be a physical location, or it can just be Within you; what do you love? Doing that inspires you. You have a specific spot in your yard you love to sit and think. Do you write poetry? What are those kinds of things for inspiration? This is in addition to the hobbies that you listed in Step 2.

And then step four: what keeps you up at night? What stresses you out? What challenges you? What makes you? Want to get up in the morning and do everything? Better what keeps you up at night, and write all that down. OK. Are you busy scribbling? And if you don't have a pen and paper and you're driving or something? Don't get in an accident. Don't start writing now but think carefully about these four steps. 

What do you do in your daily life? What are your hobbies? Where do you go for inspiration, and what keeps you there? Are you up at night? 

Good job! I'm glad you've written all this down or are considering writing it down. When you get to a place, you can look carefully at the information you put together to see if there are three lines and an issue or issues you can fund that make sense to you from that list; remember, there's a do-good nonprofit or nonprofits ready to take it to the next level for you, no matter what your interests are, the important thing is that you fund something you care about. So, you show up for the cause with energy and enthusiasm year after year. 

Once you know the issue you want to fund, finding the nonprofits working on it is relatively easy. You care about it, but the trick is to figure that out so that you'll stick with it year after year. 

These four steps ensure that the issue you choose is something you care about because you've already chosen that issue as a part of your daily life or as something you care about that inspires you. The important thing is that you'll have a ready-made community. All of us will care about the same issue as you do, which can be infectious. It means you'll build a community, reducing your chances of burnout and overwhelm. 

I also want to caution you. Please don't fall prey to negativity. You might tell me about the issues you face every day. Where are the hobbies and places you go for inspiration? They don't have one. Do good deeds associated with them, so you're almost embarrassed to write them down on paper. I want to challenge this assumption. I want to reiterate that I believe no matter what you do and no matter what you care about, there's a do-good cause and a do-good nonprofit ready to enhance the world and help people in the process. Let's use my interest as an example to illustrate how you can make this happen.

So I have four kids—one of my own and three stepkids—and there's so much fun. And I also love camping, horseback riding, and big horse camps. The place I go for rejuvenation is also where my husband happened to propose to me. I'm also really worried the thing that keeps me up at night are the impacts of climate change, and that's what keeps me up at night and how it will affect the future generation.

So you might think that this list I just offered doesn't look like something that includes much in the way of giving or a philanthropic strategy because there's a lot to do with kids and horseback riding. Camping. And because I'm thinking a lot about the things that give me rejuvenation. You'd be wrong. So, just these ideas, nonprofits are doing amazing things in these areas.

So, the stuff I listed, let's say, I could think about nonprofits that support kids to get outdoors and enjoy nature and camping, which can change someone's life.  It changed mine. When I worked, I was an intern for the Student Conservation Association. It was so. It was impactful for me, and a sponsor helped fund my internship with the Park Service was such. That made a big difference in my life.

So there are nonprofits that help. Kids enjoy nature and camping, and that's completely linked to the kind of things that I do. I would love to do that, or I could fund nonprofits like that. We are tackling climate change to reduce it. Greenhouse gas emissions, since it's something that keeps me up at night. There are many ways to slice and dice this, but I wanted to explain it to you in that way—the way so if. You listen to everything I've said over many years. You probably recognize this four-step process because I talk about it a lot. 

I have—a little mini video and mini-course that's free on my website. You can check out this exact topic; the link is in my show. But the thing is, I've also been thinking a lot about this four-step process, and what I found when I worked through it with folks is that one of the steps is Step 3, which is the step where I ask you to write down a list of the places that rejuvenate you. What I find is that a lot of times folks, sort of... You all, as donors, will put that on the list, but it may not end up popping up as the thing you end up funding. 

Of course, that's fine. You are the master of your destiny, and many important nonprofits exist. I need your support and want you to be passionate and excited about what you are doing. But I also wanted to raise the point that it does seem to me that step three, thinking about the place that rejuvenates one thing, is something we sometimes miss as donors. In those places we go to rejuvenate, we sometimes forget that we can fund those places and that amazing philanthropists and nonprofits can help us give back to those communities we visit.

So, as a result of this theme that I'm focusing on, not only do I want to help you avoid burnout by thinking through this four-step process, but I thought it'd be really interesting to dig into step three and think through it specifically. If you do end up saying to yourself, I'd like to give back in that place. That's me. Then I want to give you ideas on how to do that.

So, in the next three interviews, I am talking to two different folks in Hawaii, and I picked Hawaii because it's a place. Many folks visit, but there's not as much investment in that place as possible because all the folks go there for holidays. And we also recently saw Hawaii with the wildfires that hit the eye, and people have had an outpouring of support in that situation.

So, I do know that people may care. And so, I talked to folks in Hawaii about how we could do more in that place. And it's meant as an example for you to think through if you have a place you love to go for rejuvenation, there are some things you can do to support that. 

I also talked to a wonderful colleague who focuses on funding in rural America, with a focus on Oregon. And this conversation, I think, is really interesting because folks will often visit places in rural America but won't end up giving back at the level that they might want to or might not... You might not realize that you can.

So, I talked with this philanthropist about strategies she's used with her foundation to give back in rural America. I hope you enjoy these three interviews because I enjoyed interviewing all these folks to dig into Step 3 specifically. How do you give back to a place that rejuvenates you? Because I have seen that that is the sticking point. As I've said before, sometimes it's easy for you to think,

 OK, let's not have. Let's avoid burnout. Stay calm by focusing on steps one, two, and four. Step one is: What do I do in my daily life? Step 2: What are my hobbies? Step 4 is what keeps me up at night. I've written all that down and figured out what I want to do as my funding strategy based on all those things, I wanted to fill in the gap for you for step three through these interviews. 

I hope you enjoy them. And it's been wonderful talking to you. And I just can't wait until next week when we talk even more about all this important stuff. Thanks so much for listening.