Staying Focused During the End of the Year
“What I've learned is you just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment.” – Billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
“Achieve self-mastery over your thoughts and constantly direct them toward your goals and objectives. Learn to focus your attention on the goals that you want to achieve and on finding ways to achieve those goals.” – Personal development pioneer Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich,” one of the 10 bestselling self-help books of all time
Focus. As in life, it’s the most powerful tool in fundraising.
We’re all familiar with The Pareto principle—the law of the vital few—which states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. It’s crucial that you know what that 20 percent is for your organization and for your role. For yourself—and for your organization—know your goals and know where you’re heading. Stay laser focused on making those goals a reality—and on maintaining a positive attitude and confidence in your success.
Each day, evaluate your priorities with this principle in mind. Keep that focus, and don’t be afraid to say no to anything that would distract you from it.
One of the brightest minds in our field, Bernard Ross of The Management Centre in the U.K., advises closing your office door and posting a note along the lines of: “Today, I’m working on [insert name of project]. You can help, or you can go away.” (Well, Bernard’s wording is a bit more… colorful!)
A project that I can accomplish uninterrupted in one day may take two or more weeks working in shorter bursts peppered with interruptions that require me to continually refocus. True… sometimes it’s best to let things germinate in order to get more ideas, but that’s best once you’ve already completed an initial draft. For that first go-round, whether individually or by a team, it’s best to power through. Then let it sit so more ideas develop and the focus becomes clearer.
Evaluate your time management and look for weaknesses—for me, a major challenge is checking emails too frequently. The ability to focus on a single project for larger blocks of time is magical. I need to develop the discipline of only checking email twice a day, responding then and delegating what I can. For writing plans and reports, I find the best time to work on drafts is when I can have uninterrupted large blocks of time.
For those of us in fundraising, whose regular focus on securing gifts and strengthening relationships is even more intense come year end, December can be a magical time.
Who are the top 50 donors and prospective donors that you simply must connect with through a visit, call or note by the end of the year? Focus on them! Then, have an additional 50 or 100 if you hit that goal.
The end of the year can also be distracting! You owe it to your organization and the cause you support to stay focused. Having trouble? Get an accountability partner—ask your colleagues or peers in another organization to help keep you on track and focused. Share your goals. Talk about your time management challenges, set goals and use your accountability partner to help you stay on task.
It will revolutionize your work and your success.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I would be remiss not to thank you for the honor of having a conversation with you each week. I am honored that you read Bedrocks and Beacons. And I’d be honored to connect with you on LinkedIn or Twitter (@jeffjowdy). I value your feedback and insight. May this season be a special blessing to you and yours!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.