Use the Magic Of Focus To Conjure Powerful Fundraising Results

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By Jeff Jowdy

Recently, I was struggling with finishing a book draft. I tried blocking off time on the calendar, but it seemed to always get filled with other things anyway. I was deferring non-urgent meetings and projects that weren’t client related, but I still wasn’t making progress.

The challenge was that I was unable to actually focus. My proposed solution was a long weekend at one of my favorite beach spots, intentionally during colder weather so I could enjoy a view but not be tempted to venture out.

I didn’t call any of my friends in the area, and, for nearly three days, I focused on the computer – with occasional glances at the ocean glances as well as meals at some of my favorite restaurants to reward my focus. It worked.

The book — I know, and I’ve been told frankly by my team and advisory board — should be my top priority.

However, my priority was facing other competing priorities. And really, “competing priorities” is something of an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp.

“The word ‘priority’ came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next 500 years,” Greg McKeon said in “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” “Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about ‘priorities'”

Think about this. We have what we may term a priority list, but it really is a priorities list, and we have ways of indicating what’s the most important. Typically, folks use intersecting scales of urgent and important to discern where they should focus.

We all know the power of focus, the magical results when we can remain single-minded in our effort.

Sometimes you’ll hear someone brag about how great they are at multitasking. For most of us, that is a fallacy. Research shows that’s not how we’re wired.

“The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no. Multitasking is a myth. The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once,” human factors engineer Chris Adams said. “… What actually happens when you think you are multitasking is that you are rapidly switching between tasks.”

I don’t know about you, but that switching back and forth wears me out and makes me far less effective and efficient.

In the fundraising profession, the highest and best use — the top priority — always needs to be in front of your top prospective donors in a way as personal as possible.

My mentor and former boss, the late Jerry Panas, had wonderful stop signs printed for fundraising professionals to put on their doors. They meant, “Don’t bother me unless you are here to talk about a major gift.” It was a fun — and I can personally attest it was an effective — way to help a fundraising professional focus.

This focus is magic for us as professionals and for organizations. It means the organization has a plan that enables the fundraising staff to focus clearly on the areas of greatest return and make the best use of limited resources.

That rarely means staying behind that closed door writing grant proposals or planning time-consuming events.

It means getting as many staff and volunteers as possible out in front of donors, learning about them and their values, vision and goals; thanking them; and inviting them to join your Iifesaving and/or life-changing work.

What do you need to do to be able to focus on your priority?

Make it happen and see the magic of focus!

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