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Focus…Your Greatest Tool For Success

woman holding focus fortune

Collecting your thoughts and focusing on the job at hand are essential when preparing to compose a blog post or any thoughtful or meaningful message. Without focus – the ability to draw a circle around a “to-do” and concentrate like a laser beam on it – the task is not accomplished, or the results are sub-par.

Focus and successful advancement programs also go hand in hand. Here’s why. The most productive development shops of any size find a way to focus their programs on accomplishing key, organizationally recognized objectives. They assign staff, volunteers, and resources to each element of the advancement effort – scaled to the importance and revenue generating potential of each outreach. Annual giving, events, institutional giving, major gifts, campaigns, prospect relations, and donor stewardship each require distinct “blinders” to maintain the initiative’s forward progress and sense of urgency.
Copley Raff’s mission statement is to bring focus, accountability, creativity, and success to philanthropy programs. Sustained success is a product of these attributes, and they begin with focus.
Consider this. Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, suggests that western society is at risk of devolution in large part due to the explosion of multi-media and technological distractions that now befall our lives. It’s impossible to get anything done if we are constantly and obtrusively forced to redirect our attention, focus, and best thinking.
Advancement shops are a microcosm of this issue. Imagine a major gifts program where gift officers are asked to review direct mail fundraising appeals, organize fundraising events, identify sponsors, and coordinate schedules of multiple players to set up key donor meetings. Gift officers have at best 30 – 40% dedicated “focus” time to raise major gifts. At the same time, many have a portfolio of 150 prospects – or more. What’s wrong with this picture?
Focus gives advancement officers permission to say “no” to distractions, without feeling badly about it. Here’s a way to make that happen. Post your key development objectives – as agreed upon by leadership – in a prominent and highly visible location in your organization. Print them out in bullet form and in a large, easy to read font. Keep a copy of the objectives in your portfolio or notebook, and bring the list with you to every meeting you have with leadership so you can refer to it when potential distractions arise. Review them when faced with questionable situations in regards to accomplishing your organization’s fundraising goals. And when you are asked to stray from your focused and agreed upon course of action, be sure to raise how the distraction will diminish your ability to accomplish your core responsibilities. After all, there are only so many hours in a day.
Here’s the “not so secret” secret. It is impossible to be all things to all people, including your boss, volunteers, and donors. Given you are focusing upon agreed upon development objectives and organizational priorities, you will be respected for your rigorous defense of your responsibilities and that awareness to purpose will likely be transferred to others, including your supervisors and leadership.
Future posts will address ways to maintain work focus, build in accountability and management measures that are complementary to your focus, and infuse creativity into your work that will help you to achieve success.
Oh, and thank you for making it to the end of this discussion!
Your takes:
  1. Work from clearly articulated objectives containing time lines and measurable outcomes.
  2. Have your objectives available at all times to assist you and others to make informed decisions about the cost and benefits of potential distractions.
  3. Powerful management tools and the opportunity for great creativity both stem from focus.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see

Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.