Misplaced Focus—misspent energy



I learned to ride a motorcycle about ten years ago.  I dearly love the exhilaration of being on the open rode anticipating what’s around the next corner.  Although I came “late” to this hobby, I find it no less enriching to my life.


When I took instruction on riding, I learned that the bike, unlike driving a car or even riding a bicycle, goes where you look.  Regardless of how you may attempt to “turn” the handlebars or “steer”, the bike heads straight toward the object of your gaze.  No wonder, the motorcyclist that stays on the road is focused on the road.  Except for perhaps a furtive glance, he doesn’t look from left to right gazing at the scenery.


In the same way, our charitable organizations raise money from the sources on which they focus.  It’s a well-known fact that over 80% of philanthropy is given, directly or indirectly, by individuals.


So, although I have seen this phenomenon more than once in my fundraising career, I was a bit surprised that in a recent survey of nonprofit leaders, almost all of them stated that their biggest, most significant, fundraising challenge is in winning and holding onto foundation grants.


Think about that.   According to the survey, nonprofit leaders think the most significant obstacle to their fundraising success is in convincing a constituency whose giving potential is about 7% of the total available to give more, longer.


Frankly, I can’t imagine a more serious waste of money and time—something nonprofits also say they have very little of—than focusing on 7% of your fundraising potential to achieve sustainability and financial health.  And yet, there it is.


Principle 3 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Leadership Leads™.  The organization follows wherever the leaders have their focus.  Like a motorcycle, if you’re focused on the ditch at the side of the road, that’s where you’ll end up.





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