Grab a cup of coffee and five minutes to sit down with me and think about the year ahead, and what you would like 2015 to be for you.  I am not typically one to proclaim a New Year’s resolution.  I think they tend to be very short lived and can lead to a feeling of failure if you give up on it after a month, or two, or three.

However, I’m going to go out on a limb and try it in 2015.  I have a big picture resolution.

My New Year’s resolution is to Focus.

First, let’s get personal.  I’d like to talk about my year in 2014.  I’ve been off the wagon a little lately, in terms of focus. I started the year extremely focused on a couple of personal initiatives, but have lost sight of those in the past few months, in particular.   Personally, my family has just had a lot on our plate with two working parents, two very young children and typical family affairs to sort through.   It has left me feeling as though I have so much on my plate, that I am overwhelmed and can’t fully focus on excelling in the areas which hold the most value for my family and myself.

Sound familiar? 

A lot of people struggle with this; I’m no different than any individual or organization who simply just has a feeling of “I have too much on my plate”.  It’s interesting to me, today, that we have so much technology which makes our lives easier, yet, in a way we are more challenged.  Because, with so much technology, we have more to manage.

With a resolution on focus, I’m going to work on cutting out the stuff that doesn’t matter and focus more on relationships, what drives me and makes me happy, and less on worrying about keeping up with other people.  I want to stop spinning my wheels on things which ultimately just don’t matter in terms of what I want my legacy to be.

What’s my point here for non-profit organizations?

Focus.

I would like for you to do a little exercise. Sit down and jot out all of the campaigns or initiatives you planned to run at the beginning of 2014.  Now, on a separate sheet of paper, write out the campaigns and initiatives that you did run, and next each give it a star or an “X”.  A star means that it was successful, an “X” means that it didn’t go so well.

Are your two lists different?  If they are different, jot down why you think they are different.  What events took place which made you shift your plan, or what roadblocks did you run into which caused you to not run with an initiative.  Also, next to the initiatives which have an “X”, write down why you think they were not successful.

If you look at your two lists and you feel as though you missed the mark, could it be that the original list just had too much and wasn’t focused enough?  For anything with an “X”, could the problem have been due to a lack of focus, whether in your messaging, timing or overall execution plan?

Focus.

If you are still working on your 2015 plan, I would like to impart a recommendation for a big picture idea to think about.  What motivates the people who support you?   What makes them tick?  Make this your main point of focus when working on any new initiative, to help determine if it is an initiative worthy of your focus.

From that, in your messaging, focus on these three things:

1. Focus on your people at the heart of everything.

By “your people”, I mean the people that help you keep the lights on and your mission moving forward.  They are the people who support you and give to your cause whether through monetary donations, sharing their story or the gift of their volunteer time.  Are your messages really focused on them, or are they focused on you? When you are writing any messaging –whether via email, social media, snail mail–always ask yourself if the message is about them or about you.   Make it about them and how they are a part of your social impact on the world.  They are the superstars.

2. Focus the right message on the right people.

Take the time to think through your audience.  Don’t just send everything to everyone. To focus on the people, as I mentioned in recommendation #1, you have to focus on talking to them in a personal way.  If they feel like a number, they will simply lose their focus on you.  I know it takes time, but it will pay off if you focus on segmentation strategies.

3. Focus on the right technologies and channels for your people.

Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Do you feel like you have to be a rock star on every darn social media site, simply because it exists?  Take a step back and look at where your people are.  Where do you do best? Focus on the channels where you have the largest audience.  Focus on doing a really, really good job at those, and then think about expanding once you are a master in those domains.  Don’t just do something because you feel like “everyone is doing it”.  That may be true, and that may be necessary for some things, but each time you are in this sort of a situation, first take a step back and ask yourself if it is going to resonate with your people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor Shanklin is a peer-to-peer boss lady, full-time mom and part-time marketing consultant in the non-profit sector.  Prior to her leap into full-time motherhood, Taylor spent an eight year tenure at Convio and then Blackbaud. In her time at Blackbaud she worked with organizations large and small and worn many hats.  She has led numerous Luminate Online and TeamRaiser implementations, and  has worked as a strategy consultant with the Go! program.  Some of her peer-t-peer projects included working with Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day, National MS Society, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides, and ALS Association’s Community of Hope.

Taylor (a.k.a., T-Shank) is a total coffee addict and has a particular affinity for peer-to-peer fundraising and has completed several Team in Training events with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, receiving her triple crown for having competed in cycling, triathlon and marathon events. When not working, she is busy chasing around her two kiddos, lifting weights and getting in a little guilty TV time.  Originally from Austin, TX, she and her husband are huge UT Longhorn fans.  You can follow Taylor on twitter @tshankcycles and find her blogging on npENGAGE. Hook ‘em

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