Getting Focused

for program directors Jan 24, 2021
A top reason why nonprofits fail is their lack of focus. It makes sense, we go into this work with the intention of helping people, and our desire to be of service can inevitably bleed us dry if we don't stay laser focused. We often find it hard to say no, and over time, our programs expand to serve people outside of our original intended focus population.
When I developed Stable Moments, I focused solely on foster and adopted children. I get asked constantly if the program model can be used on other populations, such as children with autism spectrum disorder or children of divorced parents. My answer is always "no". Of course I would gain more clients and make more income if I expanded the program to serve everyone, but it dilutes the program's value. It also isn't fair to program participants. The model was developed to specifically address the unique needs of children who have experienced developmental trauma and applying these interventions to participant's with different unique needs, isn't serving them effectively.
When you start allowing the ideas of external players to shape your focus, it directly takes away from those you intended to serve. You may be making more money or serving more people, but are you serving those who you set out to serve? By saying no and remaining focused you are advocating for those you care most about.
You may realize your mission needs work. If your mission is too broad it may be difficult to articulate what sets you apart from another organization. Your mission should invoke passion and call out what makes your services unique. Your mission should focus more on what you're achieving and for whom, such as "developing life skills in foster youth," or "promoting growth and healing in veterans ," rather than how you do it (equine assisted therapies). Your mission isn't to deliver equine assisted therapies, your mission is to achieve the benefit of those therapies for a specific group of people. Getting clear on your focus is key, then making sure everything you do has high leverage in achieving that mission is your responsibility.
A great resource unpacking why we feel the need to "do everything," and offering practical ways of how to say no, is Greg McKeown's, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
To get focused you must first take inventory of what you do on a regular basis. Then, decide which of those activities you can eliminate, delegate or are in fact mission critical. Based on Greg Groshel's 4 tiers of efficacy, this worksheet can help you take inventory of daily tasks and prioritize those that are actually working to serve those called out in your mission.
4 Tiers of Efficacy
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