LOVE the Communities You Serve

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Follow These 5 Steps to Lead With Clarity and Focus

Let’s not forget that we’re all philanthropists because we all have a robust love for humanity. The communities we serve benefit from strong philanthropic leadership. The disruption we’ve experienced over the last two years requires philanthropy to continuously adapt to an evolving set of new realities.

Now is a perfect time to love your community to the best of your ability and become one of the many philanthropic beacons your community needs. 

Here are five steps to getting started:

1. Clarify your strategy

Your mission should remain constant (it’s the reason your organization exists) but your strategy must adapt to a constantly changing world. By getting in the habit of taking a couple of days to quickly adapt, realign and adjust your strategy year-to-year or when the need arises, you’ll be in a position to pivot and respond to new realities. Strategy must be sentient. It must be organic and perceptive – developed quickly, used immediately for as long as conditions warrant, and adapted rapidly as conditions change. 

If 12 months have passed since you reviewed your strategic plan, it’s time for a refresh. If you don’t have a strategy, you can quickly (and remotely) create one by asking questions like: Who do we want to be a year from now? What impact do we want to have on our community? Given where we are today, what are the three to four critical strategic factors we need to focus on, to help us accomplish this over the next 12 months?

2. Recognize your top priorities.

Having a new strategic plan isn’t enough. You must now identify your top priorities for achieving it. You can’t focus on 15 or 30 things at once! Pick the top two or three priorities – the most important thing that must happen next. If you don’t have clarity about your top organization-wide implementation priorities, you won’t achieve your strategy.

Also, don’t assume that because your entire team was involved in strategic planning, they will know what’s most important to do next. We all view strategy through our own lens and how it impacts our work.

Next, tell everyone what your top priorities are, be it program officers, family members, your wealth advisor, or the receptionist. Everyone has a role to play.

2. Appoint priority champions on your team.

Make sure your top priorities are implemented by appointing “priority champions.” Priority champions are responsible for achieving each priority. Ask them to identify the top five or ten things they must do next to accomplish their priority task. They don’t need to do everything, and they can delegate tasks to others. 

Agree on realistic deadlines. Have them report back progress to you or your entire organization — regularly, such as during staff meetings or remote video conference calls. This holds them accountable and lets your wider team provide support and troubleshoot any problems that may arise. As top priorities and tasks are accomplished, add new ones to the list.

3. Budget time to execute your top priorities.

Ever notice how putting something on your calendar makes it happen? So, make sure you and your team put a laser focus on your available time. Blocking out time to make headway on significant priorities is just as important as eliminating or delegating other items that don’t rise to the top. This may be the one thing made easier right now by the many canceled events and meetings wiped off our schedules.

4. Remain laser-focused on your end goals.

If your strategy is clear and your priorities are in alignment, you won’t have to worry about confusing busyness with results. You’ll be making progress toward a clear goal. Don’t worry if people keep odd hours while navigating pressures at home. Offer flexibility, recognize their need to take care of themselves and their families, and trust that they will make the right decisions. It doesn’t matter if work gets done at 4:00 am or 4:00 pm, if results are achieved.

5. Keep up the momentum.

Once you’re moving, it’s easy to pick up speed. At the same time, if you pause, it’s much harder to restart. Remember that your top priorities warrant urgency even while there are many other concerns to contend with related to the pandemic. More likely than not, your team, like you, is over-the-top passionate about achieving these top priorities in service to a broader vision and mission. Boost morale by charting progress and celebrating successes. This is especially important if everyone is working remotely.

For most, finding purpose and being useful — especially during times of uncertainty — offers solace and hope. Also, making headway on your priorities now will mean that you can do even more once the immediate crisis evolves, and new issues emerge. You’ll be in good company with other philanthropic leaders doing what it takes sooner rather than later, with strength, focus, and determination.

If your desire is to love and serve your communities in the best way possible, but you are wondering how to improve your impact, what changes are needed, or what investments you could make in yourself and/or your organization to achieve your goals  I’d be happy to jump on a call and brainstorm with you. Let’s talk

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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