(This post is from Tim McCarthy, founder and chief mission officer of the Business of Good Foundation. It originally appeared in the newsletter of the Business of Good Foundation. See Tim's other posts, here.)
I've written before about my favorite leadership book, On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis. His primary point in the book is that we are always "becoming" leaders. The same holds true for focusing the foundation I began in 1997. We like to say that we are twice as good as we were last year, but only half as good as we could be next year.
Our first iteration was "serving the poor." We formed an outreach center, stumbled into a near-downtown Cleveland neighborhood and started our work... rather clumsily, I might add. A few years into it we realized that Northeast Ohio had over 2,500 nonprofit organizations. That told us we'd do better to help make existing organizations better instead of building another very average one. We refocused on "serving those who serve the poor."
Another few years into our work and we realized we couldn't do everything for everyone who needs and deserves our support. We reviewed where we'd been and realized we were most effective when we applied our business knowledge and skill to selective nonprofits. Around this time we also learned to focus on no more than 15 nonprofit projects a year through a filtering process that lasts over five years. By then, you'd say we were getting pretty focused, right? Not so fast. Even using executive coaching to serve those who serve the poor requires one more filter. What areas of need are we most interested in serving through our selected nonprofits?
Another year of meetings honed our target even further. We offer organizational guidance that seeks to provide those being served with the opportunity for economic independence. Result? We are currently focused on serving those who serve the poor in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, and employment through mentoring and microenterprise. That ought to keep us busy for another couple years.
The net point is the Business of Good Foundation is becoming an effective, leveraged foundation. We are not "there" yet, and I hope we never are because focus, developed from continuous learning, is the only way I know that we can get better.
What are your opinions about and experiences in becoming more focused? Leave me a comment.