Sunday, March 20, 2016

Business Tip from Andrew Carnegie: Put All Your Eggs in One Basket...and Watch the Basket

Andrew Carnegie was one of our nation's most successful business leaders and one of its most visionary philanthropists. One insight I associate with Andrew Carnegie is the idea that there are great benefits to being extremely focused in your efforts as a grant writer.

During his life, Carnegie displayed tremendous discipline in the use of his time and energy.  As he said: "Here is the prime condition of success, the great secret: concentrate your energy, thought, and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun in one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it; adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it."

Under Carnegie's leadership, Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company introduced many great improvements in the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of steel.  His ability to lower the cost of steel production made it possible for many to enjoy the benefits of transportation by rail and of crossing rivers through the use of steel bridges.  As a grant writing consultant, I interpret Carnegie's suggestion that we should put all our eggs in one basket in a variety of ways.

First, Carnegie's stress on focus makes sense to me as a suggestion to learn all you can about the craft of grant writing.  I still go to grant writing workshops myself and when I participate in other training exercises - including CrossFit workouts - I'm usually asking myself the questions: "How can this help me speed up and improve the process of grant writing?"  Following Carnegie's example, I think grant writers would be advantaged if they stayed in touch with the latest technology and continued to explore how voice recognition software and the new social networking tools can be applied to the field of grant writing.
From the perspective of the non-profit agency, I think it is wise for agencies to position themselves as subject matter experts within their own fields - the more limited the better.  Personally, I tell people that I'm the world's greatest expert on child labor and child welfare in the U.S. between 1910 and 1911.  A similar focus on a specific area of public policy would give charities access to funds from those who want to see them build on their expertise.  As they say, there are riches in niches.

If you would like to hear Andrew Carnegie's ideas expressed in his own voice, please check out this link to a brief audio recording of him speaking: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh  After accumulating his riches, Carnegie retired in 1901 and devoted the next 18 years to social investing in various projects.  He founded the Carnegie Corporation of New YorkCarnegie Endowment for International PeaceCarnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

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