Your Focus This Year

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I make a sojourn back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to see my relatives. These visits are packed with meals and parties, but I always manage to carve out some time to check out some of the many things that make Pittsburgh great. For the first time this year, I visited Pittsburgh’s Historic Market District, or what the locals call “the strip.”

Tucked away just northeast of downtown, the strip is about one-half square mile, and every inch of it is filled with a diverse and eclectic assortment of ethnic food stores, produce merchants, restaurants, and coffee shops. The strip beckons you to walk along and enjoy the smells and music, enticed by storefronts just hinting at treasures to be discovered. On a 50 degree day in December, it seemed like half of all Pittsburghers or Pittsburghians (they can’t quite decide how to refer to themselves) had descended on the strip, as the sidewalks were packed with treasure hunters by 10 a.m.

First stop was to load up on some Peace, Love, & Little Donuts. Why are they little donuts? Because the entire store might hold 10 people like sardines (you’ll fit more people in the store if you try it before you fill-up with donuts), which means there is not a lot of room to make big donuts. For the bacon lovers out there, the featured donut was maple syrup glazed with strips of bacon on top. My takeaway from Peace, Love, & Little Donuts = not your run-of-the-mill donuts, only donuts, and donuts sized appropriately.

Around the corner and down the block, you will find Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop. They sell candy, from homemade chocolates and fudge to 70’s throwback Willy Wonka candy (they even have the movie running on a screen in the store). They offer candies of every type and variety. In fact, they are candy event specialists, should you ever find yourself in need of a specialist for your upcoming candy event. My takeaway from Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop = candy, all types of candy, candy event specialists.

Grandpa Joes Candy Store.jpg

A mere 65 steps down the block, you will find S & D Polish Deli, or natively Polskie Delikatesy. A complete Polish deli with all the homemade Polish favorites, the smell of which brought back incredible memories of my grandmother’s cooking. Take it with or dine-in at one of their four small tables, S & D Polish Deli can set you up with one of 15 flavors of Pierogis or the best Polish Kielbasy in Pittsburgh! As if it would have escaped me, on my way out of the store I did find a small rack hidden away in a corner with CDs of Polish disco music (I have always contended the global influence of disco music is underrated). My takeaways from S & D Polish Deli = Polish food, homemade Polish food, imported Polish food, Polish lunches, and Polish disco music if you know where to look.

Wholey’s Market is almost a whole block of the strip by itself, easily identified by red and white awnings. Wholey’s Market does seafood the way seafood should be done with row after row and display case after display case of fresh seafood. Get fish, shrimp, crab, lobster, shellfish, or even sushi at Wholey’s, and for a treat, you can sit in their dining room and enjoy lunch right in the market. How can you not like a market that has a mission to create happy customers? My takeaways from Wholey’s = seafood, great sushi!

So, now that you have relived my trip to the strip in downtown Pittsburgh, you have got to be asking “How does the strip have anything to do with United Way?” The answer can be found by looking at many of the stores and establishments that line the strip. The most successful places on the strip specialize in something, whether it is donuts, candy, Polish food, or seafood. You don’t need to guess what these places stand for, and you don’t need to ask what they do. Everything about Peace, Love, & Little Donuts screams donuts, it is all candy all the time at Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, the S & D Polish Deli does not sell pizza, and Wholey’s Market is the only way to experience seafood in Pittsburgh.

Can your United Way be as focused as these stores? Yes.

Can your United Way be as successful as these stores? Yes.

These stores are successful because they are focused, and your United Way can be successful if you focus your efforts. I believe every United Way has a potential focus, but it is often lost among many competing interests, which makes becoming focused an act of elimination. To focus, your United Way needs to stop doing the many things that are not your focus.

The biggest thing you can do to increase the impact of your United Way is to focus your efforts, something we help United Ways with through our Strategic Planning Process ( Your staff will be more productive when they spend all of their time working on addressing your focus. Your donors will be more supportive when they know that their contribution will go toward addressing your focus.

As we kick-off 2015, think about your focus for this year. Don’t spend all year thinking about it. Let’s get started now and long before the end of the year we’ll help your United Way find your focus and your future success!

Happy Focused New Year!