Who is Paying Attention? Yes, It Matters, Part 1

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Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.

I read three books in 2010 that – I think – are critical to fundraisers. I mentioned all three in this column back in 2010. All three are well written. All three use research as the basis. And all three affect relationships and our ability to nurture relationships with donors and prospects and staff colleagues and…

Now I’m giving you book reports. Yes, indeed. I’m hoping that these books reports will motivate you to read the books.

First up, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age by journalist Maggie Jackson.

I can multi-task. So can you.

Sometimes multi-tasking works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I listen to music while working. But sometimes the music is too boisterous. I can’t concentrate. The music distracts me and I change it.

Sometimes I try to read and respond to email while talking on the telephone. But either I lose track of the conversation or the email. And I wonder if the person on the other end of the telephone can hear my computer keys clacking away – so now I’ve been disrespectful.

I’m angry with people who read email and text message while in meetings. “Pay attention to what’s happening here,” I scream, but usually only in my own head.

Look around you. Look at kids, teens, and adults bouncing from one thing to the next. How many times do they – or you – turn off the email and iPhone and the television and the video? How often do they – or you – pick up the telephone to speak with someone personally instead of emailing? How often do they – or you – focus on one thing and one thing only at one time?

That’s the premise of Maggie Jackson’s book Distracted. Here’s what she says in the introduction: “The way we live is eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention – the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. Moreover, this disintegration may come at great cost to ourselves and to society. Put most simply, attention defines us and is the bedrock of society.” (page 13) And neuroscience proves this.

“… eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention.” Wow. I hope that’s as scary for you as it is for me. Because we need deep, sustained, perceptive attention to develop meaningful relationships with donors and staff colleagues and friends, and family and…

What is attention? Check out one of my favorite resources, www.visualthesaurus.com: The process whereby a person concentrates on some features of the environment to the (relative) exclusion of others. The faculty or power of mental concentration. One of the inherent cognitive or perceptual powers of the mind.

Consider these additional definitions – and think about how they connect to the process of relationship building: A general interest that leads people to want to know more. A courteous act indicating affection. A characteristic that provides pleasure and attracts. A courteous or respectful or considerate act.

  • Rollcaster

    This is my first visit to nonprofit quarterly. I appreciate book reviews, but was hoping that Maggie Jackson’s book contained suggested responses to this pervasive problem. Did the book only describe the problem? Thank you.

  • Simone Joyaux

    Hi there. I hope you find NPQ as inspiring and insightful as I have over the years. The magazine itself is like the Harvard Business Review, not like a how-to publication. That is NPQ’s extraordinary value to the sector. My web column combines how-to tips as well as sector exploration. My own website has lots of how-to tips, free e-news and weekly tip blogs — and referrals to lots of other great resources.

    As for the book DISTRACTED: It examines — through history and research — what is happening in our world and the implications thereof. Yes, there are ideas about how to “fix” this problem. This is not, however, a how-to book. This is a deep analysis/exploration. I found it a marvelous counterpoint to all the promotion of social media and the joy of the internet. Check out my previous social media column for NPQ to see more of my own perspective.

    Do look at past issues of NPQ. Subscribe. And visit the web columns, too. Enjoy. Simone