The Little Prince was right: there is no way to get from here to there without a plan. While virtually everyone agrees with this*, actually creating the plan remains challenging. What I hear mostly frequently is ‘not sure where to even start’ , but more as a murmur than statement. No one in charge wants to admit they aren’t sure how to create the necessary steps towards achieving their goals, even if they don’t.
*except for the visionaries, who never need to plan
So, how exactly do you do this? And who do you do it with? The second question pertains to how the goals are defined. When I was a kid, my dad would always demand a definition rather than a description. Your goals are the same. Consider:
- We need to bring in more donations versus we need to increase income by 25%
- The board needs new members versus we need to identify what type of members and who they might be to join the board this year
- We need awareness versus we need to identify our target community with a clear message about what our organization/cause does for them
Often this most essential first step is overlooked, or not sufficiently defined resulting in no numbers, specific items or timeline.
Step 1: Goals Definition
Let’s start with who gets to be part of this conversation, the definition of the goals. In theory, the board of directors is the group that directs the activity of the organization; in reality this frequently doesn’t happen. If the board members are not engaged, do not have as much hands -on experience or participation with the function of the organization, many times their goals are not based in what is really necessary or feasible.
The executive director is charged with executing these directives and therefore is most often an ex-officio or non -voting member of the board. That puts the E.D. in a tough spot: having to deliver the impossible, unclear or unrealistic goals because their input has not be sought or included.
Therefore, the very first step needs to be identifying who needs to be part of the goal-setting conversation. My experience has been that the E.D. can drive much of this as they are the ones who live and breathe the work of the organization daily. They can offer specific timelines, quantitative trends and goals. Be sure that the goal setting committee includes the E.D., and has a vote in the final decision.
Try this for a first exercise: make a short list of what you would ideally like to see happen, let it be blue sky, anything you want, even if it is something vague, such as more awareness, or more members or income. Keep this list for next time, and we will work on Step 2 of Make a Plan, not only a wish.
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Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.
Le Petit Prince by marcovdz on Flickr