It might sound corny, but I have found the saying “fail to plan and plan to fail” to be absolutely true!
I have worked in the voluntary sector at a senior level for more than 12 years now – and I cannot stress enough how vital it is to apply adequate resources to planning and evaluation time.
I have, in the past, failed to plan properly – and while ‘fail’ may be too strong a word, I certainly didn’t achieve the results I wanted. Yes, I understand that everyone is under greater pressure these days to achieve more for less, but surely then….
With less resources, can you really afford to waste any?
In the recent mentoring sessions I have delivered, we have talked a lot about the planning process – and I wanted to share my five key questions with you. I believe these questions should be answered in full before you decide whether or not to embark on any activity – and I use them all the time in my own work. Please feel free to copy and use them if it’s helpful.
I’ve used a fundraising activity as an example, but really these questions could be applied to any kind of activity.
- What will you do. Sounds obvious, but write a brief to iron out any details you may not have considered. What questions will people ask when you present your idea? Do you have the answers?
- How will you do it. By this I mean how EXACTLY. We need the detail here – not just ‘we will have three people running a marathon to raise money’, but exactly what will happen in the lead up to the event, how will it be promoted, how will you engage people that aren’t running, how are you going to make the event a success, exactly who is going to do what and when?
- What will it cost. Think about all the costs. This includes the obvious physical costs like t-shirts, banners, posters, balloons and advertising. But you should also consider the cost of staff and volunteer time, printing, travelling… be honest and realistic about all the resources that are going to be applied to this activity and determine a real total cost.
- What is the outcome? Basically, why are you doing this instead of something else? If you just say ‘to raise awareness’ then you haven’t answered the question. Be specific. If the activity is a fundraising activity, then it needs to make money – how much? If you want to ‘raise awareness’, then what exactly are you raising awareness of and to what end? What measurable outcome do you want to achieve here?
- How will you measure it? Before embarking on the activity, you need to set your measurable outcomes and make sure you do measure the outcome once the activity has taken place. What did the activity really achieve? Did it make profit or cost money? Was it successful or not? Why? What have you learned from this that you can apply to the next activity you plan?
I believe (almost) every activity you undertake as an organisation should be planned in this logical way. Once you have created a plan using the questions above, you will quickly see whether this is an effective use of your resources or not. And be honest with your information – if you allow people to use their valuable time running activities that achieve no outcomes, they will soon become demotivated and lose the enthusiasm to repeat the experience.
If you really want successful outcomes, don’t cut corners! Plan to plan!