Here we are in part 2 of our Non-Profit Planning Series where we are going to discuss choosing your priority projects to execute our chief initiative. In the Part 1, I talked about setting the chief initiative for your plan. If you missed that post or need a recap, you can read it here.
Like I said in Part 1, focus looks good on you! We're going to continue with this mantra as we move into this next part of our planning process. I remind us all of that because I find that once we set a goal or a vision for our plan, it can be tempting to give ourselves a massive laundry list of projects, to dos, campaigns, etc to bring it to life.
BUT... really what we need to do is be selective about the projects, to do, campaigns, etc we choose to work on in order to execute our chief initiative. I can hear at least a few of you already saying, "But Vanessa, we have to do all the things in order to meet our goals!"
Do you? Really, take a second to think about what portion of the work you did last month (or even last week) actually brought you closer to your goals. This an excellent way to remind ourselves to differentiate between priority work versus busy work versus administrative work. In an ideal world, you'll make the most time in your schedule for your priority work, though you and I both know that busy work and administrative work as a way of sneaking in!
Let's get to work figuring out your priority projects for your chief initiative.
Start with a Brainstorm
I want you to start by grabbing a piece of paper or opening a Word document, set a timer for 15 minutes, and write down every possible thing you could do to make your chief initiative a reality.
This is a time for pie-in-the-sky thinking. Write down every idea from the grandiose to the mundane. If you work with a team, have everyone do an individual brainstorm and then share them. The point of this exercise to see how many ways you can come at achieving your goal. If you start feeling overwhelmed by the list you're creating, I want to remind you that you're not actually going to do everything your write down.
Pruning Your Brainstorm
At some point the brainstorming stops and we have to figure out what we're actually going to execute from this list. Now, before you get too eager circling and crossing things off, I want to off you my decision making filter.
Ready for it? Choose the obstacles.
Yes, you read that right. Choose the projects, to dos, campaigns, etc that are your biggest obstacles to success. I say this because in my experience, 9 times out of 10, if you don't solve your obstacles big progress is much harder to come by.
Let's say your chief initiative is to build your digital fundraising program.
You could easily brainstorm a huge list of things to do. But maybe you don't have an email list up an running. This is a great example of a huge obstacle to building your digital fundraising program and I would making building an email list a top priority.
Think about this -- if you don't have an email list to drive online giving (which by the way is our best digital direct response tool), how fruitful will the rest of your work be?
Another example. Let's say you do have an email list and you have a thriving direct mail and major gifts program. The real problem for you is time. Time to work on digital fundraising is your biggest obstacle. In this case, consistently making time for your might be your first priority. From there you can fill in what you'll do during that time.
Bottom line -- understanding your obstacles to success is more likely to help you work smarter, not harder and set you up to reach your goals.
How Many Things Should You Choose?
You know your work situation and non-profit best so it's time to use your judgement. Be realistic about your time (and frankly, time management), but challenge yourself a bit. Also realize that you don't have to do everything all at once. You can prioritize doing certain projects during a given month or quarter and strategically defer others. This is a good strategy and one I'll talk about in next week's post on making realistic plans.
You may also want to choose your projects based on your good, better, best goals, which I talked about in this article.
I know that overwhelm and lack of time is a huge stressor for many of us. I hope that this approach to creating your work plan will help you make smart choices and realize that you don't have to do #AllTheThings.
If you've found this post helpful, you may enjoy this webinar recording that is a 90-minute guided workshop on planning. Yes, it talks about planning for 2019 but everything I teach in it is applicable to planning anytime!
Interested in storytelling planning resources? My book has worksheets and step-by-step guidance to help you create a custom 12-month storytelling plan.