A: Let’s face it, there are some people in life who just want to take each day as it comes – planning is an inconvenience that simply seems to get in the way of enjoying the moment. Others see planning as a straitjacket that prevents them from being innovative and spotting opportunities.
And then, by contrast, there are the compulsive planners – people who enjoy the process so much that they forget a plan is useless unless it is put into action. Or perhaps they are putting off the evil day because they don’t want to do the action part – but that’s another story.Past experiences
I suspect all three groups might, in part, have negative past experience to blame for their current positions: perhaps they had to endure a tortuously long or unnecessarily complex planning cycle, or alternatively saw an organisation fail because of a lack of clear objectives.
There are plenty of books and articles to read about the planning process – I have previously written a column on that very subject – but it is the issue of objectives that I believe holds the solution.
Many of the hundreds of strategies I have seen in my time in the sector have excellent background research, detailed budgets, great action plans or insightful risk analysis – surprisingly, however, they do not have a set of ‘smart’ (strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives. As a result, nobody involved knows exactly what needs to be achieved, it is impossible to say whether staff have done a good job and, most worryingly, objectives are created retrospectively to match the outcomes.
So instead of being the enemy, objectives need to be our saviour. They need to guide our every working day; they need to give us the confidence to say "no" when something just does not fit with our plans no matter how tempting (after all, planning is as much about what not to do as what to do); and, in the charity world, they need to provide reassurance that we are making the best possible use of our donors’ money.
If you want a fundraising event to raise your charity’s profile, that’s fine. But agree beforehand what the target market is, by how much you want the profile to be raised and how you will measure it. The event can then be structured to do those things. If you want a service you provide to have more users, say what kind of users, how many and how often they should use it.
Once people see objectives working – making the charity more successful and their working lives more fulfilling – the ‘p’ word will no longer be something to dread.
Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant
Send your questions to Valerie.Morton@haymarket.com