As non-profit pros and fundraisers, we spend a ton of time conceiving and drafting our annual plans. We toil over previous year's results and meticulously project next year's returns. We carefully craft case statements and conduct bench-marking studies. We calculate budgetary needs and return on investment data. Then we present it to our managers and get approval.
It may live in a drawer or worse yet, as a file on our computers, in a lonely folder labeled strategic planning that may not get opened again until it's time to do it again next year. Inevitably, the winds of expediency, crisis, and change cause us to deviate from our plans and we arrive at the end of the year wondering what could have been.
The secret to making your plans become a living document is . . .
Yep, the big secret is a calendar. Not just any calendar though. It's a calendar with a specific purpose and method built around it that will keep you, your team, and most importantly your plans on track. Best of all, this method embraces change and allows you to MINDFULLY shift gears when necessary. Let me explain some of the basic components of the "Responsibility Calendar" as I call it.
List Major Tasks Month by Month
The Responsibility Calendar is not arranged by day or even week. It is organized as a simple list of things that need to happen (from your strategic plan) each month of your fiscal year. That's it! If your fiscal year begins in July, write a header for July and then list bullet points for each task that needs to be accomplished that month. Repeat for each month in the fiscal year.
Assign Primary and Secondary Responsibilities
Once you have the list of tasks organized by month, you need to assign a position to hold responsibility for each task. You want this to be the title of the position responsible, not the name of the person. This prevents having to update the calendar each time you have any staff turnover.
The person with primary responsibility for each task will be the project lead on that task. Then you should assign another position the secondary responsibility for that task. The secondary can be any or all of these things: 1) the support person on the project, 2) the backup person who cross-trains to learn this task in case of emergency or sudden staff turnover, or 3) the staff person who partners on this task but isn't the lead. Think of the primary as "Batman" and the secondary as "Robin" or primary as "Lucy" and the secondary as "Ethel".
It's crucial you assign responsibilities so everyone is clear what they need to be working on and who will be held accountable if the task is not completed. The secondary is essential for cross-training and having someone ready to step in if the need arises.
Let the Calendar Guide Your Monthly Meetings
Once you have your responsibility calendar, it needs to guide your monthly meetings with your fundraising team. You should follow a three step process for using the calendar in meetings:
This practice will revolutionize your operations. To go even further, on your quarterly meetings, review the entire plan and see how you are tracking towards your projections. It's totally worth it.
And in these meetings, if you cannot handle the workload of a particular task or you don't have the resources to get the item done, you can mindfully decide to remove it from the calendar and table it for next year. No more wondering why you didn't get to a particular project at the end of the year!
How do you make your strategic plans come alive? What's your best advice for staying on track with plan execution? Let me know in the comments. Happy planning!
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.