Nothing succeeds like careful, realistic planning

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To be productive, any discussion about fundraising must go beyond just sharing information, said consultant and author Ken Wyman, "to the point where every discussion has as its goal a realistic action plan that will produce quantifiable results." Wyman's remarks were part of his presentation, Survival Tactics for the 90s, given at a recent day-long workshop sponsored by the Home Child Care Association of Ontario.

Each action plan, Wyman said, has specific components, and unless all are carefully planned, poor execution may result. To avoid this, Wyman's system can be made a routine part of every meeting. The system has seven components:

  • Action desired: Quantitative goals are easier to focus on. For example, "Visit 5 donors" instead of "Visit donors". Qualitative goals are important, too. How will you decide if the job was well done? What guidelines or criteria will be used?
  • People involved: Never assign work to someone who is not present, nor punish someone for coming up with an idea by giving them all the work. Ask people what authority they have, and what controls they have in place. Finally, make sure you know who will receive the finished product.
  • Time required: You must know if the task will take 5 days or 5 weeks. Even a rough estimate helps people involved gain perspective.
  • Progress checks: Set a production schedule, and monitor the work to make sure that all target dates are being met.
  • Deadline dates: Allow a little cushion for delays. If some components must be completed before others, break these out as separate tasks.
  • Resources required: Will you have to spend money to get the job done? Will you need support staff or cooperation from other people? Specify these needs so there are no surprises.
  • Evaluation: What progress has been made? What lessons have been learned?

To find out if each item is realistic, Wyman advises demanding history (past results), activity (what will you do to produce income), and discovery (how you can test your expectations with minimum risk). "Once the plan is agreed upon, stick to the activities. If they go down, so will the income".

Wyman said that the antidote for work overload is to use the agreed plan to protect against taking on additional tasks.

Crisis Prevention

He also said, "Plan on a crisis. it's only normal...the art of planning is anticipating crises." His six-part solution to crisis management is to:

  • Anticipate by brainstorming: List the crises that are most likely to hit you in the next year or two, and those most likely to do serious damage.
  • Make plans BEFORE the crisis: Make sure they're written, circulated widely, and easy to locate in a crisis.
  • Catch a crisis early: Decide what the first symptoms of a disaster would be and schedule checkups.
  • Choose a crisis management person/team BEFORE there is a crisis: Otherwise, it may all end up on your shoulders or, worse, on the shoulders of someone who is incompetent.
  • Rehearse solutions in advance: Remember fire drill in school? They may seem silly, but they work.
  • Schedule time to cope when disaster strikes: How will you cope if everyone is already working at peak-load or beyond? Reserve energy and time to cover the unexpected.

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