Generally I start talking about strategic planning and revisiting plans in September so that 4th quarter is a ramp-up to the next year. Like all plans in 2020, mine are delayed/changed a bit. So! No blog post about planning today, instead, it will be a live event!
Join me on Tuesday, November 17 from 7-9 pm ET, 4-6 pm PT for a learn-and-work session to get you going on a strategic plan – since we all know “ideal” is a myth in 2020!
A lot of what I do is planning, problem-solving, and getting information out of people’s heads to craft it into a masterpiece of a plan, proposal, or solution.
I’m now facing the need to do current-state, future-state, and gap workshops virtually!
I will never be able to replace the in-person session – the energy, body language, and idea flow that happens when I lock people in a conference room – hence “replacing” in quotation marks. However, I still need to complete my projects.
My planning sessions typically include storyboards, easels, and note cards or giant and regular sticky notes. Very tactile and visual. And very in-person.
So what am I going to do?
I know I’m going to use a video conferencing app to be able to video chat and share my screen. This way, I do get to see people’s faces, and they get to see what I’m creating as I’m creating it – as they would as stickies or cards go up.
Where I fall short is how to create the online visual of the sticky notes/cards. I’ve done a bit of research on tools that are out there. There are a lot of options, but I’ve boiled it down, and I think I’ve made a decision, but first – here’s what I found. (None of these are paid reviews by the way, just what I found in my afternoon search!)
Good to note here that all of the options have a sharing feature so I can share the workspace with a team.
“Microsoft Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application and is part of the Microsoft Office family” (thanks Wikipedia!).
My Experience: I’ve tried using Visio for online sessions before, it’s clunky and slow. It does save time in the documentation phase, but watching someone create a Visio is worse than watching paint dry. It’s hard to keep the team engaged and ideas flowing when you are dealing with the intricacies of Visio itself.
“Lucidchart is a web-based proprietary platform used to allow users to collaborate on drawing, revising, and sharing charts and diagrams. “
My Experience: Do you Visio? That’s what this looks and feels like to me. There’s lots of ability to chart and diagram. That said, Lucidchart does have better visualization templates to choose from that may look better in the end, then again, so does Visio. What am I missing here that I can’t get in Visio? I guess it is a cheaper option!
“Sticky notes on a virtual whiteboard. Brainstorming online, collaborate in real-time, project management – all in one. Perfect for agile & lean teams.”
My Experience: This is a basic sticky note online app. It was quirky in chrome today, not sure if that’s normal. It did work in Edge, but I’m not a fan of the browser. That said, they do have Business Analysts and Project Planners and Managers in mind and have some pretty nifty templates.
The interface is simple. The cards (stickies) are easy to use and move around. You can create a default card so that each card you create has the same look/information. There are also built-in card managers to let you have the cards in freeform or in a tile view (all the cards are lined up perfectly for all of you OCD-er’s), and there’s also a grid function that you can use to sort the cards. I like this last one if I’m going to attempt Compression Planning remotely here soon.
With cardsmith, the cards can have images, links, to-do lists, and links as well as text.
I group these two as they are the ultra-simplified versions of sticky notes.
My Experience: You create sticky notes and can move them around, change color, etc. They look like they could be the same developers! Too basic for what I need, but could be a straightforward option for a bulletin-board replacement.
“Digital sticky notes, whiteboards, and workspace for business processes”
My Experience: You know how when you go car shopping, and you find the car that has almost all the features you need, you just wish it was in a different color? That’s kind of how I feel with this Stormboard. It is very close to having all that I would want.
Integrations with other apps/software make this one the high-end model. You can add documents, images, and videos. Stickies can be combined to create Index cards. And, there’s a whiteboard function if you need to draw something out.
I didn’t try it, but they do say that it works on phones, tablets, computers, and Surface Hubs.
The kicker for me? You can assign tasks from the stickies, and you can send reports instantly. These features are definitely on my “want” list!
I tested this one with a team member, and if you share the stormboard, others can add to the board live while others are also working on it. This is a great feature for Pair & Shares or Group Breakouts.
I’m looking at cardsmith and Stormboard, leaning more towards Stormboard, but I’m going to take some time in the next few days to keep using the free trials before I make a decision on which to use live.
I’ll let you know how it turns out!
If you’ve done a virtual planning session I’d love to hear what you used an how it turned out.
Wishing you all the best as we navigate new waters,
Crisp air, changing leaves, colorful trees, sweatshirts, and football. And my birthday (and my husband’s and my son’s)!! All reasons to celebrate my favorite season. (No, I didn’t mention the “flavor” – not a fan, call me crazy!)
It’s also the time of year that I start to look at my plan for next year. December is just so full, fitting in a strategic plan review just doesn’t happen. And January – well – that’s for resolution failure, not a good time to try to plan while you are starving, you just don’t make good decisions when you are hangry! Plus, fall is it’s the start of my personal new year, so it’s fitting.
It’s often said those that “do” don’t take the time to “do” it for themselves – and that is so true! So I’m going to post my progress in updating my plans and give you a glimpse into my process. My wish is that other independent consultants can benefit from my work.
Out with the old.
I can organize and streamline just about anything business related – except for my office space! That’s where I called in Laura from Victoria’s Organizers to help me sort through the layers of clutter and create a space that works for my work.
Four full contractor trash bags, 2 tubs and a box to my lovely assistant to scan, and 2 trips to Goodwill later…I have a space that is functional for me even if not textbook organized (and I can see the floor!).
I highly recommend calling in a pro to help, even if you think you’re pretty good (as in all other things – the pro is a pro for a reason). She was able to work within my style and needs (i.e. organized chaos). I still have some homework to get done before our next session, but I’m already working in a much more functional layout.
You may not need to rearrange furniture each year, but the declutter and toss clears the path for new work and thinking. Give it a try!
In with the new
With functional space to work in, now it’s time to look ahead. The nice thing about being an independent consultant is that I get to determine (to some extent) what I work on and how I spend my time.
What is it I want to do? What do I really enjoy working on that I’m also really good at?
(Change the “I” to we for your department/organization and this will work for any setting)
With dry-erase marker in hand, I’ve outlined a list of the kinds of tasks and projects I enjoy and have the skillset to complete. I’ve also identified a couple of opportunities to get some additional training so I can do some things even better. I’ll be looking for an Excel “beyond-expert” class if anyone knows of any!
Looking for commonalities I found a few themes in what I like doing: “growth, decisions, concept, and manage.” Building to growth and bringing concepts to clarity are part of helping a organization evolve while decision making and managing are crucial to sustaining an organization.
Whiteboard filled, I’ve taken a step back and narrowed it down to a pretty simple concept:
I thrive when I’m helping solve problems to evolve or sustain organizations.
A little rewriting and (a lot of) wordsmithing and I’ll have a mission statement!
Next, I’m going to work on identifying strategies to bring in not only new clients (which, of course, is important), but also new challenges and problems that need solved. Stay tuned for the steps I’m taking to create these strategies and results of this work and what I’ll be up to next week.
New software programs and apps can make life wonderful for organizations. In addition to just rolling out the new system with the software company, there are other items to keep in mind.
Even with the greatest software, the human element still exists. Users and Admins alike will experience tremendous change through the new system! System champions must be ready with FAQs, training, and detailed documentation on how to perform job-specific tasks within the new system. Expect some fear, resistance, and slower reception from staff.
Software systems are wonderful tools for automation and efficiency. Nay times the new system will eliminate tasks done manually. There are also times a new system will modify or add new outside-the-system tasks. To ease the transition, prepare to discuss and document the modifications to manual tasks. This can be achieved through a FAQ or in documentation manual side notes.
Related to outside-the-system tasks, the overall business processes will be modified with the implementation of the new system. It’s okay and to be expected that the new system disrupts the status quo. Manage the chaos and ease all affected staff with good current state (pre) and new state (post) workflows and stepwise manuals. For tasks that are overly simple or only come up every once in a while, use a one to two-page Quick Reference Guide (QRG) to document the task. Create this documentation while you have access to the developer or a software representative that can provide demonstrations and answer questions.
When you started your software finding mission, or when you began the implementation with the software company, you most likely created a list of business requirements. Be sure to review this list of requirements periodically as the implementation rolls out. “But we know the requirements; why do we have to review them?” For several reasons, foremost are:
Ensuring the software, as delivered, will meet your needs.
Identify which business sectors/divisions will be impacted by the new software implementation.
Guide the documentation creation efforts.
Aid in developing communication planning for roll-out and change management efforts.
Training & Documentation
Whether provided by software company, internal resources, or a third party, training on the new system is critical. New, shiny software will be absolutely useless without a trained staff to implement the new system. The training dshould include a walk-through of the basic system navigation, and then a series of sessions on how to complete job-specific tasks. Each session should reference documentation tools available to the staff as they work post-rollout.
The training and documentation should be captured and stored in a way that can be used in the future for onboarding new staff and as a reference for staff needing a refresher or transitioning to a new job function.
In the excitement of implementing a new software, the change-management elements can often be forgotten. Include these elements in the planning stage and work on them throughout the implementation.
I wish you well on your software implementation. Should you have questions or need more information or help on any of these topics, leave a comment below, or you can email or call me.
It’s that time of year when organizations are finalizing their development plans for the upcoming year.
Whether you’re a development officer or a non-profit CEO, writing a development plan can be a daunting task, especially if it is the first time you’re going through the process. I’ve been involved with organizations that had no plan document, just budget goals to achieve, as well as with some who had lengthy plans with a lot of narrative to go along with their goal numbers. Why have I seen such a variation in plans (or lack thereof) over the years? The simple answer is; every organization is different. Organizations have different needs, different boards, and different sized development offices. The key to putting together a development plan is creating one that works for you.
It may be January, but if you still want to craft a plan for 2017 and are afraid you’ve already missed the boat, fear not – you are not alone, and the exercise is still worthwhile. My goal for this post isn’t to provide you with the answer of what your plan should look like, but to provide you with a few questions you should ask yourself as you move through the process in an effort to guide your plan.
1. Why am I doing this crazy thing?
If you are a seasoned development professional a lot of what you’ll do this year is natural to you, you do it every year, you know what goals you need to hit. Even if you are a 1-person development office and your boss and board are exactly the same as last year, there is still merit in putting your plan on paper. It doesn’t have to have an accompanying narrative, it can look similar to a GANTT chart, showcasing the major tasks, when they happen and your goals. Even a document as simple as this would be extremely beneficial to your boss or board should you unexpectedly have to take leave, or get hit by the proverbial bus.
Think of it like an evaluation plan. While you may have just rolled your eyes after reading those words, your development plan, at its core, is a type of evaluation plan. It lays out your tasks, your outputs, outcomes, and goals. If you are in a situation where you feel like your board doesn’t quite get what you spend your time doing, or you are gearing up to ask for an additional staff member for your department, your development plan could be your key to showing what you’re currently spending your time on, and the results you’re experiencing. This is part of your case statement for going after additional resources if you can show an increased ROI with some additional investment. Bonus: when you get that new staff member, your plan will serve as a great on-boarding tool!
2. Who is my audience?
This will dictate much of how you structure your plan and how detailed it will be. Is this plan just for your team? If so, are they new to the field, or seasoned professionals? Is this plan for your leader or board? If so, how much do they know (or want to know) about the pieces and parts of what you do throughout the year?
3. What should be in my plan?
So, thinking about your answers from questions #1 and #2, let’s think about the major pieces that should be in your plan…
What are your expected to raise this year as a whole?
Personally, I have two major buckets I build my plan toward – my unrestricted dollar (greatest need) goal and then my goal/projection for funds raised toward my current capital campaign.
Even if your major ask phase of your capital campaign is over and you are primarily concerned with making sure pledge payments are coming in, there is still work there on sending reminders and stewarding those donors so they continue to pay their pledges – don’t let folks forget that!
Your major budget buckets
Breakdown your overall budget into common chunks based on your sources of revenue – grants, special events, direct mail, major gifts, planned giving, earned income (if that falls under you), etc.
Now, highlight the major factors of what you’ll do to hit those budget goals. Make your high-level to-do list for the budget period.
Measurements: Lead & Lag
Consider using lead measures and lag measures.
If you have a new team, or really want to let your board have a deep dive into what you do, detail the lead measures (the calls, the lunches, the number of proposals you want to write, etc.) that will lead to the lag measures – the dollars that show up. We know these things don’t magically happen, so talk about it.
Lead measures can also include mini-goals within your plan, such as securing 6 new corporate sponsors, 2 new foundation funders, or having X% of donors increase their giving over last year. If you put it out there, you have something to measure against. This also shows that you’re thinking of way and have small goals for increasing your donor base.
I’ve had some interesting chats with colleagues about where and how to put donor stewardship activities into development plans. If you’re lucky enough to have a staff member dedicated to stewardship, they are most likely stewarding donors based on the buckets you outlined above. So, if possible, divide up those pieces and talk about them within those buckets – what did you do with your direct mail folks, or event attendees, foundation funders, or capital campaign donors? If this is difficult, the beauty of there being no one single development plan template means you can talk about these activities as a whole, and how they should influence the various goals.
4. Measure throughout the year
Look at your progress toward your goals. Depending on your revenue mix, you will most likely have months with high dollar goals and some with lower goals based on when you’d expect grants to come in, or when special events are held, or direct mail is sent. But looking at your progress quarterly will allow you to make course corrections if needed, or to content with the fact that everything is on track.
5. The year is over, now what?
Create your year-end wrap up. If you’ve been monitoring your progress toward goals throughout the year, most of your work is done. But a Year-End Wrap-up is a great piece to show your leader or board, you can explain any deviations and what you tried to do to fix them (if things were below goal) as well as what made the last year so successful (if you were above goal). It certainly looks better to your board or leader if you can explain it, than to be surprised at the end of the year and say, “I don’t know why….” Even if there is no smoking gun, you have a hunch, don’t you? Sure you do!
6. Here’s the new plan, same as the old plan
Our field and what we know about grants and donor behavior is always changing and you’ll want your plan to keep up with the times. However, try to make sure you’re looking at year-over-year progress toward goals, don’t just throw the old measures out. If you need to tweak them or calculate them differently, do so, but denote this in your plan. This will help keep your team on the same page about “how” you are measuring things, and will reassure your leader or board that you’re keeping an eagle eye on trends over time, even if the “how” it is being measured changes. An * and an explanation will usually do the trick!
Remember, there is no one right way to craft a development plan. It should be the right plan for you and your team, based on your organization’s needs.