Planning is one of the many overused but little understood terms tossed around nonprofit organizations. Recently, several consultants from this blog were organizing an audio-conference for nonprofit board members on the topic. We started our planning by discussing the definition of planning. Fifteen-minutes later while we had made progress, we had also uncovered more questions than answers. If it took three experts fifteen minutes to begin to agree on what planning is—you will probably find some uncertainty at your organization. Yet, planning is something we do everyday. After all, you plan when you run out paper and make a note to pick it up after your meeting. You plan when you prepare for your special event. You plan when you determine how exactly you will improve transportation service for seniors.
For starters, here is a definition: planning consists of tasks, energy and resources applied to create a desired future. Good planning includes three components:
1. Where we want to go (the vision).
2. Where you are now.
3. The bridge you will build to get to the vision.
These three components are universal to all planning. This includes your smallest efforts (where should we hold our special event?) to big questions (what is the most effective way to cure cancer?)
How can you tell if your planning was good? If you can create, in your mind’s eye, the bridge you will build and imagine using it to travel from where you are to where you want to go.
When you plan, all three areas need your attention. Which area do you find that you neglect the most? Did you ever stop to define what planning was before you begin to do it?