Let’s make this four-letter word the new normal: a plan for nonprofit success

By Shauna Cooper

Time to read: less than 3 minutes 

Value: priceless

Hello, World Changer. Thanks for stopping by. There’s nothing like catching up with a dear friend. We have lots to talk about and a short amount of time to chat it up. So, let’s get started, shall we?

For the next three minutes, I would like for us to discuss a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. In our line of work, there is a four-letter word that carries quite a bit of weight. If you mention it too soon, you may not receive the warm and fuzzy reception or high-five motion you envisioned.

Instead, you may be met with looks of confusion or fear or even considered foul-mouthed. So, what is this expletive word you ask? (Cue the suspenseful music.) The word I am referring to is called plan – hence the title. *wink*

In its simplest terms, a plan is how we intentionally decide in advance to accomplish something. It never ceases to amaze me the countless number of hours spent discussing and planning an existing project or program. Yet, hardly a second is spent on these important details before funding is sought. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you?

In the day-to-day operations of a project, planning meetings included, aren’t ideas for project expansion or new programming discussed? Of course they are. Sadly, these ideas do not make it to the exploratory stage until a funding opportunity presents itself.

When planning is conducted at this time, it is often rushed and consequently can result in costly missteps. Missteps that become obvious when it’s time to implement the funded project. These unintentional oversights may include insufficiencies in the project’s concept, strategy, and implementation. More specifically, an overly ambitious plan or timeline, inadequate number of staff, staff’s inability to carry out the project’s plan, and not enough funding to satisfy the proposed activities.

Being the world changer that you are, let’s tilt the paradigm to shift in the direction opposite of where it currently lies. Only then will we begin to see a notable improvement in the work that we do to bring about the desired change.

Since you are such a good friend, I will share with you a template that I have created to help us jumpstart this movement. If you add this tidbit to your toolbox and keep it in regular rotation, I am willing to bet that you will save lots of time, tears, and ibuprofen regarding this matter.

The Growing My Nonprofit Program Planning Worksheet will take a few minutes to complete. You will get the most out of this tool if the following people, at a minimum, are included:

  • the person behind the concept;
  • the person who has a broad-based knowledge of the target audience and key stakeholders; and
  • the person who will be responsible for implementing the project.

The types of people you include may cross several of the bullet points listed above and that’s okay. The idea is to include the major players who will be instrumental to the project’s success.

What’s the beauty of this planning tool? I am so glad you asked!

  • You don’t have review it every single day. You can set aside 15-20 minutes every three months to review its relevancy and make changes where needed.
  • Your search for funding opportunities will become more deliberate and intentional. You will be less inclined to pursue a nonviable funding opportunity and try to make it fit your proposed plan.
  • When the right funding opportunity comes around, more time can be spent writing the grant proposal and less time on planning the intricate details of the project.

Now that you have this gem of a tool for your nonprofit’s toolbox, let’s go and give it a quick review, but before you do, be sure to pass on the knowledge for we cannot do this work alone. Please share this post with your friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. 

Until next time,


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