My big dream for 2013 is . . .

smart goalsThe Nonprofit Blog Carnival is a collection of the best advice and resources that consultants, support organizations, and nonprofits themselves are offering to the nonprofit community through their blogs. The January theme focuses on “your big dream for your organization, cause or the nonprofit community this year, and how you’ll get there.” Today’s post looks at dreams and how your agency can go about framing its strategy in 2013.

Whenever I work with a non-profit organization on goal setting and planning, there are a number of quotes that immediately come to mind such as:

“Good is the enemy of great.” ~Jim Collins

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” ~Rita Mae Brown

 A few weeks ago, I shared a cup of coffee with a local non-profit executive director, and we engaged in a conversation about grant writing and sustainability planning. During that conversation, she said something like: “If agencies only did things that at face value appear to be sustainable, there wouldn’t be a lot of risk taking and innovation going on in the non-profit sector.”

After chewing on this, I absolutely agree with her, but I also don’t see a lot of risk taking going on out there. This got me thinking about this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival topic related to big dreams.

My wish/dream for my non-profit clients in 2013 is that they overcome their resistance to planning.

The following are just a few quick tips I think will help agencies achieve quick little victories and get them closer to goal setting, taking a few risks, more deeply engaging volunteers, and moving the needle:

  1. Don’t give up on doing some assessment work to get things started, but keep these efforts focused on quick and simple. A SWOT analysis tool can accomplish a heck of a lot in a short period of time.
  2. Include volunteers at every step of the process because planning is an “engagement” activity. If you want a plan that only you will work on implementing, then exclude others. If you will need others to help, then include them.
  3. Use SMART Goals. Any “dummy” can do it, click here for more information.
  4. Focus on 50,000 feet in the beginning and make sure to come out of the clouds toward the end of the process by asking specific questions about who will do what and by when.
  5. Find ways to inject urgency into the process. Don’t drag these efforts out over a few months. Can you work hard? Sprint? Get it done in a matter of weeks?  I suggest setting deadlines and assigning someone the responsibility of being the “task master” (e.g. a person who pushes hard to keep your project on track).

Accountability and urgency are sometime best achieved if your agency engages an external consultant like me, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are part of a larger national organization, I’m sure there are internal consultants standing by to provide technical assistance. If you don’t have money to hire someone like me and don’t belong to a national network, then you can always talk to your local network of nonprofit agencies. One of your peers might be experienced in facilitation and willing to donate their time in exchange for something. You never know unless you ask, right?

What obstacles do you find get in your way when dreaming big? What has worked for you when trying to overcome those obstacles to planning and engaging volunteers. Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Hi Erik, I enjoyed this post. And I agree 100% that ‘planning is an “engagement” activity’! I help businesses and organization setup and manage online virtual communities, and the first thing I ask everyone to do is to design an engagement strategy:

    Most organizations and small businesses don’t have a lot of extra resources to spare. With so many options and limited resources, it makes sense to take a step back and spend some time designing a strategy that will work for a particular business using the resources that they have available.

    1. Thanks, Lisette! It sounds like our points of view are aligned. I especially appreciate the fact that you provided a link to additional resources at your blog. I hope to see a lot more from you in the coming days and months.

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