Strategic planning for anything is probably the most useful thing we can do for the health of an organisation. Yet we are often so preoccupied with day-to-day activities that we give scant time and regard to this area.
A consequence I frequently see is strategic planning that is either unstructured and superficial, or too complex and academic. The first is probably largely due to ignorance and lazy attitudes while the latter clogs the process and doesn’t easily or sustainably engage people.
Let’s take an example. You’re planning a fundraising campaign and decide that social media and advertising is needed to create awareness and prompt donations. Where do you start and are there useful models to ensure your results are what you hope for?
Do you do any of the following as a first step?
- Brainstorm a list of activities
- Look at other fundraisers’ ads and plan to copy them yourself
- Talk to an ad agency and tell them exactly how you want your ads to look.
If any of this rings true for you, you’re unlikely to be giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
In my experience people take these kinds of steps because they don’t know what they don’t know. In other words, if it seems too hard to develop a strategy, they just make up some solutions from the box of tricks they know about or can see from what others have done.
A classic example of this is a person who is running fundraising campaigns for a charity. Their stock solution to everything is outdoor billboards and signage. Why? Because their former job was sign writing. Other communications are ruled out because the person has no personal experience of them.
If you treat your planning as a critical first step towards organising activities that work, the first planning steps can be achieved by you and your team, without worrying too much about what you don’t know. Put another way, adopt an open mind and put your prejudices about activities to one side, at least until you’ve settled on a strategy.
This simple planning model helps any marketing campaign
Some years ago we (FRESCO) devised a simple diagram and process to assist planning - see more here. The key idea is to force the thinking towards doing the hard yards first by having the right inputs into a ‘strategy’ before thinking too creatively about activities. At the same time the simplicity of this model means that it can be used by anyone and understood to help a process of regular review.
We almost guarantee that when you follow the steps in this simple diagram, that your planning and activities will yield much better results and continue to build a cycle of improvements.