Annual Planning

Q: Our nonprofit board has been collecting ideas about what we want to accomplish next year, but it’s not in a very organized form at the moment.  Someone suggested to us that we create an annual plan of work.  That sounds good, but what is an annual plan and what goes into creating one?

A: An annual plan is basically just a document that your board comes up with that keeps you reminded throughout the year about what your organization wants to get done that year, and how you plan to do it.  It usually includes:

1.       What actions  will be taken towards realizing you goals in the coming year,

2.       Who is going to be responsible for the completion of that work, and

3.       A timeline that tells you when everything should be completed

Easy, right? Well, yeah—the idea is pretty simple, and it’s made even easier when your organization has a strategic plan to establish your priorities for you.  You can read more about strategic planning in THIS FAQ

Usually what it takes to come up with an annual plan of work is to sit down with your organization’s staff and/or board and talk over what your priorities are and brainstorm how to get them done.  Consider this an organizational “retreat”--you could get all fancy and rent a beach condo or you could just do it in your office or a board member’s house —just make sure everyone can get comfy because it might take between 4 hours and a whole day.  The important thing is that everyone has the space and time to come up with ideas, get excited, talk through the issues that need discussion and move on to the next thing. By the end of the day, you’ll be amazed at how many concrete action items you’ll have on the docket for the coming year!

Of course, this can’t happen without a little pre-planning.  Whether you’re an all-volunteer or a staffed organization, it’s important that the group of people doing the planning has a chance to put their two cents into what should be talked over during the retreat.  And of course one person (or a couple of them) needs to be in charge of the guiding the whole process: gathering ideas and information from the planning group beforehand, setting the agenda, and, during the retreat, keeping track of time time to make sure there’s everything gets talked about.

The final step is just writing everything down in whatever format you want. Some group’s annual plan is just a shared calendar that reflects due dates of each action item.  Some groups like to create a timeline spreadsheet or a word document that organizes the priority items by program.  Whatever makes sense to you!

So good luck, and I hope next year  is productive and fun!