Is life really what happens when you’re making other plans?

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John Lennon had a point when he sang ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans‘ – when it comes to every day life, it does seem like we plan one thing and end up doing something completely different . The thing is, these ‘plans’ are often not really plans at all. They are more like vague aspirations into which we put little effort so guess what, we end up doing something else (or nothing at all!)

When it comes to businesses, it can be much the same. We think we have a plan of action when in fact what we have is a germ of an idea that we might do something about later on… or maybe tomorrow… our plan of action becomes one big procrastination (or to be more polite, we put it off to do something else).

That’s why writing down our plans is a very good idea. Ever wondered why when you write a list you actually get things done? It works the same way for a plan. Get something on paper and start ticking off the action points. The written word has incredible power and a plan of action is a great way to make your goals come to life.

So why don’t more of us write a plan? Some of the reasons given for not writing down goals and objectives seem reasonable until we explore them:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Objection 1: I might change my mind – this is in fact a self fulfilling prophecy.  You will almost certainly change your mind about your goals and plans but even more so if they are not written down – partly because you’ve already forgotten most of what you wanted to do! When they are written down, you can amend, embellish, clarify but you still have a plan.

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”, Gordon B Hinkley

Objection 2: I don’t like committing my ideas to paper

I love this quote.    How many times have I done this? Turned an idea over and over in my mind and never actually made it to the ‘field’.  The thing about just thinking about idea is that it is very easy to persuade yourself that the idea isn’t a good one. You work with the knowledge you have in your head only.  When you write up a plan, you can isolate those areas that need more research, where you have just made assumptions, where you know the truth of the idea… it’s liberating as once it’s written down, you can actually stop thinking about it for a while! And then get on with it when you’re ready.  There’s really is something fun (believe me!) about updating a draft plan you’ve written and getting all the detail into it so that you can figure out how you do.   You can share it with a good friend or your partner and start to get their feedback in an objective way. Try it it’s fun!

 “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Objection 3:  I don’t like planning, I prefer to be spontaneous!

This is interesting because it is the act of planning (and not the dreaming about planning)  that is the whole point.  Planning, in my view makes you consider all possibilities and look forward. You consider the alternatives, you play with how you utilise your resources, you consider options. You can consider what your obstacles might be (in business, how the competition might react).

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” ― Peter F. Drucker

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Final word.  Get out there. Take your best plan (and the best plan is the one you have right now) and do something with it. Commit to your goals and objectives and get on with the things that are most important to you.  Get your business moving, learn that language, travel to the Pyramids.  Plan your work and work your plan.   Life is waiting for you. Unless you have some other plans 🙂

10 Tips to great relationships

10 ways to prepare for partnering

Thinking about entering the corporate partnership space or improving your results in this area? Pamela Sutton-Legaud suggests some things you should have in place before going to market.

The following are ten tips you may like to consider, which will save you and your potential sponsor time, money and energy. It’s better to proactively determine these points rather than to be unprepared when a potential partnership opportunity arises.

1. Allocate responsibility for partnerships. Allocate a team or team member who has, as part of their job description and key performance indicators, the responsibility to deal with and negotiate corporate partnerships. This is particularly important in organisations that have a range of entry points, to ensure all potential partners are consistently appraised and receive the appropriate level of benefits to reflect the level of partnership.

2. Define organisational values for partnerships. Assist your staff by working with your board or executive team to create a corporate sponsorship policy which details what sort of industries conflict with or enhance your core values. Using an obvious example, if your organisation aims to assist people struggling with addiction, be explicit whether you will accept funds from tobacco companies, alcohol companies or gaming companies.

3. Create a selection criteria framework for sponsor partnerships. In support of your policy, it helps to create a sponsorship framework which outlines how you will select or accept new partners, how to acknowledge donors/sponsors and what you can give back in terms of value for their sponsorship dollars. Consider if you receive $5,000 or $500,000 gift – what could you offer to a sponsor at various levels of support? While each sponsor has different needs and requirements, you can develop some basic guidelines to get the conversation started. Defining this early – and the benefits that do/don’t come with each – can save a lot of headaches down the line.

4. Prepare a partnership benefits overview. Prepare a short guideline document to provide to any sponsor who should approach you which provides an overview of how you work, what you can offer, and why you’d be a great partner, as well as any selection criteria that you would apply to any sponsorship application. It allows you to respond to any requests quickly and professionally. It also allows a potential sponsor to self determine how good a fit they are with you, your stakeholders or audience.

5. Evaluate prospective partners’ organisational fit. Consider which types of organization are ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ partners for your cause. At Zoos Victoria, we are a natural fit with organisations that wish to engage with a large family audience, as almost two million people visit our zoos annually. So, fast moving consumer goods organisations or those focused on a consumer audience are a good ‘natural’ fit. As such, when Zoos Victoria entered into a partnership with ANZ bank, this was a very natural fit for both parties as our audiences and values were well matched.

6. Look for a values match. It’s important to be explicit about your own organisation’s values and review how they align with a prospective partner. Zoos Victoria takes a G-rated approach to our family audience so we want to collaborate with organisations with similar values. We are also a nonprofit conservation organisation, so we want to work with organisations that are likeminded and consider the impact of their actions and those of their customers on the environment. We’re here to protect and defend endangered species and we want to work with those organizations that actively support this goal.

7. Consider the value/effort of possible partnership. Nonprofits are time poor and relationships are time intensive, so it makes sense to evaluate the effort to reward ratio of a prospective partnership. Zoos Victoria uses a simple but powerful decision making framework which offers a simple way to assess a potential partnership activity. We look for partnerships and activities that sit in that top left hand corner – the ‘sweet-spot’ of low-medium effort for high value. This works in everyone’s favour.

8. Aim for multi-year partnerships. Wherever possible, look for multi-year partnerships to make the most of the work that goes into a partnership agreement on both sides. Negotiating multi-year partnerships allows time for the relationship to form and grow, while assuring partnership goals are met along the way. Good results come from time and reasonable levels of effort.

9. Record each partner’s goals. Create clear goals and don’t be afraid to clarify all the key outcomes of the partnership in a written sponsorship agreement. It is much easier to clarify your partnership benefits and commitments at the beginning of the relationship, than half way through.

10. Implement a regular review process. With clearly written up goals in place, you should regularly review the partnership’s progress against expectations to evaluate whether it’s meeting each partner’s expectations and take steps to improve on the relationship where possible. With this approach you can create enjoyable, mutually-beneficial relationships that continue for many years through open communication.

Pamela Sutton-Legaud
Pamela Sutton-Legaud is the Executive Director of the Zoos Victoria Foundation and leads the strategic direction for institutional and individual giving for Werribee Open Range Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo which celebrates its 150th anniversary in October 2012.

1st Published in Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine 2012