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Is “Planning” a Cop Out?

golden braid


Words are powerful and have influence on our behavior, whether we know it or not. I’ve been reflecting on the notion of “planning” and the “plan” and what they tell us subconsciously.

While “planning” is an active process that results in a “plan”, inherent in this is the general understanding that “things may change” and we really cannot be held completely responsible if we don’t accomplish the plan objectives. This is akin to someone telling you I’ll “try” to get it done as opposed to someone who says they “will” get it done. Who would you hire? The latter person puts themselves at risk while the former leaves the back door open for acceptable failure… “Well I tried my best”.

I may be out of my depth here, but after crafting hundreds of “development” plans, the notion of a “plan” is beginning to feel inadequate…just like the difference in the words “development” and “advancement”. The notion of “development” is amorphic and retrospective (and often confused with other industries like software, business and real estate development) where as “advancement” is actively about the future; forward progress. But I digress.

What if we replace the notion of a “plan” with the notion of “pathway”? Creating a Pathway infers there is something to follow that is in front of you and a plan is something you refer to that was created in the past. Pathways will most assuredly embody curves, steep hills to climb and forks in the path, and you need a way to deal with them in real time.

Creating and using a “Pathway” in your advancement work is most certainly an ongoing, real time dynamic process – while a plan may get referred to quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Engaging in a Pathway also demands that tools and mechanisms are used to continuously determine where you are on the path and what curves may lay ahead.

Managing your Advancement Pathway will require monthly review of performance and environmental touch points, and tools to enable you to do these reviews in stride and to adjust your path. It also will need to regularly involve internal and external players. Needless to say, working with an Advancement Pathway will make for much more dynamic advancement committee and board meetings.

Would you rather have a Pathway to raise $10 millionor a Plan to raise $10 million? Perhaps I am splitting hairs, or perhaps creating a Pathway will provide just the energy and dynamism that your advancement shop needs to find its way and find a new path to better support your organization.

Your takes:

1. Take an honest look at your planning process to see if it is working for you and your organization.

2. Envision your professional and organizational pathways to success.

3. Start walking

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