How To Plan and Set Goals
How do you assess your group's interests and capabilities, set goals, select leaders, and delegate?
To be successful, your group must be well organized and committed. The more organized your group becomes, the stronger your programming and the healthier you group will remain throughout the process. You will also have institutional memory to share with future generations of group leaders. This section is designed to help you plan your group's work for the next six months or year by demonstrating how effective groups strategize, develop and implement action plans, and evaluate their efforts.
Strategic planning varies from group to group, depending on the group's age, size, area of interest, and member experience. Recently established groups will need to spend more time recruiting members and building the group’s foundation. Small groups may opt to include all members in all steps of the planning process; in larger groups, group leaders may do strategic planning, involving the full membership when it's time for action planning.
Quick Start-of-the-Year Checklist
- Is your group new? If yes, see "How to Start a Group" in the Student Hub.
- Does your group have a vision statement and constitution?
- Is your group registered at your university and filled out all the appropriate paperwork?
- Has a standard meeting time and location been set for the season/semester?
- What funds does your group have available?
- What other resources are available to the group (such as other organizations to collaborate with, use of office equipment, meeting space)?
In the beginning of the year, the leaders of your group should call a start-of-year strategic planning meeting to set the framework for your group's work for the coming academic year. When strategic planning is complete, your group should know:
- The group's short-term and long-term (one year or longer) goals
- What resources will be needed
- How your group will integrate recruitment into all events and activities
Step 1: Assess your Group's Achievements
Brainstorm a brief list of last year's accomplishments. Ask all participants to name at least one aspect of your group's past activism that they liked and one that specifically needs to be improved.
Step 2: Set Strategic Goals
The goals your group sets at this point should be long-term but specific. Do not confuse goal setting with planning specific “action steps," which will happen after your strategic goals have been accepted by the group's entire membership.
Goals should be SMART:
Strategic goals generally fall into two categories that complement each other:
1. Programming Goals
These should specifically identify what your group will accomplish within the next year. Programming should include both educational and social events for the group and for the larger campus/community as a whole. Your goals should be shaped by your group’s vision.
2. Organizational Development Goals
These goals build the capacity of your group by better equipping it to meet your programming goals. Be sure to include goals for recruiting new members and raising funds. Some examples:
Recruit 15 new members in the next nine months.
Establish functioning committees within one year to direct each area of the group's work, such as membership, fundraising, and programming.
Step 3: Create Specific Plans for Recruiting and Retaining New Members
Integrating recruitment and retention into all event and activity planning is key to group success. Each meeting and event should include a way to welcome and incorporate new members. For example, you might designate one member to welcome guests, get to know their interests and follow up by phone or email to invite them to the next meeting or event.
Step 4: Decide Leadership Roles
Once strategic goals have been identified, decide who will take responsibility for each one. These leaders will be responsible for coordinating individual action plans and ensuring that they are implemented.
Step 5: Develop Specific Action Plans
Hold a general membership meeting to obtain feedback and encourage participation. Working with the whole group or subgroups, the leader responsible for each strategic goal can facilitate a brainstorming session to develop an action plan. Completed action plans should include a list of specific tasks and the group members who will be responsible for each, a timeline for task completion and a list of necessary resources. All the planning in the world will do you no good if you do not implement your plan. Once the Action Plan is complete and tasks are delegated, the group begins its work!
Step 6: Support Your Group Members
Leaders should follow up with members who are in charge of specific tasks to ensure they have the resources and information they need.
Be careful not to over-plan or allow the group to suffer from "perfection paralysis." Recognize that things might not go exactly as planned, and be flexible. Know that your group may make some mistakes along the way - especially if you are trying something new such as hosting a panel or party for the first time - and be prepared to learn from your experience.
Step 7: Check Your Plan
Refer back to your goals and action plans on a regular basis. Make sure things are getting done and adjust plans as necessary.
Step 8: Evaluating and Returning to Step 1
Hold a meeting with your general membership and discuss the successes and challenges over the past year. Some examples:
- What went well?
- How will we celebrate this success and thank those who helped?
- How many new members did we recruit?
- What can we do better next time?
- What did we learn that we could use in the future?
- What contacts and connections did we make?
- Who else could benefit from this information?
- What will we do to prepare-both mentally and physically-for the next event?
- What challenges do we face?
- What new resources became available to us because of this event?