The essence of planning rests in the simple principle that board members, staff, and volunteers need a guide as they develop and carry out programs.  A good plan provides indicators to evaluate how well the organization serves the community and helps you make hard choices when the need exceeds available resources.  A commitment to planning is critical for every organization.  Simply put, it’s hard to know if you are headed in the right direction, if you don’t know where you’re going.

Arts organizations can use many kinds of plans.  For instance, a project description and budget, or annual budgets are plans.  More formal ones include long-range, strategic, and community cultural plans. There are also numerous planning methods.  Some plans are developed with assistance from an outside consultant and others are done by the organization itself.

The exercise for this section uses a calendar/timeline to develop an annual work plan.  After completing it you will have compiled all of the following basic elements:

  • WHO is responsible for these items? Good planning includes naming the primary contact person, committee chair, or staff member responsible for following through an every listed item.
  • WHAT activities, programs, and deadlines you are committed to in the next twelve months.  This will reveal if you have room for additional programs or if you are already “overbooked” (a frequent cause of board and volunteer burn out).  Our worksheet includes space for administrative, financial, and marketing items.  Be sure to include major grant deadlines, regular board meetings, and annual budget deadlines in your calendar.  They are efforts that also use your human, financial, or material resources.
  • WHEN you do things.  Your timeline will naturally reveal deadlines, specify dates of activities, and provide indications of potential conflicts.

You may find that this simple approach to planning is all you need to stay on the right track. However, there are more comprehensive approaches.  It is helpful to many organizations to articulate specific goals for the plan.  These goals should have objectives that must be accomplished and strategies to accomplish them.  The final plan of action should be written in an uncomplicated format and shared with your board, the staff, and your audiences.

Adapted from
Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies
Filebox Organizational Development Manual and Legal & Financial Primer