May 27, 2014

Plan ahead and enjoy more success

One of my alerts returned the following headline today, "Optimists conducting coat drive." I clicked because I wondered why would I get such an old alert. I thought I might need to tweak it and then I saw that the Wahpeton/Breckenridge Optimist Club was indeed collecting coats in May. The article said that they were doing so "to ensure students have warm coats to go along with their school supplies in the fall."

I think I would have been equally surprised if the alert had said that the Optimist Club was collecting school supplies; kudos to them for their excellent planning. Right now, people are packing away their winter gear as they prepare for the summer months ahead. What better time could there be to donate a gently used jacket or coat?

So often our Optimist Clubs use just-in-time planning approaches. That means, as an event grows closer, the club members divvy up the tasks to get them done just in time for the big day. However, doing so limits the opportunity to market the event appropriately, save money on supplies and sell tickets when appropriate. And even though this method works to some degree, it doesn't allow the opportunity for outreach and communication beyond the club's immediate circle of influence. It also focuses on tasks instead of objectives and never gives the opportunity to ask, should we be doing this?

The goal of any plan is to help an organization or individual reach certain identified objectives. In the case of event management, the goal isn't typically to merely hold the event, it is to hold a successful event determined by the number of people engaged and the quality of the time that the attendees spend there, among other things. The end objective is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the event organizer and its guests.

Every year, an Optimist Club should take time to evaluate its goals for the year and then systematically look at the events or activities they conduct to see if they will help it reach its goals. Then, and only then, can the club assign chairpersons and committees to carry out the tasks that bring an event to life.

Early analysis should include a plan for outreach. We don't plan events for ourselves; we plan them for others to enjoy, be nurtured and engaged. One of the first steps should be to ensure our stakeholders, from potential sponsors to the anticipated audience, are aware of activities that are being planned for them so that when the activity arrives, they already have them on their calendar.

Early planning should also include early deadlines and a tracking mechanism to be sure everyone involved is accountable for what they've been assigned. When the committee meets, go over the tasks and celebrate the progress that has been made. Celebrating small steps will build enthusiasm and give more talking points for word of mouth marketing. It will also increase buy-in. Members will feel good about what they are doing and when we feel good about what we're doing, we ask others to get involved.

The overarching goal of any Optimist Club is to increase membership so that it can do more in its community. By planning ahead and focusing on objectives instead of tasks, your Optimist Club will achieve its goal and be better prepared to deliver on its promises for providing community service.

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