When it comes to training and facilitation, how much of a planner are you?
Do you just show up and wing it? Or do you design every step of every agenda in exquisite detail?
As you’d expect, people land along this continuum. When it comes to training (and most anything else in life), you can make any style work.
The same principle holds true with fundraising, so it’s helpful for people to identify — and then apply — the style that suits them best.
Where are you on the planning scale?
Some years ago, while teaching a fundraising course, I asked participants to evaluate their “planfulness” on a scale of one to ten. If they didn’t see themselves as planners at all, they assigned themselves a 1. If they planned everything in great detail and then stuck with the plan, they assigned themselves a 10. Of course, there were lots of options in the middle.
Then I asked for a show of hands for those who scored themselves in the lower third, the middle third and then the top third.
A few courageous folks were willing to expose themselves as non planners (the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s) raising their hands tentatively. You know what that looks like — bent arms and fingers barely over their heads.
A few proud planners at the top of the scale (the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s) raised their hands, arms proudly extending up. The bulk of the people were, of course, in the middle, neither embarrassed nor proud.
The ones at the bottom might be considered scatterbrained. Perhaps they thought of themselves that way.
I put two flip charts in the front of the room — one titled Planners, the other Non-Planners — and asked the group to offer words to describe each type of person.
Heading into unexpected territory
Here’s what they came up with:
Planners were described as organized, responsible, effective, accomplished, and goal-oriented.
The Non-Planner list included words like flaky, disorganized, and impulsive.
We could have stopped there, but we didn’t. As their ideas slowed, I pushed them to keep going. With a bit of encouragement, people got past the cultural assumption that planners were better.
The Planner list started to acquire words like rigid, narrow-minded, limited, and inflexible.
The Non-Planners were described as creative, energetic, contagious, and spirited.
As the lists grew, the energy in the room changed. The Planners who had so proudly raised their hands grew quieter and less cocky.
The Non-Planners started to smile, sit up straighter, and call out words, as they began to appreciate their assets and abilities.
Applying this thinking to fundraising
Once the brainstorming was complete, I gathered them into small groups, mixing planners, non-planners, and those in the middle. They were instructed to discuss ways they might use their planner/non-planner styles in fundraising. Among their responses:
- Fundraising events. Events succeed or fail based on logistics, but nobody wants to attend a well-run, boring event — especially the second time around. Creativity is essential.
- Donor communications. No one reads a bland email or a seen-it-all-before newsletter, even when the database is spotless and the communications calendar flawless. In this case, message trumps structure — and message is all about empathy and inspiration.
- Donor meetings. To quote a colleague, “Statistics raise eyebrows but emotions raise money.” Planners are great with data, but the more impulsive and intuitive among us might have a gift for telling the right story at the right (unplanned) moment.
If you’re a planner, be careful with the language you use to describe those of us whose minds range freely and for whom ideas are fuel. You may think of us as scatterbrained, but really, we provide the high octane fuel for your plans.
Facilitating this exercise — a training tip
Asking people to quantify their answers on a scale of one to ten is a simple way to help people think more specifically and then reveal their thinking.
You can always instruct them to line up and create physical continuum from 1 through 10, but you may not have the time or space to do so. Instructing people to raise their hands is an effective (if less energizing) short cut.