One Step at a Time

John Maxwell tweeted what I think is a great little nugget of wisdom several weeks ago: “Patience is something you admire greatly in the driver behind you, but not in the one ahead of you” –unknown source.  This little quote encapsulates how most of us move through life.  We demand patience from everyone else (especially our children), but when it is our turn to wait or to move slowly, we just want to speed through.

With community service it is no different.  This lack of patience and slow-moving will absolutely kill a project!  Just from my work with many different groups on several continents, as well as my work as a volunteer locally in my own community, I have come to notice that very few leaders take enough time in the planning phase of a project.  Most seem to be allergic to planning, to be quite honest!  They throw something together, then when results are less than optimal, make excuses.  I’ve even done it myself, so before people think I am immune to this, I am not.

Before we consider how to grow in patience later this week, I want to just set forth the various project planning phases.  When we are drafting a project plan, using of course a spreadsheet or some kind of table, these are steps that we ignore at our own peril!

Phase One: Building Support / Refining Project

This is the most critical part of the project.  This phase involves surveying the community, developing an idea that matches needs with talents and resources, writing the project description, and building consensus with other community leaders.  Don’t rush through this step!

Phase Two: Budgeting

Yes, even small projects need a budget and a plan for how all needed materials will be gathered.  The bigger the project, the more time you need to spend making sure the budget accurately reflects reality and the most reasonable costs possible.  This step can and for most small projects, should be done as soon as the project description is written.  As consensus is gained in the community, the budget can then be shared with the idea that some resources from the community would be incorporated into the project.

Phase Three: Preparation for Launch

Preparing to launch is a separate step, as it involves checking all the boxes and making sure everything has been done in the planning phase.   Are all funds raised?  Have all needed materials been gathered, purchased or donated?  Is there a play-by-play plan for how the service project will operate?  Are there people assigned to each slot of work?  This is the time to confirm all the details!

Phase Four: Announce Project

Once the project has been thoroughly planned and implementation is near, the project can be announced to the community.  The community should be given adequate notice.  Think of it this way: you don’t appreciate being invited to a party at the last-minute, especially if you had other plans, right?  Give everyone plenty of notice so that they can make plans to help or attend!

Phase Five: Service Day / Project Starts!

Each person needs an assigned task for a defined period of time.  Make sure how the project will be implemented is well thought-out and understood by all who are involved!  Make your expectations as the leader clear!

Phase Six: Evaluation

Don’t skip out on the evaluation.  This means you need to plan ahead of time for how participants will be surveyed (best done at the time of service) and who is responsible for doing this part.  The survey should be drafted ahead and time and should measure the impact of the project on the community.  Think about the question, “How will you know you have been successful?”  Is the best measure how many people attend or something deeper, such as how their lives were impacted by the project?  Maybe it is a combination of the two.  As you go through the service project also, make notes about things to do differently next time.  Then incorporate these learning points into the early phase of planning for next time.


Question:  How patient are you during planning times?  What is the value of taking your time in planning?  If you have examples of how planning helped you, please share them!

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