Ep 79 | Time to Start Planning for Next Year

And this is really important if you have multiple departments to kind of come together and do this as a team. Because your development team might say, Okay, well, we have these five fundraisers that we're going to do in order to hit our financial fundraising goals. Great. But you might not understand that the program department also has enrollment in launch, which is happening at in July, and you planned a fundraiser for a week before that, right. So that might be too taxing for your entire team to get done. So it really helps to lay all those things out on a calendar, really see the big picture for what you've got. And then you can start to put in layer in the other things that you know are going to drive your business forward that's going to support your organization.

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Getting to Q4 can be stressful. But I personally love it. It's time to review and finish the year out strong. It's also time to start planning for the next year so we can kick it off strong.

In this episode you'll learn:

→ not to get stuck in planning and move to execution.
→ why reflecting helps me celebrate and grow.
→ tools for planning your year

Want to skip ahead?  Here are some key takeaways:

[4:08] Reflect on the year so far. What has worked well, what could be improved. It's important to celebrate your wins and what worked well. It's easy to forget! You also want to review what didn't go so well so you can improve on it and make things better.
[6:15] Next I like to plan for the rest of Q4. What do I need to do the rest of the year to hit the goals I had planned for this year. How can I still make it happen. I will also come back and revisit this after I've come up with my 2021 plans so I can adjust as needed to start the year off strong.
[8:10] Take a big picture look at 2021. What are the things you know are solid in the calendar that you can't move. This can be a combo of personal and professional events. Make sure you're enlisting all the departments in your organization so everyone knows the big things that are happening. You don't want to hit people all at once with something and this is a big mistake I see being made often.
[13:17] Now it's time to take a look at your budgets and make sure everything lines up. It has to be a functional plan for your organization and understanding your goals really helps you prioritize your spending.
[14:19] Get down and dirty with your calendar. Plan the content you're going to release, put specifics in for what needs to be accomplished. Create your quarterly goals.


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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hey there, Sami here, your host of the Digital Marketing Therapy podcast. And I'm excited to hop in today into kind of why I love the month of October and kind of how I use it to start planning in my business, and you know how I finish out the year strong so that I'm set up for success in the next upcoming year. And there's a lot of things that I like to do this time of year, you know, typically the kids are in school. So that's making things challenging this year, as they're both home with us. But typically, in October, I'm really spending some time reflecting, planning and setting goals for what I want my next year to be. Now, these can be financial goals, these can be personal goals, this can be, you know, marketing goals, organization goals.

And I understand for some of you that are in smaller nonprofits, you'll probably have to do or organizations, you'll have to do a lot of this all for the whole organization. Whereas if you're in a larger group, it might just be a planning session that you do within your fundraising team or your development team or your financial team, and then kind of bring everybody together all at once. But either way, I think that these steps that I go through can be helpful, whether you're taking them from a top-level whole organization, or just from a department level. So I hope that you will get I hope that you will get some great ideas and thoughts on how to kind of set up your year and set up the queue for the last quarter Q4 and make it you know, a great year.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by my Digital Marketing Therapy sessions. These are 30-minute sessions that you can book with me if you're stuck. If you want to brainstorm something, if you want to strategize something, all you have to do is head on over to https://www.thefirstclick.net/officehours, schedule some time with me and we can chat through anything. So if you're hearing some of the things on this, and you want some more detail on how I put my calendars together, how you know I keep my day structured or anything like that, I would love to sit down and talk with you if you'd like to review some of the marketing strategies that you have going into your plans for 2021. I would love to review that with you two or even end of year things that you're doing. So head on over to https://www.thefirstclick.net/officehours and book some time. But for now, let's get into the episode.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[BODY] Okay, so I want to preface that I love planning, I'm kind of addicted to planning. And sometimes the execution of things is where people get stuck. So I really want to make sure that you don't spend too much time on the planning and get excited about that and then not make it something that's feasible or not make it something that you can actually execute. And I've made those mistakes, trust me many times. And so I really like to do this stuff in this order and not spend too much time on it. But really make sure that I have things in place, I have the data to back up what I'm trying to work on, I have, you know, I am being real with myself about the team that I have in place or the team that you have in place to make things happen. So definitely don't get bogged down in this or feel like you have to have it all done at once.

I know a lot of people that do their planning over a couple of days, so that they can kind of come up and I've done this to kind of come up with a rough game plan, and then come back, after a couple days to review, reflect and kind of see what changes they want to make. But I'm gonna run you through kind of the process that I do. And, you know, I'd love to hear from you what you think is, you know, kind of a biggest, the biggest aha moment for you. And also if you have things that you do, I would love to hear about them as well. And you know, who knows, maybe it'll be helpful to me as well.

Step #1
Okay, so the first thing that I like to do right around this time of year is reflect I like to reflect back on what have I accomplished this year, what did I want to accomplish this year? And, you know, understanding to give yourself some grace, especially this year, a lot of things didn't go as we had planned. But that's okay. I still just kind of want to say like where was I want to be this time? What have I done? And really like what are the wins that I've accomplished? Because I think it's really easy to forget about those things. It's really easy to focus on kind of a lot of the negative things that have been happening or the struggles that we've been going through and you know, the fundraisers that didn't happen or the sales that didn't happen or the donors that fell off the planet because, you know, their businesses were hurting, we don't want it we want to take some time right now to reflect on that the positives and the wins.

And I, as I've mentioned a couple times use a Full Focus Planner. And so I've been trying to start to write down in those the wins that I've had and highlight them. And now I think what I'm going to do starting in my new Q4 one is actually put little sticky tabs on the days that I have wins big or small. So it makes it really easy when I'm having some frustrating times or when I just kind of want to remind myself what we've accomplished that I can just kind of quickly go back and find those. I do save all of those because I write a lot of notes in there. So whatever planner you use, you might have a gratitude journal that you want to jot some wins down in there. But I like to take some time to reflect on the things that went really well.

And then after that, think about Okay, well, what things if I'm looking back at my goals, what did I hit? And why? Is it a staffing situation? Does it have to do with COVID? Did I not show up consistently on social media? Did I not have focused on certain strategies? Like what were the reasons why we didn't hit those goals? Not to bring yourself down, but just to tweak and refine. So maybe it was a goal that was unattainable? And you need to adjust that or? And vice versa? If you really hit your financial goals? Maybe they were were they a little bit too easy? Or are there things that you could tweak and change next year to kind of give yourself a stretch goal. So just taking the time to figure out what did it work and what might be some good ideas for ways that you can set yourself up, moving forward to either hit those goals still at the end of this year, if you think you can, or to kind of adjust and set yourself up for success in those areas next year.

Step #2
So once I kind of have done my reflection, the second thing that I like to do is really kind of plan out for Q4. So what are the financial goals that I know I still need to meet? What are kind of the maintenance goals or the brand awareness, things that I want to continue to do for Q4 to set me up for Q or for the next year. And you might add to this a little bit as you kind of plot out your plans for the next year, because there might be a few things that you want to go ahead and add in that aren't on your goals list yet. But that's okay, you can always come back. And these are just plans just like budgets, right? They're our best guesses for what we can, what we want to accomplish so we can prioritize our time.

So I have my Q4 plan set, I know what I want to get done this year, it might, you know might have something to do with annual giving campaigns around the end of the year, you might still have a fundraiser going on, there might be some holiday things. So really make sure you have that ironed out so that you can go fresh into the next year to really have your best foot forward. And you're not kind of cleaning up a bunch of stuff, it might be that you want to get your financials in line now so that you don't have to think about it at the end of the year, maybe you're going to start working on budgets now as opposed to starting in January, what are some things you can do to get ahead so that you don't feel so stressed out and behind the eight ball.

Step #3
So once I kind of know what I'm going to do to finish out the year, I'm going to take a big picture, look at 2021, I'm going to take a glimpse at like, if I could have everything I want next year, what might that look like. And I'm going to take a look at the reflection that I already just did, right? Because some of the things that I might have written down were, you know, during this time of the year, things are really busy. I don't want to add it, we want to move the event. Or maybe it's that, you know, our virtual events actually worked a lot better. So we're going to switch to virtual events. And we can do them at this time of year, whatever it was like take those reflections and pull them in.

So I'm going to take a look at my 2021 calendar. And I will literally print out a calendar like all 12 months, and sometimes I'll put it on a post it note on a on my wall. Sometimes I'll just sit in front of me. But I'm going to start by blocking out kind of like big things that I know I want. So I might know that I'm going to this doesn't have to be specific, right. But like I might know that I'm going on vacation during the month of August. So I'm just going to go ahead and block that time off on the calendar. There might be some events or things for your organization that you know you cannot move. There might be monthly board meetings that happen on the same time of every month. There might be you know, your big gala, whether you do it virtually in person is always on the same month of the year. Maybe you have big events that for the community that you serve that happen on the same time of every year. So I start to really put those things down on the calendar, the things that I know are kind of cornerstone elements that I cannot move or that are non-negotiable. So it could even be honestly, like, you know, personal things that you have going on in your life that you can't move, because what we're going to do here is really think about what types of things we want to add into our calendar.

So for me, we're talking about a relaunch of our online course, that called Your Starter Site, which helps you build your own WordPress website. So that's a, that's going to be a big thing, because we have to record a bunch of videos, and we have to, you know, get that set up again, and, and kind of have the time and the space to launch. So I'm not going to put that in the calendar for January, unless I blocked off Q4 to get that work done, right. You might have a new product or program or service that you're launching, and you know those dates. So if you have that on the calendar, and then you kind of start to backtrack to say, Okay, I know these six weeks prior to this product, or program launch or enrollment date for students, or whatever it is that's happening at this time, then it just helps you to mentally figure out where you can place other things as an organization so that you don't run your team too thin.

And this is really important if you have multiple departments to kind of come together and do this as a team. Because your development team might say, Okay, well, we have these five fundraisers that we're going to do in order to hit our financial fundraising goals. Great. But you might not understand that the program department also has enrollment in launch, which is happening at in July, and you planned a fundraiser for a week before that, right. So that might be too taxing for your entire team to get done. So it really helps to lay all those things out on a calendar, really see the big picture for what you've got. And then you can start to put in layer in the other things that you know are going to drive your business forward that's going to support your organization.

It can even be things like your annual fund, like when are you sending out letters for your annual fund, right? If that's happening within a week or two of when you're going to be reaching out to people to buy tickets to an event that might not be the right timing, or maybe there's a way that you can combine them together. It's just a big mistake that I find is a lot of people don't, a lot of organizations don't actually sit down and take a look at their calendar as a whole, they kind of go maybe a couple months ahead. Or they have different committees and board members and teams working on things. And so there's not communication about how those all work. So I love to take this time of year to really sit down and iron out all of that. So you can kind of backdate your schedule, backdate your planning, create those documents that are going to be your launch for all of those things. So you have scheduled and you know when materials need to be to get ready, you know when you're going to be needing extra money so that the financial department can plan a little bit better, you know, when you're going to need extra volunteers, so your volunteer coordinator kind of has a better idea of what's upcoming right, it really just helps you streamline the whole process. And if you've never done this before, it can take quite a bit of time to get that done. But it's so worth it because it's going to save you a lot of effort and frustration as you move through the year.

Step #4
So once I have kind of my big goals, my big chunks on my calendar, and our team has kind of signed off like yes, this is kind of roughly where we're at where we're headed, understanding that things might kind of ebb and flow as you go. At that point, that's when I typically really finalize a budget. I know now, how many launches I'm going to do I know now how much I'm going to need to spend in Facebook ads, I know how many supplies I'm going to need to buy, how many customers I need to acquire and what that cost me all of that stuff, right? You know, all of the costs that are going to go into it because you know what you're executing on the day you are on the year, you know, if you're going to need to potentially hire more employees in order to support it. And you can kind of make those numbers work, hopefully, to hit those goals. So after I set my goals, my big goals, I'm going to go through and work out a budget and make sure that it's functional and that it's going to support what what I want to accomplish.

Step #5
And then the last thing that I do and I like to have this done kind of before Thanksgiving, but so that I can you know, the holidays are always crazy. There's a lot of you know, work to be done. And so I like to have my planning done before I get into Thanksgiving so that I can just relax as much as possible, kind of take some space for myself and my family. But know and feel comfortable that right after the New Year's Day, I'm ready to hit the ball hit the ground running. And because I've got everything ready, I know what I'm doing. I have my plan in place.

So the next step for me is to get down and dirty with my calendar. And what that looks like for me is, like I said, putting all of the plans in place. So setting up my podcasts Like, what are the topics that I'm going to want to start to schedule out? What what things am I going to want to talk about to support what I have going on. So if I have an enrollment period coming up, then I'm going to want to change my topics to be much more specific about what I'm opening enrollment for, right? If it's, if I'm going into a brand awareness, kind of just like maintenance mode during part of the year, then it might just be general stuff about, you know, topics that are important and still on track with my business. But you know, might be things like like this, like talking about planning, as opposed to a specific tactic with a website or fundraising. I'm also going to start to plan out my launch runways, I'm going to start to kind of draw out exactly when things are happening. And I'm also going to start making target lists of clients.

So if I know I want to have three projects going on at any given time, then I'm going to start to map out the clients that I have. And when they when their project is anticipated to end. So I know when I need to go and find new clients. This could be the same for your donor cycle. How often do you know when do you need to start reaching out to people for different campaigns in different events, when do you need to have the materials ready in order to start to do that? When do you have to have information over to your graphics team in order for them to create the materials, right? Like it just trickles backwards so that you can kind of get everything prepped and done. And I will go so far as to like write all of these tasks out on my calendar. And then kind of keep them and you can either put them in a digital book, or you can put them in, like I said, I use a Full Focus Planner. So sometimes I'll even like map things out in there. I love doing that because it helps take it out of my brain. So I know for this quarter, this is what I have to work on to get done. I don't even have to think about what I need to do next quarter, because I've already got that written down and planned. So at the end of the quarter, I can review and reflect, see if I'm on track, see what needs to be adjusted. And then I've already got the things in place to continue to move forward. So I'm not kind of sitting at my desk like, oh, what do I need to do today, like, I have a whole list of things that I know are gonna get me to that next step. So being super specific. And this is definitely again, a team at this point, you're probably working within your specific department. But definitely a team effort, because everybody needs to be on board to work towards the common goal that you guys are trying to achieve. And this way, everybody knows, like, I'm doing this, this gets us there, like I'm writing the copy for this annual campaign letter that we're sending out an email and all that all that stuff created the graphics, so we can share it. And while that might seem like a random task, but if I know that if I get it done by this date, then it's also going to help us get to our fundraising goal of $100,000 or whatnot, it gets more by and it gets more engagement, it gets more structure within your department, everybody knows what they're working towards. And then as your organization grows, and you have you know, more and more and more people more and more departments, but having these big goals set department or I'm sorry, organization wide, then you get buy in from the departments and everybody just works smoother as a team, right? We all know that there's all these this stuff where organizations fight with each other about priorities. And you know, one department needs money for this, but another department needs money for that. And both of them are very valid and valuable to those departments. But the organization as a whole has to make the decision where they're going to spend and allocate their funds. So when funds get tighter, if the whole organization understands exactly what the big goals are, it makes it easier to make those decisions. And it makes it easier for other people to understand why their department might not be getting that funding. I hope that rambling kind of made sense.

So anyway, that's what I do. And then I just get ready to get into action. Once I'm done with my plan, I don't review except for on a quarterly basis just to see where I'm at. I don't try to like change the wheel all the time. This is what we're trying to do. So let's just focus on execution and not worry so much about the planning piece all the time. So just to kind of run you through the steps that I do, the first thing I like to do is reflect on things that were awesome and really celebrate my wins from the last year, and then reflect on the things that didn't go the way I wanted and how can I adjust in order to make things better in the upcoming year than I planned for Q4. So I can try to finish up the goals that I had set for this year and be ready to start the next year strong knowing that as I get to the next step where I set my big goals for the next year, I might be adding a few things to that list. Then I set my big goals for 2021. Work with the team figure out exactly where we're headed, finalize a budget and then get down and dirty with the details to try to get everything lined out mapped out so I know exactly what I'm doing and when I'm doing That's it, it's it's definitely a lot of work, it's definitely going to take depending on the size of your organization a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. So that's again, why I like to start working in October so you have plenty of time to kind of pull all of that together.

But I really hope that some of these ideas were helpful for you. And if you have a plan are you love or if you have a style of planning that you love, I'd love to hear it. I'm always trying to refine my process get more efficient and more effective as I go through the years. So that's all I have for this episode. I hope that you will subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode and I'll see you in the next one.


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