My mom always had plans, even to the very end. When she passed in July after a 6-year battle with lung cancer, she still planned on finishing a number of writing and history projects she was working on, but unfortunately, her health wouldn’t allow it.
My mom’s estate isn’t large or all that complicated in the grand scheme of things, but she thankfully she began planning for it in earnest several years ago. She hired an attorney and developed a very good estate plan that had a number of elements, including several charitable gifts. What we didn’t know was her failing health prevented her from completing some of the legwork that was needed to completely enact the plan. While it is still doable, it is now taking a lot more work on our part to make sure we can complete it.
I am writing this as I begin to head out on the road again in earnest for the fall. My first stop is to work with a community foundation on its strategic plan. You might ask, “What does one have to do with the other?” Our experience this summer has reinforced my belief not only in the importance of planning, but in working the plan once it's developed. The work used to create a plan is in itself a valuable exercise. At the organizational level, it gives us a chance to get everyone on the same page and begin (or continue) to move forward together. It is also our view - and my personal experience these last few months has born this out – that acting on the plan is just as important as its development.
Just as it was for me this summer, community foundations have “life” thrown at them every day in the form of new challenges and opportunities. It can certainly get in the way of even the best laid plans, but if you’re going to accomplish what the community needs you to do, you can’t allow it to derail you completely. That’s why having a vision (or target) to aim at and carefully selected strategic actions are so important. Having these make it easier for the organization to make decisions on what matters most and therefore, what actions must be taken today.
We know that maintaining focus in the face of changing priorities is hard, but a quality strategic plan can help lessen this burden. In the second and final part of this series, we’ll examine the other important question that must be answered - What are we learning from our work?
Steve Alley, Managing Partner
This blog is dedicated to my mother, Dr. Reene Ann (Shue) Alley, April 1, 1935-July 5, 2015. For more on this remarkable woman’s life, Click here.