Big to-do: Inside GCN's powerful new Doing LabsMarc Schultz
The first season of GCN’s Doing Lab initiative is complete, and the second is off and running, giving nonprofits of all sizes and stages an empowering, cost-saving opportunity to write complete plans for a variety of essential areas: development, marketing, talent, social enterprise, and overall strategy. Not only does each Doing Lab provide the time, space, and tools for leadership teams to comprehend and carry through with foundational planning, but also the expert guidance of GCN’s senior consultants.
“Just about every organization can use an outside consultant when designing these kinds of plans, but not everyone can afford one,” said GCN Senior Consultant Kathy Keeley, who co-facilitates multiple Labs. “This series provides the immediate and on-call expertise of a consultant, without the costly price tag.”
Another defining feature of the Doing Lab experience: the group-learning format. Each participating nonprofit brings along a team of leaders, including relevant board members, to provide multiple viewpoints and skill sets, generate discussion and buy-in, and ensure that lessons learned disseminate across the organization – rather than ending up in the hands of a single team member. Childspring International Development Associate Michele Brown, who participated in the Write the Annual Development Plan Lab, noted that the group dynamic also “enabled everyone involved to be more creative in their ideas.”
Brown also cited the advantage of carrying out planning in a room with other nonprofit groups: “It gave us the opportunity to hear about challenges and solutions from other organizations, which helped us push the envelope”
Participants report that, as designed, the program’s unique combination of training, consulting, and hands-on, in-session work means that a plan comes together quickly. Part of the “secret sauce” behind each Lab is a template that Childspring Director of Development Hester Parks called “simple yet effective,” breaking down the final product into specific categories that result in a comprehensive, cohesive plan. Brown agreed: “Having an immediate, easy-to-follow outline helped us see that creating a comprehensive plan was not as convoluted as some might have envisioned.” Once Keeley reviewed the plan and made a few suggestions, they were set with a 12-month development and stewardship plan.
With planning templates and other tools available to use and re-use, each participating nonprofit is further prepared to tackle their next plan when the time comes. Write the Annual Development Plan participant Danyale Weems, a therapist with Win Win Equine Services & Therapy, said that “having premade forms, and the time to work and ask questions that pertain specifically to our business, was the best.”
In the end, said Parks, “Childspring International now has a comprehensive development plan and a solid action plan to implement it. This would not have been possible without guidance from the Doing Lab model. The experience was invaluable.”
Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.
Learn more about GCN’s Doing Labs and upcoming courses here, or by contacting the Nonprofit Consulting Group at [email protected] or 678-916-3082.