It’s been one year since Woollard Nichols & Associates officially launched, and we’ve been reflecting on the work that we’ve done over the last year. It was a great year – we supported almost twenty clients including coalitions and collaborations, membership associations, non-profit organizations, city departments and divisions of school districts. We facilitated community planning processes, conducted board and team retreats, supported strategic plans, wrote grant proposals, and designed requests for proposals. We saw results of our work in terms of members gained, leaders empowered, strategies documented, initiatives implemented, partners engaged, and funding allocated. In honor of our birthday, here are some reflections on WNA’s first year:
1) Data + Stories = Power.
There’s a lot of back-and-forth about whether data or stories are more powerful. The fact is, the combination of both makes for powerful testimony that can speak to both the right and left brains of your audience. In preparing impactful forums, seminars, and documents, we’ve learned that it’s critical to use analytical information to appeal to logic as well as emotions to show people why they should care. The combination is powerful.
2) Pictures speak a thousand words.
Infographics are the new annual report. Figure out a way to condense your message into one image, and you’ll be able to communicate your message effectively.
3) Grants are hard, but even failure pays off.
In today’s competitive grants environment, it’s important to invest resources in the right opportunities and then take the time to reflect about the process, even if it didn’t result in new funding.
4) System leaders need different support than organizational leaders.
Why does it seem like we are overflowing with good ideas and inspirational organizations, but as communities we can’t seem to make a larger impact on key issues? System leaders are crucial to changing the landscape at the local level, and we specialize in providing support to coalitions and associations working on this kind of collective impact.
5) Travel keeps us motivated.
Collectively, in 2014 between the three of us we celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii and in England, took a family camping expedition to New Mexico, welcomed a new grand-baby in Shanghai, enjoyed a girls’ weekend in Napa Valley, and spent Christmas on the beach in El Salvador. We value our work-life balance, and we cross-train and support each other as a team in order to enjoy our time off and provide seamless support to our clients.
6) Prepare. And then prepare some more.
Accountability is one of the most important things we bring to the table. When the work is messy, each meeting counts. And we come prepared with an agenda and a plan to maximize everyone’s time.
7) Convene and marinate.
If that sounds like a recipe, it could be. We’ve found that effective group decision making doesn’t happen overnight. It takes thorough preparation for an effective convening, followed by enough time to allow for reflection and consideration of the insights that come out of those sessions. We work with our clients to develop timelines that allow for joint decision making and then we communicate constantly to be sure that we are on track during the process.
8) If strategic planning is dead, then we’ve got a lot of zombies.
We don’t think strategic planning is dead, but those plans that get dusty sitting on the shelf for lack of use sure can look like they’re on life support. We help organizations and initiatives document appropriate and realistic strategies, and then we help create tangible implementation steps so a plan is a well-used resource, not a dusty tome on a shelf.
9) It may be messy, but collaboration works.
From increased funding for substance use disorders to shared retirement plans to advocacy in local elections, we saw results of the collective impact initiatives we supported in 2014. And that’s what keeps us wanting to wade through the messy to do the work we do.
Thanks for being a part of our first year. If it sounds like we’re a good fit to support your work in 2015, give us a call!