Below we are posting edited text from the 1998 Draft PI Handbook on project planning. NA World Services has created a great primer on project planning called “Planning Basics”, available in the PR section of the website.
Project Planning (1998 Draft PI Handbook)
This following section discusses the essential elements of project planning and is intended to assist you as you plan and implement projects for your committee. We will be using an example of a Library Book Project to illustrate the project planning process.
Set the goals for your project. What do you wish to accomplish?
Goals should be: Simple, Attainable, and Measurable.
For example: “We want to put our Basic Text in libraries.” Keep it is simple.
Whether it is attainable is not known because it isn’t adequately defined.
It is not measurable.
A better goal would be:
“We want to place two Basic Text books in libraries each month in language(s) common to that community, until all the public, college, high school, hospital, and jail libraries in the area and have a copy of our book.”
It is simple: place books in libraries.
It is attainable: two books each month.
It is measurable: it defines the types of libraries to be filled and how many books each month.
Write down the goals and refer to them to help keep your committee on track.
Public Information subcommittees are not autonomous groups in NA, they are subcommittees that are accountable to a service body. The PI chairperson is the single point of accountability for the entire committee and is responsible for giving timely, accurate, and complete reports to the ASC or RSC.
For each project undertaken by PI, the point of accountability should be clearly defined, such as a project leader or coordinator. After defining accountability, a you should establish a budget and clearly define all responsibilities. Project leaders are responsible for making timely, accurate, and complete reports to the PI subcommittee so that its leadership will be able to adequately prepare its report on the activities of the PI subcommittee as a whole.
- A project leader is assigned by the committee.
- At each meeting the project leader reports where the books were placed.
- At the ASC meeting, the PI Chair reports where the books were placed.
Develop a timeline and set milestones for the project. Timelines are developed backward, from the end to the beginning. Set your timeline before you begin your project. Timelines often have two parts: planning and implementation.
Planning Portion of Timeline
- January: Start placing two books each month (taken from our goals).
- December: Purchase two books (or get them as part of funding from ASC). Project leader presents sample cover letter for approval by the committee.
- November: Committee approves the project and a budget, including all costs.
- October: The project leader gives a report on the number of libraries, and how long the project will take to complete. The project leader also finds an assistant so that he or she won’t be going alone to place the books.
- September: The committee decides to investigate a library project, appoints a project leader and sets the timeline.
Implementation Part of Timeline
- Each October, investigate any new library sites and verify that our book is still in the libraries on our list. A budget and timeline will be prepared if additional books are needed to be placed in the following year.
- Each September: begin training new people to take over the project for the next year (if there is a next year).
- After all books have been placed, the committee will contact each location periodically to ensure that sure the books are still in place.
- Each month:
- Acquire two books for the project.
- Place two books in libraries.
- Write thank you notes to libraries that accepted books last month.
- Report which libraries received books this month and keep a detailed list.
Common Timeline Characteristics
Each project can generate its own timeline but the characteristics common to all projects are:
- Be specific about details.
- Work backwards.
- Include all the actions which need to take place in order to implement the project.
The preparation of a timeline can help the committee determine whether it has sufficient financial and human resources to implement the project. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to properly prepare and it is best to not proceed with a project that cannot be adequately implemented.
The committee can help organize itself by preparing an annual calendar containing a more general type of timeline. Significant annual events like elections, regional conventions, learning days, deadline for budget, etc. can be placed on the calendar so important committee business is not forgotten.
Budgeting and Resources
Your committee must determine the financial and human resources for each project. As with the timeline, you should be specific.
Remember to include all expenses for the project. You might want to consider the following list:
- Literature costs
- Fees with outside organizations
- Equipment or hardware needed
- Travel costs
A budget is not just prepared and then filed. The budget should be a working document referred to and updated throughout the project or throughout the committee’s year. Consider all your resources when planning your financial and human budgets.
Let us continue with our Library Book example. Its financial budget includes expenses for the following:
- Two books each month
- Copying for cover letters to accompany books
- Copies of our NA, A Resource in Your Community IP for the librarians
- A thank you card for each library on list
- Postage to mail the thank you cards
- Rubber stamp and ink pad for stamping area contact phone number and mailing address on literature
Some committees operate with an annual or monthly budget amount approved by their area or region; then throughout the year, the committee selects project on a case by case basis as they come before the committee. Committee resources include not only money, but also:
- Materials (such as literature)
- Equipment (such as literature racks or tapes public service announcements)
- Human resources (committee members and volunteers)
Resources outside the committee include:
- Assistance from other Public Information committees
- Trusted servants from neighboring areas and regions, and at the world-level
- Cooperation from other subcommittees in your community
In the Library Book example, we decided that we need three people working on the project so there will always be two available to visit the libraries and place each book.
Since a committee is rarely able to do all the projects it would like to do because of financial and human limitations, it must set priorities. Your committee will have to evaluate its options and make decisions. One method that may help is to set levels of priorities. Some areas consider meeting schedules and phonelines to be the highest priorities for Public Information. After these high priorities are met, it might consider booths at public events, presentations to schools and professionals, and community meetings as next highest priorities, with media public service announcements, a mailing list for the meeting schedule, and billboards as the lowest priority for a particular year. Priorities may change from year to year due to differences in available financial and human resources.
The committee might want to develop a list of criteria to help evaluate projects and determine where each one fits in the committee’s priority list.
Some helpful questions might be:
- Will the project further NA purposes?
- How many people are we likely to reach with this project?
- Which projects reach more people?
- Which projects do NA members care most about?
- Is this project supported by your area or region?
- Does the project fit into your financial resources; exactly how much will it cost?
- Does this project support other aims of NA, such as H&I work?
- Will it increase meeting attendance?
- Do we have sufficient people to implement the project?
- Do we have enough time to devote to the project?
- Do we have sufficient preparation time to effectively implement the project?
- Is it controversial? (If it is, we might want to pass.)
- Do we have the experience or guidance necessary for this kind of project?
- Are we familiar with the projected audience and what it expects?
In our example, the area decided that a library book project was less important than its meeting directory, phonelines, presentations in schools, joint PI/H&I presentations, booths at professional conferences, an annual learning day for the area, four training sessions each year for new volunteers, and a mailing list to send the meeting directories to professionals who refer people to NA. Since, however, those projects were all operating well, it decided to take on a new project. The library book project was deemed more important than two other project proposals—billboards and assembling a broadcast fax database. It was determined to be equally important as public service announcements, but volunteers on the committee were more interested in pursuing the library book project, so the committee chose to begin the library book project first.
Like goals, the priorities should also be clearly defined, written down for reference, and then referred to throughout the year to help keep the committee on track.
We have learned that it is better to choose not to do a project than to do it poorly since NA’s image with the public may be adversely affected.
We must finish our projects and our reports. Too often we stop our project at the main event: the presentation, the booth, the learning day, the placement of the book. A committee chair may begin to feel that donating two books each month to libraries, or doing a presentation to another high school has become boring and stop reporting on these activities to save time. With new GSRs each month, we need to be aware that although our reports may seem repetitive to us, they are brand new to someone and we need to follow through with complete reporting of our activities.
Follow-up after contact with the public will help committee members to develop ongoing relationships. Thank you cards leave a positive impression on people in the community, such as the librarians we met in our book example. The project leader should update contact lists continually. Those lists may be used by PI project leaders working on other projects. For example: if they wish to receive it, the libraries may be added to a mailing list to send our updated meeting directory. Keeping written records of our contacts will help next year’s project leader. For the library book example, we want to reestablish contact each year to make sure the books are still in place.
Follow-up within the committee is equally important. We want to inventory our literature and provide a financial report to the committee of all our expenses to help with the preparation of future project budgets. We want to discuss the event’s success with the volunteers, to learn what we can do to improve the next one. When we train volunteers, we are training future project leaders and future committee leaders. Some committees have assistants for each project leader who are learning the skills necessary to move into the leadership position at the next election. We can keep people involved by having experienced volunteers help with training sessions. Some project leaders send thank you cards to volunteers after big events.
With our Library Book example, we might ask these follow-up questions:
- Did we reach all the libraries on our list?
- What was their general reaction?
- Do we need a better letter of introduction?
- Did they also ask for information pamphlets?
- Is there a portion of the community which speaks a language other than our own? Do we have literature that we can provide in those languages?
- Did any libraries refuse our donation? Why?
- Did we reach the correct contact person, or should we change our approach?
Evaluation and Assessment
It is important to get feedback from the community, the volunteers who participate on projects, the PI committee members, the ASC or RSC we serve, and the individual members of the fellowship.
We can receive feedback by asking people to fill out questionnaires after we have done a presentation. We can spend some time talking with people to receive their feedback. We should make note of any questions which are asked of us, in order to help us modify our approach. This will aid us to give members of the community the information which is important to them.
We should meet with the leaders and volunteers after a project to find out what worked and get suggestions for improvement. Here are sample questions we could ask them:
- Did we bring enough literature?
- Did we bring the right kind of literature, including translated literature where applicable?
- Did we adequately answer their questions?
- How might we have answered the questions better?
- Was there anything else requested from the PI committee?
- Were the volunteers adequately trained?
- Have we been invited back; why or why not?
Project leaders should keep notes on the project and report to the committee. Some committees have developed project procedures books to supplement their committee guidelines and this handbook. It helps with the rotation of service when an outgoing project leaders is not available to train the new leader, or when a project is periodic in nature without one continuous project leader.