Action Items and Budget Planning

(Richard H. Ryder, 2017)

By now I hope you have read the Trestle Board series articles in the January and February editions of The Maven’s Journal, where I reviewed how to create effective vision statement, goals, and objectives.  In this series entry I will review the last step in the strategy setting process: action items.

Action items are the meat and potatoes of the whole strategy setting process.  Without clear and specific time based action items, which have realistic and attainable deadlines, your objectives, goals, and vision are but words on paper.

It is important to create action items with key members of your team in order to reach consensus, provide the team a sense that their input is meaningful, and also to solicit buy-in.  Once the team is on board and agrees to the actions, it is up to everyone to take ownership and accountability, and for the Master to follow-up and check progress.

Let’s review our sample vision, goal and objective:

Vision: “Create a lodge environment that makes members want to attend and be active.”

Goal 1: “By June of my Master’s term make each member feel a valued part of the lodge.”

Objective 1-A“In the first three months, contact each member personally, by phone, or by email.”

Now, let’s add action items against Objective 1-A.

The following action items are concise but specific enough to help focus everyone on timely steps toward attaining that objective, thus meeting the related goal, and in support of the overall vision. These are not exhaustive steps, but only meant to provide a brief example of how to begin writing effective action items.

  • On September 30, 7:30 pm, at the lodge building, the Master will: 1) meet with the Wardens to  develop a categorized member contact list and discuss contact plans; 2) plan a special homecoming event during the November meeting
  • By October30, the following will occur:
    • The Senior Warden will contact all members who have attended at least one meeting in the previous year, to mention the benefits of attending, determine reasons why attendance may be difficult or undesirable, and send a warm Fraternal welcome on behalf of the new Master
    • The Junior Warden will contact all members within a 15 mile radius who have not attended at least one meeting in the previous year, to mention the benefits of attending, determine reasons why attendance may be difficult or undesirable, and send a warm Fraternal welcome on behalf of the new Master
  • On October 1, the Master and Junior Warden will meet by phone to discuss progress of plans to hold a special homecoming event at the November meeting
  • By the October meeting, the Junior Warden will have planned and organized a special homecoming for all members to be held during the November meeting and include a special dinner.  Also, the Junior Warden will have arranged with the lodge secretary to announce the homecoming event in the lodge’s October notice and will also announce the event at the October meeting
  • On November 1, the Master and Junior Warden will meet by phone to discuss final plans to hold the special homecoming at the November meeting
  • The lodge will hold the special homecoming event at the November meeting

Let’s summarize the strategy material. You now have the tools necessary to create a clear and concise vision statement, against which you write as many goals as you feel you can reasonable achieve with your team of officers and members. Next, you create objectives to add specifics against those goals.  Objectives can serve as a great checklist of progress.  Finally, you create action items with very specific time frames to satisfy the objectives, which satisfy the goals, which help you realize your vision – easy, right?

Well, like anything else, it will be easy after some practice.  So, take a stab at creating your strategy.  Don’t get too complicated at first. Create a simple and concise vision, then create one goal, then create three objectives, then create three time based action items against the objective and assign someone to own each one.  These are not set in concrete; you can change them during the creative stage.  Also, you can and should expand upon them as you get more comfortable with the process.

Once you roll out the strategy, the vision should remain constant. The goals should also remain as static as possible, but a tweak here and there is okay if they strengthen your goal.  You can also add more goals at any time.  Once the strategy is rolled out, you can make changes to the objectives and action items; in fact, you probably will as you move forward in your plan.  If you follow the Master’s Pre-Term Time Line you will have opportunities before rollout in September to discuss and modify your strategy during officer planning meetings.  We’ll discuss next steps in future issues of The Maven’s Journal.

The Schedule

In the April issue of The Maven’s Journal you will learn how to create an effective schedule.  For now, in general and high level terms, think about and record the events you would like to hold during your year.  This includes meetings, degrees, dinners, social events, etc.

The Budget – Next Steps

It would be nice if finances were not a factor in the success of a Master’s term, but we all know that is not realistic.  As you create your strategy you need to be aware of how much you can do or not do given your lodge’s financial help; this is why you concurrently hone your budget as you create your strategy – they work hand in hand.

In the January Maven’s Journal I suggested the soon to be Master should become familiar with the components of a budget (go to MasonicMaven.org for a sample) and to start thinking about the costs as they relate to the strategy and goals.  It is now time to delve deeper into your budget planning.

This section will describe the importance of creating a realistic budget within the constraints of the lodge’s financial condition yet still accomplish measurable, realistic, and worthwhile goals.  The section will include the following:

    • Probing questions that will assist the Senior Warden in identifying items to consider when creating an achievable and realistic budget
    • Using the prior year’s budgets to predict income and expenses
    • A template to assist the Senior Warden in preparing his budget for his upcoming Masonic year. Click HERE to access the sample budget.

The Importance of a Budget

Money makes the world go round, and unfortunately it is directly tied to your strategy and schedule.  This is the third leg of a three legged stool. If one leg breaks, the stool comes crashing down. All three contain challenges, but as in life itself everything seems to tie back to a successfully managed budget.  As master you need complete oversight of all financial matters, since you are ultimately responsible.

To help you get started on creating a budget, ask yourself some questions:

  • What is the current financial state of the lodge?
  • What will be the financial state of the lodge when my term begins?
  • What are the fixed expenses that MUST be paid?
  • What are the variable (i.e. non-fixed) expenses from previous years, which will allow a window into what might be needed for the new year?
  • What are the variable expenses that are tied to traditions and should not be cancelled, since doing so might hurt the dynamics of the lodge?
  • Where is the lodge money invested?
  • Are the investments appropriate for the current financial climate?
  • Who is responsible for investing lodge money?
  • Who is responsible for authorizing the Master’s budget?
  • Who is responsible for authorizing lodge expenses and what is the process?
  • Is the expenditure of certain funds prohibited by lodge bylaws?
  • Do you have a Master’s budget, within which you have control of how money is disbursed?
  • Will there be dinners at each meeting, and if so, will members be charged and how much?
  • Etc.

Creating a Budget

The concept of a budget is fairly simple.  Representing how much money you have and how much money you spend, the goal is to have some money left over.  This can be extremely challenging, especially if the lodge has limited financial resources.  However, it is critical for the Master to be fully aware of the entire financial state of the lodge as well as all financial commitments.

Budgeting Steps

  1. Create draft vision statement and goals, as explained above. Doing so will allow you to be creative, without prematurely ruling anything out due to a perceived budgeting problem.
  2. In the beginning of the calendar year of your term meet with the outgoing Master, treasurer, finance committee, and any other key lodge members to plan the upcoming year’s budget.  The current Master, treasurer, and other key members will provide insight as to budgeting history, ideas, approach, and challenges. (At this point of the calendar year you most likely are not yet the Master-elect.  As such, those members responsible for the finances may not be able to share all aspects of the financial state of the lodge.  Even still begin by planning at high levels, which hopefully will give you a better sense of what may or may not be possible to achieve during your term.  The earlier you start the conversation, the better for all.)
  3. Prior to the meeting, ask the treasurer to bring as much historical data as possible, including income, expenses for the last 1 -2 years, list of vendors, etc.
  4. During the meeting discuss the schedule and record fixed meetings throughout the year, including lodge events, district events, grand lodge events, and regular meeting/rehearsal nights (if possible) for other lodges that meet in your building.
  5. Also at the meeting, as well as possible, predict when new candidates will be taking their degrees.  As hard as this may be, it is critical to try.  Doing this early will allow you to make changes well in advance, when the chances of doing so are greater. This will allow you to reassess your goals and objectives and how best to achieve them with as little disruption to degree work as possible.  Maybe you will need to request dispensation for an extra meeting.  Although not recommended, maybe you will need to arrange for a courtesy degree from another lodge.  Waiting until April of your term to figure out how to squeeze in three degrees for those new applicants may prove to be an effort in futility.
  6. After the meeting, take a second look at your strategy and schedule in anticipation of presenting a final budget version to lodge officers and key members.
  7. In late summer, meet with lodge officers and key members to present your final budget, schedule, and accompanying strategy.
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