Blog | Jan 6, 2012 | 4 Comments

[start with the goal, not the tactics]

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe how 2012 has started for me. And the busier I get, the more narrowly I focus on the tasks in front of me—and not the big picture.

This week, I realized that something I frequently do isn’t working.

My responsibilities as Interim Director of Communications at a large nonprofit are growing every day—and so is the number of meetings I attend. I usually come to meetings ready to dive in to the work. Take notes, identify and agree on tasks, organize the tasks into lists, get the tasks done. But in the rush I often forget that I’m not just paid to get tasks done; I’m also supposed to be a trusted adviser.

That means being a listener and a thinker as well as a doer.

If I put my “strategist” hat on, instead of my “worker bee” hat (lame metaphor alert), then I remember that the most important thing to know is what impact a marketing effort needs to have. Sometimes the goal is very concrete: “Enroll 250 people in financial education classes.” Sometimes it is less specific: “Raise awareness of the need for more supportive housing services to help end homelessness.”

In other words, the best starting point is the end.

This seems so painfully obvious when I write it down. But in our do-everything-and-do-it-now work culture, I often put the cart before the horse. I automatically start talking about brochures, web pages, Facebook pages, media releases, and email campaigns.

I forget to breathe, look around the room, smile, and say, “Why are we here today?”

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Thank you – it’s so easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re drowning in details. This is a timely reminder for me as well!


Anne Janzer


Thanks, Claire. Excellent reminder.




[…] Excellent reminder from Claire Wagner on her blog Wagner Writes to Start with the Goal not the Tactics. […]

So interesting! In nonprofit, we want to help out so much that we take on multiple roles. It’s so easy to be the task-getter-doner and forget our role as the senior strategist.

I really appreciate this post. I’m currently working with two nonprofits and I need to not forget to step up. Been doing so much on the tasks side and not enough of the overall strategic planning. Thank you, Claire!


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