By Marc C. Whitt

2015 planning image smA new year brings with much anticipation as we seek an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew. For many of us, a new year encourages us to aspire to be better than we were the previous 12 months whether we wish to eat healthier, lose weight, simplify our lives, or perhaps read more books.

Some make resolutions. Some make vows to family and friends, while others write down their goals in personal journals to remind them of commitments for the weeks and months ahead.

When speaking of the new year, English novelist Neil Gaiman said: “I hope in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

In a similar tone, Melody Beattie, author of the successful self-improvement book, Codependent No More (1987), said: “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

For the music parent organization and its leadership, I suggest that the new year represent a wonderful time to review the first half of the school year, plan for the remaining months, and put into place goals and action steps for the coming summer and fall months.

I am a big proponent for planning. How else can we determine, measure and evaluate our success as a volunteer organization of parents unless we know where we’ve been and where we’re going?

Playing it by ear as we go along is certainly no option and is, quite truthfully, a dangerous way to manage.

Planning takes time, but in the short- and long-term, pays off immeasurably as it puts into place a map, to guide us. Planning gives us direction. It allows us to plot strategy in the areas of fundraising, public relations, marketing, special events, volunteer recruiting and involvement, logistics, and much more.

As we begin a new year, I suggest you find an opportunity to bring together your organization’s leadership with the music director and discuss these questions in a positive, honest, realistic and non-threatening environment:

  1. What activities did our music parent organization undertake that worked well and didn’t work so well, and why?
  2. Of these activities, are there any we should attempt again or not, and why?
  3. How can we, as an organization, work collaboratively with the music director, to become better advocates for our children’s music program?
  4. How well do we recruit and retain volunteer members? Any new opportunities or ideas we should consider?
  5. How well do we engage band, choir or orchestra alumni in the program? Do we have a defined role for them?
  6. How well do we communicate with our music parent organization’s membership, the school and school district, and local community? Where and how can improvements be made?
  7. How professional do we plan and execute fundraising projects? Where do we succeed and where can improvements be made?
  8. How do we develop and mentor volunteer leadership? How can improvements be made?
  9. How can we best assist our music director in the months ahead?
  10. Do we make it fun and meaningful for those to belong?

I’m sure you can think of other worthy questions, but these should help get you started as you begin the new year.

French clarinetist Paul Meyer said of productivity:

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”

So as we begin the new year promising ourselves to improve our personal lifestyle, please take time to seek similar improvement with something that means so much to you and others—your school’s music parent organization. I’m sure your positive results will be worth celebrating year round!

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