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Creating a Plan for Your Animal Welfare Organization

Bert Troughton, ASPCA


Back to the Future

Whether you’re taking a road trip or leading an organization, the best way to “get somewhere” is to have a plan for “getting there”. Ironically, a great place to start in planning is to picture the end point first-in other words, create a vision.

Vision is a detailed picture of where your organization will be and what you will have accomplished in the foreseeable future (usually five to ten years from now). Vision is different from mission – which is a more general and long term statement of the organization’s purpose.

When board and staff (and even volunteers) work together to create a shared vision for the organization, good things happen: first, the process of dreaming together is a positive opportunity for “players” at different levels of the organization to get to know one another; second, collective agreement on desired future outcomes creates clear direction for both board and staff activities, and finally, visioning is a creative and motivating exercise – breathing new life into the organization and the team.

Creating Shared Vision –
a group discussion guide

You will need:

  • a group of board, staff, and volunteers
  • a comfortable room to accommodate your group in a full circle as well as in small break out groups,
  • at least three hours
  • flip charts and markers
  • copies of this hand out for everyone in the group
  • sticky dots (4 for each group member)
  • a volunteer to document & distribute all of the flip chart notes at the end of the process

You may also want:

  • a facilitator for the process
  • a warm up and/or introduction exercise
  • a meal or snacks and beverages
  • a wrap up exercise

Step 1: Imagine individually.

1a) Ask everyone in your visioning group to try the following exercise:

Imagine you have stepped into a time machine, and when you stop it is ten years from now. You get out of the machine and walk around the streets and gathering places in your community. As you watch and listen, you realize that your dreams for animals in this community have come true – and that your organization has played a major role in that success. You are amazed and delighted. Pause to let your imagination create a mental picture of what you find.


1b.) Make it behavioral: what do you see people doing? what do you hear people saying? what evidence do you see that the community has changed? how does it feel?

Jot down your answers to the following questions:

  • What images do you see that tell you animals are valued in your community?
  • What do you hear?
  • How does the world feel different to you for animals?
  • What reputation does your organization have?
  • How are people working together…in good times? …in bad times?

Step 2: Imagine As a Group

2a.) Divide your large group into groups of four to six people. Give each group a flip chart and markers, as well as scrap paper.

2b.) In each small group, choose someone to facilitate (i.e.: make sure each person has time to speak and ask questions) and keep track of time.

[You will probably want to spend about 30 to 45 minutes on each of the next two tasks.]

2c.) Share stories & mental pictures: Each group member tells the story or shares the “picture” s/he has created of arriving ten years in the future to find animals valued and your organization successful.

Help each other tell these stories. Ask questions. Get excited! Jump to new ideas!

2d.)In your small group, discuss the following questions. Work together to translate ideas into tangible images (i.e.: things you can see or hear). If nothing comes to mind for a particular question or area, skip it and move on.

  1. How are animals in your community better off in (10 years from now) and how do you know? Be specific–indicate what you see or hear that’s different.
  2. How are animals regarded in the major institutions of our society within your community…

    …in the courts?

    …in politics?

    …in the media?

    …in science, academia, & education?

    …in the industry, business & nonprofit sectors?

    …in community, social, spiritual, & family contexts?

    …in any other realms?

  3. What contribution has your organization made to bring all of this into being?
  4. Is there anything else in your visions that you would like to make note of?

Step 3: Articulate Your Dreams as Tangible Desired Outcomes.

3a.) In your small groups, choose someone to facilitate and keep track of time. Choose someone to write on your flip chart. Choose someone to report-out for your group.

3b.) On your flip chart, compile a list of outcomes and images (ie: things you can see, hear, or feel) that represent all of the visions in your small group.

Note: In a few minutes, you will be organizing, condensing, and fine tuning your visions to eventually arrive at one shared vision for the whole group, but at this time it is not necessary to come to complete agreement on outcomes and images before they are put on your flip charts.

3c.)Each small group should report your visions to the large group. Invite questions and conversations about the visions.

Step 4: Reach Consensus on Desired Outcomes.

4a.) As individuals, take four sticky dots of any color. (Each sticky dot is worth one point.) Walk around the room to read all of the vision outcomes and images on the flip charts.

4b.) Place your dots next to the outcome(s) or image(s) that you feel your organization should primarily strive to achieve. You may put all of your dots on the same outcome/image, or spread your dots among several outcomes/images.

4c.) Tally the votes. Every dot is worth 1 point. The four outcomes/images with the most votes will represent your shared vision for the organization.

Note: Remember to document this day – the attendees, your process, your conversations, and your final conclusions, and be sure to convey the vision (with energy and enthusiasm!) to everyone in the organization who was unable to be present.

© 2003 Bert Troughton

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