Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Conducting a once-a-year grease and oil change

A new year or new financial year or just a quiet time around the office provides a great opportunity for a community group to look ahead and think about the things you're going to fix up and what you're going to struggle on with for another year.

Are you going to write that risk management policy you've been promising? Are you going to upgrade your software? Are you going to bring in new blood for the committee of management? What must you do immediately? What can you put off (but shouldn't)? What should you think more about before acting?

This is the time to get the fundamentals right; to review your operations and plan your repairs.

Review your mission

Review your plans

Review your governance

Review your assets

Review your budget

Compare the figures with last year, to get a general sense of how you're doing, and use the trend to predict how you'll do in the coming year and whether that's good, bad or unsustainable.

Prepare a report for the Committee of Management filling them in on the situation and making recommendations for action (or inaction).

Review your personnel

Hold planning sessions involving volunteers and staff at all levels.

Review your diary

Work out how long you have to meet your goals for the year. Trace the action plan back from events and put advance warning markers in the diary to give you warning of work peaks and also alert you to when you should start planning your fundraising events - or getting other people involved.

Review your contacts

Review your fundraising

Work through the fundraising methods you used last year and work out where you get the most bang for your buck and where you have room for improvement:

Do a brief progress report for the Fundraising Committee, throwing in five ideas for consideration to get their minds working along the right lines.

Small consumer groups

Even for small consumer groups a grease and oil change isn't a bad idea. It may be as simple as a designated meeting where everyone comes together, perhaps facilitated by an independent consumer with facilitation skills, and talks about the group and how it has gone over the past year.

The risk is that it may deteriorate into a session where everyone just complains about everything and nothing constructive comes out of it.

One of the reasons for choosing a facilitator who has had consumer experiences is that they are most likely to understand the consumer/patient experience of being silenced.

Many of us have lived for years without anyone in a position of authority listening to our suggestions about our experience of services, let alone taking their suggestions seriously. Mary O'Hagan, a retired Mental Health Commissioner in New Zealand and a fellow consumer, famously said in a conference in Melbourne that, "the mental illness industry is the only industry where the customer is always wrong". Similarly, in the respected Understanding & Involvement (U&I) Project in Melbourne in the 1990s, researchers noted that people with consumer experience would not stop complaining until they believed they had been heard. This does not come from a deficit on their part; it comes from the way services are delivered.

As a consequence of this history small consumer groups wishing to conduct a 'Once-a-Year Grease and Oil Change' need to plan carefully.

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