I’m a very methodical thinker.  I like order to things.  I like to see a clear start and a clear finish.

Yesterday, I found myself pulling out the sticky notes with two different clients to help them think about a project.

The first client needed to map out a process for managing volunteers, from recruiting all the way through to the exit interview.  The second one wanted to visualize the content for their new website.  For both, I wanted to help them first create a process to give the projects structure.1295644782600

Both clients had been wrestling with these projects, mostly I think because they simply hadn’t set aside time to work on them.  After just an hour, each client had a visual structure on sticky-notes and knew what their next steps were.

The next time you need to do some big thinking, especially creating a fundraising plan, I recommend you get out some colorful sticky notes and a marker. 

Start with some broad thoughts like “what are the main steps in this process?”  Write each one down on its own sticky. You can use a blank wall or the back of a door to put the notes in order. (I like using sticky notes because you can move them around if you need to.) Don’t worry about all the details yet – just get the main pieces first.  You’ll go back later and fill in the details.

For the website, we started with “who will be visiting the website?” and “what will they want to know?”  This helped us decide on the information to include and by using the sticky notes, we were easily able to figure out how to organize the information for each type of visitor.

Have you used this type of exercise before to help you get your thoughts together?  Do share!  We’d all benefit from your experience.



  1. I’m getting some great feedback via email to this post.

    My friend Susan shared this hysterical video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ei63ToGnHbs Go see it – it’s short.

    My friend Michael said he’d never thought about using stickies to help in planning. He says “I can use this idea among my student learning teams to organize their nonprofit marketing team assignments. I have some big 4″ x 6” stickies in multiple colors. I also have high school student teams for a Junior Achievment Success Tools. Will work there too. Ditto my website, “Honey Do list”, telephone answering machine, etc. You’ve just changed my life again.”


  2. You inspired me to finally get to work on redesigning my website. I got my sticky notes out and mapped out the entire site, including pages I want to add later. It was so much fun. Love this approach to planning!

  3. Sandy, I’m going to try this on my Trust Project. I need to gather info from varying resources about my focus on the individual through the Story methodology. I’ve got a famework that needs to be filled in. What a great way to do it. I can gather like crazy and then sort each piece of research data into the framwork. Thanks!

  4. One of Ali’s big things is the sticky note process, Sandy. I always come home with page after page of big poster sheets with the stickies for a particular thing taped on in order so they won’t come off after the paper is folded to go into my briefcase. And I’ve used this process with clients hundreds of times, too. I think the way you used it with your clients is WONDERFUL. Gets them so much clearer, and you pulled both away from overwhelm, too. You rock!
    Sue Painter

  5. Sandy, I was just trying to find a new and different calendar. Did you know there are ‘sticky note’ calendars out there. You probably did and I’m a bit behind. I’ve always had the standard calendar for my business – now that you’ve brought sticky notes back in my view that’s where I’m headed. Thanks for talking about those colorful pieces of paper.

  6. I am a huge fan of the sticky note brainstorming game for big projects! Perfect reminder for a project I’m working on. I also really love the creativity that comes from a group brainstorm with stickies.

    • Me too Melanie! I did exactly that last week (group brainstorming) to create a new process for recruiting, training, and managing volunteers. Everyone participated and the result was great!


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