Gamifying Project Planning


By: Joe Patti

The challenge of being creative in a non-profit environment is that you have big ideas, but few resources. So if you have a great idea for a new project or even an extension of an existing project, you might turn to friends, family, board members, volunteers, donors, etc., for help.

But their time is valuable too. Even if they are willing and patient, you don’t want to waste their time. If their schedule isn’t so open, you really want to be focused with your ask.

To prepare you might want to make a check list of what you need to accomplish and who you might ask, but Seth Godin suggested an alternative that makes a lot of sense-The Bingo Method.

Build a 5 x 5 grid. 25 squares. Twenty-five elements that have to be present for your project to have a chance. If it’s a fundraising concert, one of the grids might be, “find a theater that will host us for less than $1,000.”

Here’s the key: Fill in most of the grids before you ask someone for generous help. When nine or twelve of the squares are marked, “done,” and when another six are marked, “in process,” then the ask is a lot smaller.

A glimpse at your bingo card indicates that you understand the problem, that you’ve highlighted the difficult parts and that you’ve found the resources and the knowledge necessary to complete most of it.

This approach adds an element of fun and sense of accomplishment that a simple list doesn’t possess. Perhaps more importantly, using a grid of a specific size forces you to limit yourself to the most important things from your to do list and evaluate the viability based on that.

Contracting performers may not necessarily be on the grid if people will show up regardless of who is performing. If the performer needs to be of a certain stature in order for the rest of the arrangements to come together, they better be on the grid.

If you find yourself wanting to add more squares, then you may need to examine whether you have a clear conception of your project’s priorities. As Godin implies, this exercise is as much about providing focus to your ambitions as being a check list. The Bingo Method may be gamifying the planning process to a degree, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious endeavor.

Finding a caterer is important, but unless you need to find someone who can prepare macrobiotic meals in a location such people are rare, does the success of the project hinge on that? If not, it belongs on a regular to do list rather than this gird.

As Godin says, once you have 3/4 of the boxes either checked off or in significant process, then you can make your request of support, (or myriad other arrangements), confident that it is appropriate to do so given the progress you have achieved.

Gamifying Project Planning

Joe Patti
Joe Patti
In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats ( since 2004. I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. ( I am currently the Theater Manager for the Rialto Theater in Loveland, CO. Across my career I have worked as the Executive Director at The Grand Opera House in Macon, GA, at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.
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