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Action planning

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Who will do what, when, where and how? Action plans translate the campaign strategy into specific guidance for its activities. Depending on its scope, a campaign with several sub-strategies (e.g. communications strategy, fundraising strategy, exit strategy) may need several action plans for different types of activities. Even if a campaign strategy may appear straightforward and simple, action plans are needed to ensure effective use of resources and a distribution of responsibilities for all activities. See also Campaign Strategy in this module.


Campaign action plans should include the following items

The campaign goal, outcomes or objectives, as set out in the strategy, and an indication as to which specific campaign outcomes or objectives the action will contribute to.

The goals and outcomes or objectives of the specific activities – for example, in an action plan for fundraising, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for the campaign; the planned outcomes or objectives could be the amounts to be obtained from a number of identified sources, within a certain time-span. Planned outcomes or objectives should take into account both the quantity (e.g. number of persons who demonstrably take the action the campaign calls for, e.g. sign on to an internet petition) and quality to be achieved (e.g. types of behaviour change among the target audience).

Precise action steps, i.e. the specific tasks and their components. What needs to be done first? What actions must be completed before others can begin? What activities are needed to motivate which target audiences to take the desired actions?

An effective way to visualize actions per target audience is the matrix below, designed for policy/institutional change campaigns but also easily adjusted for behaviour change campaigns.

Sort the necessary activities in roughly chronological order, and verify whether some activities deserve greater attention than others to set priorities.

Task distribution, i.e. who will do the specific tasks needed to carry out specific activities. When activities are sufficiently defined to distribute precise tasks, record the task distribution, e.g. on spreadsheets modeled on the template below. The column to the right (“status”) is used for monitoring; milestones can be included under “expected outcome”.

Milestones, i.e. specific moments in the planned set of activities that mark the completion of a major step. For example, in an institutional fundraising strategy, key milestones could be: (i) at least “X” potential donors are identified, (ii) fundraising proposals are sent to a sufficient number of donors to cover at least “Y” percent of the campaign budget, (iii) “Z” percent of campaign budget is secured through approved donor grants.

An assessment of potential barriers to implementing the actions, including risks and risk management.

Monitoring arrangements. Milestones show progress in activities, but it is also necessary to monitor broader outcomes the campaign contributes to, and external developments. For example, in a media strategy, it is advisable to monitor (i) campaign activities and media coverage prompted by these activities, as well as (ii) other coverage on the issue that is not an outcome of the campaign, for timely identification of new opportunities and threats.

“What if?” Plans don’t necessarily work out as planned. For example, the institutional fundraising plan may fail if donors do not provide any grants. Be prepared by including a contingency plan to guide you through adverse situations. For example, the contingency plan should outline the steps to be taken if no donor grants materialize – will you suspend the campaign, postpone and re-design it, or cancel it altogether? What action will need to be taken for each of the three options?


Source: adapted from Cohen et al., 2001. Advocacy for Social Justice: A Global Action and Reflection Guide.