Tuesday's session was the fourth of 10, two-hour classroom based learning sessions, of the Phoenixville Community Health Leadership Academy.

The fast-paced lecture by strategic planning expert Jim Cummings zeroed in on strategic planning.

Other classes have already, or will cover diverse topics, including quality of life issues, lectures by community representatives of local government and service positions including police, a diversity skills workshop and a budgeting and fundraising session.

Other classes, given by experts in their field, will prepare students on ethics and community collaborations.

The classes give the students a cross section of skills they will need to draw from in their work as community members with fundraising, ethics and personal leadership," said sponsor PCHF President and CEO Lou Beccaria.

One student hails from both Communities that Care and the Chamber of Commerce, while another is a member of the Schuylkill Canal Association and a third participant will use the information garnered to better run Town Watch and Relay for Life.

Each participant is required to present a project which will aid the community by June of 2005, and will receive a grant from the PCHF of $500. Some of the class time will be set aside to allow students to better prepare those projects.

Martha Parker represented the Phoenixville Area Historical Society.

"This is a great opportunity to meet some of the leaders of the community and people who want to help the community," said Parker. "And to learn what's going on in the community."

The Violence Prevention Network and Communities that Care representative Robin Fetter said that the course had helped her to pool resources and to collaborate with other community leaders.

PCHF Representative Lynn Pike Hartman said that an advantage of the academy was the ability of students to "take all this information and put together a plan and execute."

Elizabeth Norris of Village Productions was excited to create a project and take the makings of the lecture to possibly help create a new mission statement back to her co-workers.

The presentation by Cummings was titled, "Strategic Planning - Mission, Vision and Your Future."

Cummings told the academy students that the United States gives away $200 billion to charity, or more than the rest of the world combined, most of it in $35 personal donations.

He also said that children are the greatest planners and wondered why that talent often disappears with age.

"At age 10, I was a great strategic planner, so why does the thought of it intimidate me today?" asked Cummings.

He also spoke of the need for a non-profit organization to have a concise mission statement of what their organization is and what it does today.

The statement should be simple and something that can be placed on the wall at the agency's front door, said Cummings.

"It's valuable to know who you are and why you exist," Cummings told academy members. "It tells you where you're going wherever that might be."

He stressed that you should always be prepared to give what he called the "30 Second Rule" to describe a non-profit for situations such as a chance meeting in an elevator.

By remembering his or her audience, the speaker should use no jargon, gauge information verses effectiveness and use of the mission statement as a touchstone.

A vision statement should also be concise and state what the organization hopes to achieve inthe foreseeable future.

The vision statement should be used to reasonably plan ahead and be measurable. Timed vision statements are a yardstick of accomplishment, said Cummings.

A common stumbling block is to "pack our suitcase before deciding on the destination" and leaving the maps in the trunk of a car when traveling.

"Planning is logic in action," said Cummings. "Never compromise long-term milestones" of these living and changing documents.

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