5 elements to ensure your creative project's success

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Creativity is our game here at The Cause Collaborative. From planning and executing elegant galas to producing content for social media campaigns, our work requires daily doses of creativity. And it’s worth noting that creative work is not always delivered by graphic designers, copywriters, and others in traditionally creative roles.

For nonprofits, a “creative project” — like redesigning your website or branding your next fundraising event — may come around infrequently, but chances are you’re tasked with getting creative everyday.

With any creative project comes the need for a team. Perhaps that includes graphic designers, or maybe the creativity called for is best delivered by a project manager or PR specialist. No matter what the specific project entails, how you procure and organize your team is critical to your overall success.

Here are five elements that must be considered to ensure your team works efficiently and effectively.

1. Definition: What is the specific creative need?

Before you get all excited about gathering a team and brainstorming the cool stuff you’re going to do, make sure you know exactly what the project encompasses. There’s nothing worse than getting amped up about a project and then realizing part way through that you have to start over because you didn’t understand the purpose or thoroughly consider time, resources, budget, or other details.

The planning step is important for everyone, especially if this is a one-off project that’s totally different from your daily job. You need to know what you are asking of your team in order for you to assemble them and get to work. Take a look at these four questions for planning guidance.

2. People: Do you have the talent required?

Now that you know what the project entails, you should be able to identify the talent needed. It’s important to make sure you have the right people involved that will be able to cover all your bases. Maybe you need someone who knows how to set up a website. Perhaps your project requires some custom photography. Do you need unique, branded signage? How about media coverage? Define the roles and fill them accordingly.

You might be surprised (and relieved) to discover that a coworker in accounting dabbles in hand lettering. Or you may realize you need to look to outside sources for help, especially if your bandwidth is already stretched.

3. Trust: Does everyone feel supported and valued?

There’s nothing that stifles creativity more than being in a brainstorming session and having your idea totally shot down. I’m not saying that “there are no bad ideas.” (That’s totally not true.) But it’s important to create a safe space and set a tone of trust, so everyone can spill out ideas without worrying about repercussions.

It’s also important to communicate that everyone is on the team for a reason, meaning everyone brings value and has a role to play. Trusting that each team member will fulfill his or her role is key and allows each member to focus on their specific part of the project.

4. Collaboration: Are you working together for a greater outcome?

I love this definition in Merriam-Webster:

Collaboration: the work and activity of a number of persons who individually contribute toward the efficiency of the whole.

The “efficiency of the whole” part shows that true collaboration really is more productive, and I’d say better, than trying to accomplish all facets of a project alone. Having a well defined plan, the right people, and a team-centered culture makes true collaboration possible. Successful creative projects require problem solving, following guidelines but thinking outside the box, and always keeping the overall goal in mind.

5. Celebration: How will you recognize success?

Celebrate successes early and often. Why not? Life is short. Plus, simply recognizing project milestones met, obstacles overcome, and ideas generated can add life to your team and, in effect, keep the project moving along. Don’t forget to recognize each individual and celebrate in some way once the project is completed, whether formally or informally. Just a bit of thoughtful recognition is a sure way to get exuberant participation for your next endeavor. There are many simple ways you can incorporate celebrations into your project, like sending handwritten letters or creating certificates of appreciation.

Do you have a project in your future that calls for a dedicated, results-driven creative team? We would love to collaborate with you.