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    John McMillin: Planning for the unknown

    By John McMillin -

    Boasting will get you in trouble. Over the course of many years, I have learned to be a good estimator; that’s about as much of a boast as you’ll hear from me. As an estimator you have to be very wary of trouble. Changes are not your friend, nor are emergencies. Still, you have to anticipate anything that might or might not happen.

    This week, for example, we knew in our office that if it could happen it would. Why would that be? Well, because we working on deadlines and it just seems when you know you have 10 things to do, for example, you will end up having taken care of an additional 10 things. It’s just in the cards or fate, or nature’s way of payback.

    We are finishing the week before our allocations process for United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Provided you’ve read this column before, you’re familiar with this process in which about 40 local volunteers come together over four nights to direct us in awarding funds to potentially 39 programs that serve local communities.  

    In order to begin this process, we depend on, of course, raising enough funds to award. The problem is that we never have a complete picture of those funds by allocations time. So we depend on historical data of how much participating companies and donors contributed in the past. For me, even though I’ve been involved with this process for a long time, it makes me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have statistics on my side, and I’m confident that I’m following the basic rules of estimating. However, if anything can happen it will. Usually, that means one donor gives less on any given year, while another gives a little more. Giving, it seems, is much like an ocean tide, falling and rising on any given cycle. Added to this is that when you know you have deadlines looming over you, there will always be a sudden turn of events forcing you to do thing you didn’t anticipate. This is where being a good estimator comes in handy. Anticipate the unanticipated. My mother says it better, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

    Beyond this, our United Way Campaign coordinator Mistie Ragland assisted with a local job fair, reaching out to participating companies, while she continued her work with initiating a community baby shower, a stuff-the-bus event, a neighborhood book exchange and preliminary plans for a Day-of-Action this summer.

    As we continue to develop our now 12 county area, I doubt we will see things get less hectic. That’s OK, though. We look forward to the challenge and the honor of helping so many partner programs, as well as our own initiatives in serving our communities. Luckily, no estimate is required in being able to depend on a great staff and volunteers who will help us in being prepared for whatever may lie ahead.

    John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at [email protected].

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