Like budgeting, strategic planning is a necessary process for a healthy organization. And, like budgeting, you have to put in some serious time to do it right. A one-hour discussion is not going to result in a strategic plan.
Many organizations spend too little time and effort on planning, often only setting goals for the organization. Goals are good, but they are like new year’s resolutions — rarely effective in bringing about results.
Start With the Basics
Strategic planning needs to start with revisiting the basics about your organization:
- What is your mission?
- Who is your customer?
- What benefits do we want your customer to get from your organization?
- How do you know if they are getting these benefits?
Don’t assume that your board or team know the answers to these questions.
Once you have answered these questions, you need to talk with the people you serve, gather information about how your organization is seen by your stakeholders, and find out about changes and trends that you should factor into your plan.
Next Step: Build a Plan You Will Use
How many times have you gone through a lengthy planning process, and not come close to putting the plan into action? Here are some signs your plan will bear fruit:
- The process engaged the staff, board, and stakeholders, including the people you serve, elected officials and other public decision makers, other organizations with related missions, and experts in your field ?
- You identified the key issues your organization is facing.
- You developed clear and specific strategies that can guide day to day decisions and help you adapt to changing conditions
- You integrated fundraising, collaborations, and advocacy into your plan.
- You followed up to create a process for staying loyal to your plan including:
- Defining how you will measure results
- An annual plan with specific goals, each with an accountable owner
- A fundraising plan
- A budget and a two year budget forecast that supports your fundraising plan
Don’t embark upon a strategic plan if you are not prepared to give it the time you need to develop a robust plan. If you commit the time, chances are that it will result in higher board engagement, better alignment of your team, more funding, and more impact from your efforts.
Strategic Planning Resources
The following tools will help you have well structured and efficient planning discussions:
- Smartsheet offers many versions of a SWOT analysis from very simple to more complex. When doing a SWOT analysis you look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are relevant to your organization.
- A Balanced Scorecard is a way of tracking all the activities that will implement your plan on a day-to-day level.
- If your organization perceives that you will be impacted by competition from businesses or other nonprofits, a Five Forces Analysis will give you a quick way to explore this.
- The Shape of your World exercise is a fun and revealing way to learn how your board or staff see the organization now or envisions a preferred future. In this exercise you ask everyone to draw a picture of how they see the organizations today, identifying important partners, opportunities or risks or how how they see the preferred future of the organization. Post the pictures on the wall, do an "art tour" and then discuss what you see in the pictures.
- Using the Four Actions Framework you discuss:
- What can be eliminated to make it easier to achieve your vision for the organization
- What should be reduced so you can focus more on your vision
- What you need to enhance or do more off
- What you need to create in order to fulfill your mission
Here are some planning templates:
You may find the following resources helpful as well: