Strategic planning simply defined is setting a course or direction for your nonprofit organization. Many nonprofit leaders aren’t sure why strategic planning is so important for their organization. At the mere thought of engaging in strategic planning, many nonprofit leaders and board members want to run screaming from the room. Don’t go running just yet! Strategic planning, when done correctly, and used effectively, can be an effective tool to guide the work of your nonprofit. It is well worth the effort and time spent.
Strategic planning helps your organization put what it wants to be in the future into words and action. In the past, many organizations would create a 5 or 10 year strategic plan; however, in today’s fast paced, ever-changing world, going beyond a three-year plan is not recommended.
As you begin to think about strategic planning, think of ways to be inclusive. You will want to include the thoughts and ideas from as many people as possible, including key staff, board members, and other stakeholders. You may also find it beneficial to provide all staff, volunteers and even clients with an opportunity to complete a survey or provide information as you begin the process.
Some questions to ask as you begin the process are:
- What is our mission? Who do we presently serve?
- What do we do well? What do we do not so well?
- What are the current needs of those we serve? Are there gaps that we should serve?
- Is there another area of growth that we want to pursue?
You will also want to gather organizational data including evaluation reports, satisfaction surveys and financial information. Then, as you review the recent past and the organization’s current reality, begin to look toward the future. All strategic planning should have a focus on the future.
Many individuals that I have spoken with tell me they do not like strategic planning because the resulting plan does not get used. Instead it is put in a binder and shelved. The key to successful strategic planning is making a commitment to using the report.
Here are some tips for being sure your strategic planning is implemented:
- Keep the plan at the forefront of your thoughts
- Provide a summary of the report at each board meeting or leadership staff meeting
- Consult the report to be sure organizational decisions are made with the future in mind
- Include a copy of the full plan at board orientation for all new board members
Is your organization struggling with its future? Not sure where to begin with your strategic planning? Give us a call to get started on a plan for the future. We’re here to help!