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Our Approach to Strategic Planning

Does your board of directors and staff have a clear picture of where your organization is, where it should be going, and how to get there? Strategic Planning is a process that helps to answer these questions. And in today's unstable, ever-changing environment, strategic planning is a MUST for nonprofits.

The purpose of strategic planning is to develop a three to five year blueprint for the organization’s future. Strategic planning is a way to help a nonprofit be more effective by helping guide the allocation of resources in order to carry out its mission and achieve hoped -for impact.

We utilize an issues based approach to strategic planning that proceeds through the following steps:

  1. Gathering Information – Strengths and weaknesses of the organization; needs and service expectations of markets and constituent groups; external changes and trends that will have an impact on the organization in the future.
  2. Determining the most critical issues, choices, and challenges facing the organization over the next 5 years.
  3. Affirming the mission or fundamental purpose of the organization - "Why do we exist?"
  4. Developing a shared vision for the organization’s future - "If we could create the organization of our dreams and have the impact we most desire, what would this look like in 5 years?"
  5. Developing Goals and Strategies - goals - the major results we want to achieve over the next 3-5 years and strategies -- how we will achieve those goals.
  6. Formulating Objectives - the description of projects and activities carried out on an annual basis to implement selected strategies -- thereby achieving the goals.

I find it helpful to think of strategic planning as a journey. Imagine an organization as a sailboat at sea, at the mercy of ever-changing conditions, ocean currents and winds. Now think of planning as a journey through sometimes-rough waters to a destination we have determined. Strategic Planning is how we determine the destination and how we get there. If planning is a journey, the first two steps of the process - information gathering and analysis and identifying strategic issues tell us where we are. The next step - Developing a Vision - helps us determine the destination. And Mission - reminds us why we're on the journey in the first place. We get to the vision through the accomplishment of goals. We accomplish our goals by means of the strategies we devise for each goal. Finally, we translate goals and strategies into concrete action through development of objectives.

Strategic planning in nonprofits is most effective when the following elements are present:

bullet First, establishment of a strategic planning committee to guide the process. 
bullet Second, there needs to be a thorough and shared understanding of strategic planning as well as agreement on outcomes of the planning process. 
bullet There needs to be real commitment to the process on the part of leadership to engage in planning.
bullet There also needs to be involvement of individuals representing all constituencies of the nonprofit: staff, constituents, funders and donors, as well as other key community supporters.

I work closely with a strategic planning committee composed of board and staff leadership and accountable to the Board of Directors. I view my role as facilitating and supporting the work of the planning committee. I’m not the decision maker. It is not my role to write the strategic plan “for” an organization, but rather "with" the organization's leaders.  I encourage clients to expand their strategic planning committees to include some carefully selected “outsiders”. These are individuals who know the organization and the communities served, are not on the board or staff and are able to bring fresh perspectives to the planning process. During the data gathering and analysis phase, I encourage clients to look in unfamiliar places for new information and insights. These discoveries set the stage for creativity and innovation and help to assure that the strategic planning process is, in fact, “strategic” in nature. 

For more detail about the process, go to: Strategic Planning Summary

For additional detail, go to: Strategic Thinking
 


"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." Peter F. Drucker  View Past Quotes

frank@createthefuture.com susan@createthefuture.com

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Revised: June 20, 2016