I’m currently enrolled in Old Dominion University’s Public Administration program. This semester I’m taking a course on nonprofit management and reading a book by Michael Allison and Jude Kaye titled Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. Allison and Kaye make four key points about effective strategic planning:
1. Focus on the most important issues during your strategic planning process
2. Be willing to question both the status quo and sacred cows
3. Produce a document
4. Make sure the strategic plan is translated into an annual operating plan for at least the first year
These are ideas The Curtis Group often includes when advising clients. As nonprofits approach creation of their strategic plan there are many things to consider, making it at times feel like a daunting task. Below are some thoughts on how to implement these recommendations.
1. Focus on the most important issues during your strategic planning process: Start by identifying the key issues you want your strategic plan to address. There is not enough time to pursue all the questions facing your organization. Choose the most impending issues and use this as an opportunity to tackle these problems. Name the challenges and turn them into the goals. Then list the tactical ways to achieve them.
2. Be willing to question both the status quo and the sacred cow: To maintain relevance during changing times it is important for your organization to challenge how things were done in the past. Be open to new ideas and the probability of change. Strategic plans should be innovative but realistic.
3. Produce a document: The document you create during your strategic planning process should be a few pages, not a few volumes. This is a working document that you will use to implement change and improve your organization. The plan should be a guide for internal operations for the next two to five years.
4. Make sure the strategic plan is translated into an annual operating plan for at least the first year: To help with the implementation of the strategic plan, ensure short-term goals are communicated and relayed into an annual operating plan.
And finally, once complete, do not shelve your good work. We see too many strategic plans filed away after all that effort and dusted off when new management is hired, only to begin the process all over. Continually refer back your document once created, assign specific action items to accomplish your goals, and integrate the tasks into the day-to-day at your organization. Your strategic plan is only as strong as it’s implementation.
In our work with over 100 nonprofits, we have helped with many strategic development plans. We understand strategic planning can be overwhelming. Through an initial evaluation, we determine whether your organization is ready to begin the strategic planning process. Once that determination is made, we work with the management of your organization to assess your needs and how to accomplish them. We hope you find these four tips useful in planning for your organization’s future.