Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings. Planners often call this a situational analysis or audit. Typically, it includes a narrative description of your organization, including its history, values, mission, programs, leadership, staffing, and finances, and, in many cases, something called a SWOT analysis — a detailed description of your organization's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and competitive Threats.
Some organizations take the process a step further and conduct a PEST analysis — an analysis of the Political, Environmental, Social, and Technical factors currently affecting the organization. Many organizations use both. If your organization is considering a radically different program for the community, is planning to purchase or build a new facility, or is examining the possibility of a merger, then you'll probably want to do both.
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If, on the other hand, your organization is creating a strategic plan in response to a single issue or challenge, both may not be necessary. The choice will depend on the predisposition of your planning team and your particular circumstance. Step Three: Decision-Making Time. Once you've gathered the information you need to determine the current state of your organization and its programs and activities, the next step is to make decisions based on that information.
It's the responsibility of the planning team, in consultation with other stakeholders, to establish the organization's strategic direction and priorities; to identify goals and milestones on the road to achieving those priorities; and to craft objectives designed to meet those goals. In making these decisions, the planning team should keep its focus on the big picture — the things most likely to result in positive change for the organization. Purchasing a boiler for your building or deciding to increase the size of your mailing list by 5 percent a year will not dramatically change or enhance your organization's prospects and are the kinds of operational decisions best left to staffers.
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Step Four: Drafting the Plan. Once the planning team has established your strategic priorities and identified goals and objectives designed to realize those priorities, it's the job of executive management to draft a plan that outlines those priorities and goals, along with any new staff requirements needed to achieve the plan, budgets to support your efforts, and a timeline for turning the vision into reality. The plan should then be reviewed and revised by your planning team and presented to your governing committee for comments, suggestions, and approval.
Don't be surprised if members of the governing committee send the draft to others for additional comment; that's their job. When planning for the future, you can't be too careful. If, for example, your organization operates a community healthcare center and plans to expand its presence by purchasing several buildings over the next few years, you might want to send a draft of your plan to key community leaders who do not have a vested interest in the project and are in a position to attest to the validity of your vision and ambitions.
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Whether or not to seek community review is largely the prerogative of your planning team. Step Five: Implementation. The board has reviewed, commented on, and approved your plan. Now the fun begins. I have worked with a number of organizations that have paid handsomely to have their strategic plan bound in Corinthian leather with gold engraving and have literally put the plan on the shelf, never to look at it again.
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What a waste. A strategic plan, no matter how carefully conceived, is worth very little if it isn't scrupulously implemented. To ensure that your plan is and remains ever present in the minds of your staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders, your governing committee or its equivalent should be tasked with monitoring progress toward the goals and objectives laid out in the plan. Direction-setting and -monitoring are core responsibilities of the board and should not be delegated to a planning team or other entity.
Instead, the board as a whole should review the plan at regular intervals and, if necessary, suggest adjustments to keep the organization on track.
So there you have it: Five steps to a more secure future. Just remember as you get ready to plan for your next — or very first — plan, that truly effective strategic planning requires equal measures of leadership, commitment, patience, trust, and the participation of many stakeholders. Beyond that, if you can remember to be rigorously honest about your organization's strengths and weaknesses; include a sufficient amount of implementation detail; and strike a balance between ambition and realism, your chances of success are excellent. Good luck.
And remember, if you have any questions about strategic planning or any other aspect of what it takes to be a sustainable nonprofit in the 21st century, drop me a line at fundrazr comcast. Strategic planning is not an activity for all seasons.
There are times when it makes sense to plan and other times when you want to avoid planning like the plague. Organizations that are already strapped for resources can save valuable money, time, and effort by avoiding the trap of using the planning tool to resolve problems that are systemic. What Strategic Planning Is Not. Strategic planning is not the answer to many of the most common organizational problems, such as unanticipated deficits, failure to meet fundraising goals, executive management squabbles, or board disputes.
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Nor is strategic planning a single four-hour or day-long retreat. While your plan may not require months of painstaking soul-searching and fact-finding, the planning process should entail more than a single meeting of the board to discuss goals for the coming year. It takes time for a group of individuals — any group of individuals — to gather information, consider the relevant facts, and develop a strategic direction that makes sense for the organization. Similarly, strategic planning is not a staff meeting convened for the purpose of setting goals.
Staff input is critical to the process, but staff alone cannot and should not be expected to establish the strategic direction of the organization. When to Avoid Strategic Planning.
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Your organization may well encounter legitimate circumstances that warrant the canceling — or at least the postponement — of a strategic planning exercise. These include, but are not limited to, times of trauma. A long-range plan will not alleviate the pain associated with the firing of an executive, the loss of an important volunteer leader, or the deepening of a financial crisis. Do not engage in strategic planning when there is no chance that the plan will be implemented.
Successful planning requires the commitment of stakeholders not only to the process, but to the implementation, evaluation, and adjustment of the plan.