Strategic Planning

Arlene Spencer of Seeking Grant Money Today recommends

Every nonprofit must take stock, each year. Usually an organization’s leadership sits down, at least once a year, and formally discusses: how have programs and services done this year; how has the organization, itself, operated this year; what needs improving (for both programs and services, and the organization’s operations and administration); how has our operations budget worked this year; where can we cut costs; and how can we increase fundraising.

An organization’s leadership then often turns to the future and asks what, given what we know right now, does this nonprofit need to do in the coming year or two to improve services and programs and better conduct the work of the organization’s mission such that we achieve even more programs’ and services’ successes, and benchmarks while conducting all work even more efficiently? Usually this leads a nonprofit’s leadership to begin or further organizational strategic planning.

Merryn Rutledge of Revisions LLC outlines the process for developing a strategic plan in her short and useful book, Strategic Planning Guide for Small Organizations:

  • Parts of a strategic plan: Vision and Mission, Strategic Objectives, Work Plan
  • The planning process: Organizing the Work and Engaging Stakeholders
  • Match your plan to your organization’s needs and resources – you can choose the depth you want to dive
  • Choose a consultant who can knowledgeable discuss your needs
  • Evaluate and update your strategic plan and strategic planning processes as your organization strives for continuous improvement–this is a living document!

Merryn also makes other recommendations for organizations planning to plan. She cites a recent Guidestar article by Bill Hoffman that offers four steps to create a powerful process:Get Input, Uncover Themes, Agree on Priorities, and Set Measurable Goals.

A related Blue Avocado article on choosing evidence-based practices–relevant to the metrics and accountability aspects of strategic planning: Succeeding With – or Maybe in Spite of – Evidence-Based Practices.

Scenario planning is a specific methodology that people should at least know about–very useful way of thinking for non-profits, who often operate in a strategic environment that is uncertain because of dependence on foundation/grant/government funding sources, “first to fall” after an economic downturn, and hit hard by Federal shutdowns and sequesters.   See this good intro from Wired Magazine.

Learn More