As a consulting firm to nonprofits, we get asked a lot of questions. It’s part of our job. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about strategic planning and the value it brings to an organization. Since we are hearing so much about it these days, I asked Lisa Tylke, one of our consultants who is an expert in strategic planning, to weigh in with her thoughts. See what she has to say—it’s great food for thought!
Does my organization really need a strategic plan?
Lisa: If your organization has more than one person running the show, then YES! you need a strategic plan. Imagine two people in a boat trying to row in sync, but one person is slightly off-rhythm. Progress in any direction is hindered. However, when everyone is pulling in the same direction, under a shared vision, progress, growth, and goal attainment is possible.
What does having a strategic plan do for my organization?
Lisa: A strategic plan provides a common direction, with agreed upon goals and thoughtful strategies for all stakeholders to work toward, implement and achieve. Without a strategic plan, an organization’s focus, resources and purpose can become blurred. With a plan, they become crystallized and purpose driven. As importantly, a strategic plan lets everyone know what you are NOT taking on during the plan’s time frame. Many nonprofits suffer from “too much to do, too few resources” and a plan can help filter out those things that are either less of a priority (at this time), too far ahead of growth projections, or determined to be out of mission-scope. A strategic plan helps everyone, staff, board and key stakeholders say “yes” to a shared vision, and “no” to distractions.
How do I get started?
Lisa: Begin by determining a shared/common vision for the organization. This common understanding paints a picture of what the organization will look like five or ten years into the future. What might look different, how will the organization’s identity evolve, who is it engaging with, etc. This strategic planning vision is what informs, drives and inspires the next steps which include setting 3 to 5-year goals and 1 to 2-year strategies and action plans to reach these goals.
Is this something that I can do on my own or should I hire a consultant or facilitator?
Lisa: It certainly can be done on your own IF you are able to step out of the process. Strategic planning needs an objective facilitator to keep their eye on the process and maintain its integrity. It is nearly impossible to participate in planning conversations, brainstorming, idea generation, debate and decision-making if you are also trying to maintain objectivity, a timely process and the respect of those you are shepherding through the process.
Our freebie this month is a SWOT Analysis Chart. This can help you start thinking about your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s often a great exercise to do at the start of any planning process and we’ve created it in a form.
We are going to be doing several more posts about strategic planning before year-end, so please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions you’d like answered. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lisa at email@example.com.