In my second conversation with my colleague and strategic planning expert, Lisa Tylke, we talk more about strategic planning and how it fits into the fabric of an ever-changing nonprofit and the complex world around it.
Does a strategic plan limit my new ideas?
Lisa: Yes and no. By its very nature, a strategic planning process provides a forum for pressure-testing ideas and placing them through a filter that asks that asks if these ideas are mission-centric, fiscally viable, and impactful. Within this process, some new ideas become refined to better reflect the organization’s mission, strengthen or broaden its impact, and become more sustainable over time. On the flipside, a strategic planning process provides the all-important “space” for new ideas to be generated: ones that are based upon a shared vision and developed through inclusive conversations, brainstorming and shared risk-taking.
What happens if something changes within the organization or the world around us that impacts our plan?
Lisa: You can be sure that this will indeed happen! Life moves onward, and with it comes unexpected change that impacts your plan. This is why you should consider your strategic plan to be a living road map, one that is woven into the fabric of your organization’s working, reporting and evaluating structures. Incorporating your strategic plan’s goals and strategies into your organization’s committee structure, staff and board meeting agendas will ensure it adapts to change as appropriate. In addition, an annual progress check-in with regard to the stated goals as well as the plan’s continued relevance is an effective way to safeguard its continued usefulness in guiding the organization forward.
What happens if a board member or a key donor disagrees with our proposed strategies and vision for the future?
Lisa: This is a good time to remind everyone that a 501(c)3 is a community-held organization with a charter premised on serving a community purpose. The non-profit structure, when implemented fully, ensures that an individual is not in a position to dictate the vision nor adopted strategies of a nonprofit. It also ensures that any stakeholder who disagrees with the vision or strategies of the organization has the option of staying the course to support the new direction to see where it takes the mission. Alternatively, they can also withdraw their support or involvement if they feel their interests no longer align with the organization. This is the risk a community-held, mission-driven organization will always face as it sets its course towards a new vision, updated goals and innovative strategies. This is also a good time to remember that this refreshed direction will open windows of opportunity for new voices and resources to connect with and support of the mission of the organization.
As Lisa told us, generating new ideas is one of the critical components of the strategic planning process, but it can also be challenging. Download this week’s freebie for an outline of an ideation session that can help your organization think creatively about the task at hand.
If you have more questions for Lisa about strategic planning or think your organization might be ready to start the process, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.