I've joined a Board of Directors at a local nonprofit and we're creating a strategic plan. What should I expect?
Expect to get out of it what you individually and collectively put in to it.
Planning is a key responsibility for all nonprofit or for-profit leaders, so I’m glad you asked. People who don’t have specific goals are controlled by others who do.
Here’s a taste of what we’ve learned from facilitating strategic planning recently for ARCH Fort Wayne, Artlink, The Literacy Alliance and the Vera Bradley Foundation.
- Setting strategy doesn’t have to be hard. It identifies what’s already great and what could be great about your organization. You create a picture of which hills you want to take in next three to five years.
- There is no one right way to plan, but we advocate a six-step process:
- Examine organizational strengths and weaknesses.
- Size up any external opportunities and threats.
- Summarize main, verifiable data points of your SWOT analysis.
- Choose three to five strategic priorities to set your organization apart and connect the hearts and minds of the employees to your reason for being.
- Revise or affirm your mission statement. It conveys purpose and builds energy to get to where you’re heading.
- Short, measurable goals lead to three to five strategic priorities. We like to add progress deadlines with owner names. Owners in charge of priorities present Board updates.
- Strategic planning happens in layers. Expect a series of meetings as your agenda becomes more refined. You’ll use brainstorming to begin, followed by communicating agreed goals to teams in the organization in the form of a short report as you conclude.
- As a general guide, a strategic plan should be achievable in three to five years, while your vision, or society impact statement, may take eight to 10 years to bring to fruition.
- Values can be documented as a reminder of deeply-held beliefs. They should reflect how you truly behave as you go about fulfilling your mission each day.
- Measure progress against the plan and refresh your plan as needed. It empowers employees and volunteers, figures out equipment and investment needed, sets marketing and communication motives, and helps you make smarter (never perfect!) decisions.
- A professional facilitator can help your group stay on track to achieve return on planning time investment.
Push yourself if necessary to speak up to share your ideas, questions and concerns.
Listen with an open mind, and you’ll be a big help. Happy planning!
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