We all know what strategic planning is and the time commitment it requires. Taking time for the process is so important because planning strategically will help cultivate donors, guide the fundraising plan, and strengthen the relationship between board and staff. In addition, many foundations are beginning to require a copy of an organization’s strategic plan when submitting an application for funding.
Strategic planning isn’t just for the ‘big’ guys – it’s critical for all non-profit organizations that play a key role in their communities, and it’s equally important for a new – or relatively new – organization. You must know where you’re going before you can plan the journey!
So, if it’s so valuable, how did strategic planning get such a bad reputation? It’s a dreaded undertaking that not many organizations welcome, with even fewer staff and board members excited to be part of the process.
Yet strategic planning is one of the greatest tools an organization can use to map the future. A good strategic plan is simple to use and understand; it states expected outcomes, includes an accountability and timeframe component, and it provides a framework for success. Whether 2 pages or 12, a workable strategic plan can be your best ally to help you fulfill your mission over a specific period of time.
A variety of models exist for the strategic planning process but they all have the same end goal: create a working plan for success over a stated period of time. Often, the planning process will begin with some version of the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. In a positive setting with key stakeholders (meaning staff and volunteers), a SWOT analysis will help identify components of a strong strategic plan.
Does your organization have a strategic plan in place? Do you use it regularly and update it, and does your board follow it? Or, is it placed on a shelf until it’s time to revise it, for the next board retreat?
If you aren’t making the best use of your strategic plan, or you haven’t created one lately (or ever), let’s talk. Don’t shy away from the process that can outline your path to success.