Sending work emails until bedtime with a listless nights sleep and an early morning rise…only to encounter more emails with diverse — sometimes conflicting — demands on time and resources. You know that if you asked every member of your board what your organizations main focus was they would each give you a different answer. And you love your supporters…yet they feel the organization has such little grounding they can tell you what your organization should be doing as well. It’s official. The anchor is up and you are drifting in the ocean. You have known it for some time now, but at some point its time to say, “today we start our Strategic Planning Process.“
So perhaps its not that simple. One person cannot make such an edict without buy-in from the other stakeholders — likely those who were writing those emails! Let’s start by discovering how to tell if it is time to explore strategic planning.
Strategic planning for non-profits is different than that of for-profit corporations and businesses. Even the smallest, most community-oriented business is still focused on the shareholder. Nonprofit organizations on the other hand focus on stakeholders and impacted communities.
So how does this impact strategic planning?
It means that off-the-shelf solutions to strategic planning will fail -- either in the planning process or in the implementation. To create or redefine an organization through strategic planning we must include stakeholders, our supporters, impacted communities, key financial supporters, the board, the staff. You name it.
To make it more complicated, unlike for-profit companies, we are not looking to compete as much as collaborate. Other organizations operating in our realm of influence are to be involved - either through interviews or surveys or questionnaires. All with the intention of identifying our organization's unique, indispensable quality.
This last part may have you scratching your head -- a unique indispensable what? That's the point. We aren't trying to capture market share or increase our margins. We are trying to figure out what role we are best fit to play in the overall scheme of things so that, along with our accountable partners, allies, and other groups, we can have the greatest impact and achieve our vision for the future.
So let's take a look at what that really means.
- Assess where you are
- Assess what your vision is
- Assess the environment in which you operate
- Assess your current, future, and unutilized assets
- Values, Vision, Mission
- Revisit (or visit for the first time) the underlying values of the organization
- Determine your vision for the world or commmunity in which you operate.
- Get input from partners, impacted communities, allies, affiliates, supporters, donors as to what goes well and what isn't AND what they view your role as. (Appreciative inquiry)
- Take the Assessment and the input and develop the mission as it relates to the Vision.
- Develop the Plan
- communicate the values, vision, mission to the parties involved. Get their feedback and input. Revise if desired.
- recommunicate and plan. (Mini-conference, Open-space technology if desired/appropriate)
- Develop a work plan -- complete with 1,3,5 year plans and accountabilities.
- revisit governance and determine best way to track progress in a healthy manner
- create the feedback loop and accountability timeline
- ensure everyone knows their role, the assets they have to work with, and their measurables.
- create a culture of support and "leadership team" model
- cycle. work, report, revise, implement
This is how and why non-profits are different.