6 Tips for Better Strategic Planning

Pat Richter has been affiliated with the Support Center since 2002 in many capacities, including as a volunteer facilitator of workshops, affiliated consultant, C.O.O. interim, and most recently the Interim Director of Consulting. She consults (PRQuickhelp) nonprofits & foundations both large and small. To Learn more, please visit supportcenteronline.org.

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Strategic Planning

Written by Pat Richter

Very few nonprofit leaders and Board members enjoy strategic planning, but thank goodness there are a few brave and creative people that are energized and excited by the process!

Strategic planning can be like going to the dentist; no one wants to go, in spite of feeling so much better afterwards.

Two or three year plans are the trend now because the environment in which nonprofits operate is changing so quickly. The Support Center for Nonprofit Management/Partnership in Philanthropy helps many nonprofits with strategic planning, with some investing months in the process and others dedicating a one day staff/Board retreat to banging out a plan.  Either approach can work depending on the size and complexity of the organization.

Whether your organization is taking a long or short path to strategic planning, remember to think and discuss the following key areas to insure a well-rounded and practical plan:

  1. Check in with the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  Are they all still relevant and inspiring?
  2. Review programs to insure they support the mission, are sustainable, and have impact.
  3. Assess the Board and its embrace of its roles and responsibilities. Refer to helpful materials from BoardSource and Independent Sector.
  4. Check in with infrastructure – does the staff have the facilities, equipment, and supplies that it needs? Are the staff organized in a way that makes sense? Is program space adequate? Do IT, finance, and HR functions serve the organization adequately?
  5. Most nonprofits can’t function without partners. Sometimes the biggest partner is government, or client referral sources, or schools, or in-kind service providers. Review how your organization selects and manages its partnerships.
  6. Assess financial sustainability.  What has been the revenue history and what are the expected trends going forward?  What should the Board and leadership focus on to insure financial health in the future?

A small arts organization embarked on strategic planning and prioritized locating street level office and program space in spite of this goal seeming impossible over its previous ten years. The timing seemed right, and by working with their partners, it came to fruition!

If your organization is interested in strategic planning, contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

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