Support Center’s Strategy for Developing Talent in Action: The Strategic Planning Institute

2023 SPI participants at Support Center


On June 8th and 9th, 2023, the Support Center for Nonprofit Management planned and executed a professional development session on strategic planning. In the months leading up to the event, the Strategic Planning Institute team—Keith Timko, Carolyn Champ, Taiwo Fayemi, and Andrea Rogers—met biweekly to talk about developing curricula, executing marketing plans, and implementing the program. With each meeting, the team inched closer to their goal.


The WHY 

As part of Support Center’s 2022-2025 Strategic plan, working to actively expand the capacity building talent pool is paramount. The area of concentration in this instance was strategic planning. By creating programs like this, with the intention to create pathways for new and existing practitioners, the gaps that exist within the work may become more narrow.

Support Center is a proponent of varied communities of practice where we can reevaluate and rethink how we approach our profession. The institute’s goal was to give capacity builders the tools, contacts, and abilities they need to tackle the task of strategic planning and strengthen the field overall.

Sliding pricing schedules were offered in order to further comply to the Strategic Plan’s goal of providing more equitable opportunities for everyone. The Support Center is aware of the obstacles that could limit professionals’ ability to access more professional development opportunities. 



The main two resources used to help with the creation of the program were Allison and Kaye’s Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations and adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Allison and Kaye’s work was published through the Support Centers of America and has continued to be a resource informing Support Center’s work. The structured nature of the text, sample worksheets, and breakdown of what strategic planning and is not are a tremendous resource.  On the other hand, Brown’s Emergent Strategy encourages us to think about strategy as an organic and fluid process and provides wonderful facilitation and design suggestions for retreats and meetings that anchor planning processes.

With an opportunity to revisit the role of the strategic planning consultant, these two texts represent different yet complementary perspectives on strategic planning. Participants were encouraged to sit with these two texts and other approaches as possibilities. The goal was not to decide upon any one approach so much as to explore together the different ways to approach strategic planning. Organizations come to planning process with a wide range of budgets, cultures, strategic priorities, and preconceived ideas (e.g. “I hate strategic planning and processes that lead to a document on a shelf.” Strategic planners and capacity builders can lean on a range of tools and approaches to meet the varied strategic planning needs of organizations.

In addition to providing these resources to participants, Support Center partnered with the Association of Nonprofit Specialists to provide year-long memberships to continue to build relations and have a space to collaborate. 

There were many people in the room, all from different backgrounds. From individuals with little prior knowledge of strategic planning to those with more than ten years’ experience, everyone was represented. Despite having vastly different experiences, everyone acknowledged their comfort with and eagerness to learn from one another as well as from the materials the SPI team had prepared. The days were jam-packed with case studies, soul train lines, handouts, empanadas, music, icebreakers, group activities, and—most importantly—curiosity. a desire to learn about trends in strategic planning, dos and don’ts, and ways to divide this enormous endeavor into small portions.

Of the various sections in the institute, some of the topics touched on included:

  1. Time management
  2. The who, what, where, when, why, and how of Strategic planning
  3. how to apply an equity lens to your planning process
  4. Answers to questions around the process 
  5. The importance of Strategic Planning for nonprofits,
  6. Working agreements
  7. Sample resources
  8. Change management
  9. Mission/ vision framework


By the end of day two, friendships were made. Attendees expressed appreciating the environment that the SPI provided. They were at ease sharing their thoughts and asking questions. Even though it was the first time, for most, meeting one another, it felt as though they had known each other for years. The overall atmosphere was light, encouraging, and energizing — especially after the soul train line. Our SPI participants enthusiastically wrote a linkedIn posts during and after the institute.


What a week! Just arrived in NYC (first time since pandemic!) to participate in the first-ever Strategic Planning Institute organized by the Support Center to strengthen strategic planning practitioners, increase the diversity of consultants in the field and to deepen DEI approaches in our practice. The event kicked off today, and I am honored to be part of this incredible initiative. 

I’m joining a cohort of like-minded professionals. I’ve already experienced their eagerness to dive into meaningful discussions and develop practical approaches to tackle the challenges faced by organizations today. Congratulations to all the participants!

I want to express my gratitude to the Support Center for organizing this. Their dedication to fostering growth, resilience, and impact within the nonprofit sector is truly inspiring. Thank you to the incredible team Taiwo Fayemi Keith Timko Carolyn Champ Andrea J. Rogers, MPIA/ESD for sharing all your expertise and experience with strategic planning. May your hindsight become our foresight.

Together, we have the opportunity to create positive change, amplify our collective impact, and shape the future of the nonprofit sector! Looking forward to it all!

– Caitin Fisher 

Day 1 was such a great learning experience and I appreciate the dance break energizer that helped us to finish strong. Glad to see other nonprofit leaders in the cohort. Looking forward to day 2! 

– Lakimja Mattocks 

What a great experience in Support Center For Nonprofit Management‘s inaugural Strategic Planning Institute Cohort! Many new and wonderful connections were made as we endeavor to build a community of practice. Thank you to the faculty and organizers including Keith Timko, Carolyn Champ, Andrea J., Taiwo Fayemi, and fellow participants who I am proud to call new friends and colleagues.

– Floyd Rumohr


The group was eager to have a follow up session and reunite again as Cohort 1. A follow-up meeting occurred on August 11 via Zoom. In addition to checking in, we talked about opportunities, offered feedback, explored joining the Association of Nonprofit Specialists, and more. It was a pleasure to be a part of the creation of this opportunity from scratch—from sticky notes to execution. And you can’t forget about the dolphins. If you know, you know.


SPI Participants:

  • Jenn Hayslett
  • Jacqueline A. Sanchez
  • John LeBreton
  • Caitlin Fisher
  • Na’ilah Amaru
  • Melissa Shillingford
  • Floyd Rumohr
  • Eunika Smalls
  • Tara Huffman
  • Gloria Ramon
  • Lakimja Mattocks
  • Charlotte Spinkston
  • Rodney Fuller
  • BJ Sung