Given what the world has experienced over the past year, all nonprofit leaders should embrace the strategic planning process as an organizational wellness activity – regardless of budget, revenue model, organizational life cycle, or size. Like many wellness activities, getting started is often the hardest part.
Strategic planning can often mean a reimagining of the organization’s mission, vision, and values, as well as a recalibration of how it operates – a welcome revitalization. Strategic planning is also an opportunity to reconnect with donors, especially major donors, foundations, and other important stakeholders – along the planning process itself as well as during the actual implementation of the plan.
Here are a few helpful tips for producing or revising a strategic plan to promote organizational wellness:
- Communicate strategic planning is a necessity, not a luxury. To attract and retain major donors and foundation grants, posting a 990 or annual report online is no longer sufficient. The Covid-19 crisis has increased competition for funding of all sorts, creating more stringent requisites for financial transparency as well as for impact accountability. While planning cannot guarantee an organization will avert crises entirely, it certainly helps anticipate threats and how to defuse them.
- Strategic planning should be leader-led, but it should not be top-down, dictatorial, or exclusionary. Transformational executive directors and board members create effective planning systems for engaging staff and volunteers at all levels, as well as donors and other key stakeholders. Not only does this communicate respect and appreciation, but it validates diversity, inclusion, and equity. It also is the first crucial step for ensuring commitment to following the plan.
- An effective plan should include processes for measuring, monitoring, and ensuring timely progress toward attainable goals. It must be operational, i.e., setting and managing expectations about outputs, outcomes, and impact relative to the organization’s stated theory of change, especially if preconditions have changed. It must include contingency plans for tweaking deliverables and deadlines, as necessary. It also means instilling in board members, staff, and volunteers the crucial responsibility and accountability for focusing on those essential activities that will maximize measurable societal impact.
For any nonprofit, the answer to “what’s your plan?” should not generate a sinking feeling in the gut but a calm sense of organizational wellness. Strategic plans ensure that organizations attract, grow, and retain resources wisely and effectively to achieve their vision and mission – hopefully in good health.
© Liz DiMarco Weinmann – July 7, 2021. All rights reserved. [email protected]