Setting a strong course for the future can help your organization navigate any challenges that come your way and make the most of your resources. Strategic planning can help you chart that course, and make it work.
Any organization, whether tax-exempt or for-profit, needs clear direction and strategy to maximize its effectiveness and insure its long-term viability. Keeping a consistent focus is especially critical and difficult for nonprofit organizations due to the absence of any single measure, such as profits, to determine success. Strategic planning can provide clear direction leading to consistent and planned results.
Developing a strategic plan is similar to outfitting a vehicle with navigational instruments to provide direction and control to help you arrive at your destination. As opposed to a budget, which focuses on achieving financial goals for a finite period, a strategic plan focuses on the “macro” elements of an organization’s environment. Finances are only one of the many issues being examined.
Selecting the Planning Participants
Before beginning the strategic planning process, it is important to decide who you should involve. It is critical to include those whose input can ensure that the final product is viable and can be executed.
Your group should include people with a diverse range of interests and functions from throughout the organization, but it should not be made up of more than 12 people. More than this makes the process too cumbersome.
Keeping in mind your organization type, consider the following to determine who you should include in the strategic planning process:
- All current officers should be on the planning committee, particularly in organizations with a regular pattern of rotating officers through various officer positions. This ensures continuity, understanding and agreement on the mission and future goals.
- Representatives from the “grass roots” level such as chapters, councils and divisions should be included to help ensure that the plan addresses the needs of all constituencies and is embraced at all levels.
- The people doing the work should be included. The best plan on paper is worthless if it does not recognize practical limitations to implementation.
- An outside facilitator can be helpful by injecting an objective and critical viewpoint to validate and fully examine all elements of the process. Our office can supply someone to be concerned with the administrative elements of the process and help ensure that deadlines are met, and that the plan is completed in a reasonable time frame. We can also help you avoid further nonprogram-related expenditures.
What Is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning means different things to each of us, and there are no definitive answers as to what steps are necessary to the process. You can increase the usefulness of strategic planning by addressing the following seemingly simple questions during the process:
• Who are we?
- Where are we going?
- Where do we want to go?
- How do we get there?
- What could stop us?
While strategic planning differs between organizations, the following steps are found in most plans, and provide a good foundation and structure to answer these questions.
- Develop a mission statement -- A mission statement identifies the basic reasons for the organization’s existence. It answers the question: “Who are we?” An example of a mission statement would be: “ABC Organization is dedicated to increasing the technical competence of the individuals involved in the industry, maximizing public recognition of the value of the industry and championing the cause of public policy issues affecting members.”
- Develop goals and objectives -- Develop the strategy and specific objectives you need to accomplish these goals. This step addresses the questions “Where are we going?” and “Where do we want to go?” Identify the programs and activities that will help your organization fulfill its mission.
- Do a situation analysis -- Scan the internal and external factors affecting the organization and the competitive climate. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and addressing how they will affect you as you strive to attain your goals and objectives, is an integral activity in completing this.
- Identify programs and resources -- Identify the specific programs and resources that must be in place to meet your goals and objectives. This step addresses the question “How do we get there?” Make sure the programs and resources are specific so that you can measure realization, easily assign responsibility for completion and identify deadlines.
- 5. Allocate your resources -- The unfortunate part of strategic planning is that the time and effort spent fashioning a perfect future must be reconciled with the reality of limited resources. Here the question, “What could stop us?” is answered. Deciding which programs will best help your organization meet its goals and objectives is highly subjective and requires deep soul searching by the participants. For this reason, resource allocation can be a very time-consuming part of the planning process.
- Avoiding the Dust
- The planning process is very stimulating for participants, and can bring about a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. Translating this enthusiasm into action and maintaining momentum toward achieving the goals and objectives is the most difficult part of the process for many organizations. A strategic plan is destined to collect dust unless procedures for ongoing monitoring, evaluation and modification are put in place and consistently followed. Just as the world is ever changing, your plan is not a static document and should be continually updated to reflect the realities in which you operate.
- Journey Into the Future
- If you think of your strategic plan as a destination rather than an end to a journey, it will remain fresh and provide your organization with strong direction. Do you want to know more about setting a course for the future of your organization? We can work with you to create a strategic plan that will help you achieve your organization’s goals.
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