Establishing Strategic Direction for Your Not-for-Profit

Could it be? Are you sabotaging your not-for-profit’s efforts to positively impact society? Let’s be honest: we not-for-profit professionals are great at being reactive, but we have difficulty carving out time to be proactive. Most of us are reluctant to make time to plan, and we’re most definitely terrified by the thought of undergoing strategic planning. 

Most not-for-profit (NFP) professionals are hyper-focused on their organization’s programs and services. The thing is, for our NFP to thrive, we must make qualitative time to establish our organization’s strategic direction. Just trying to keep our heads above water isn’t good enough, we must Get. It. Together and establish strategic direction for our NFP.

What is Strategic Planning?

I know that the very idea of undergoing a strategic planning process fills you with dread. You might have gone through a strategic planning process that was time intensive and then, in the end, your organization’s strategic plan sat on a shelf, rather than moved your mission forward. I’m sorry to say, if this is something you experienced, then your strategic planning wasn’t done correctly. 

Correctly facilitated strategic planning will help your organization determine well-articulated decisions about the NFP’s purpose and strategy. The strategic planning process will cultivate the buy-in and commitment to those decisions from the very individuals charged with implementation of the strategy. This collaborative process will help to motivate your internal stakeholders to achieve more while building on your key stakeholders’ commitment to your mission’s priorities.

Where Do I Start?

If you’ve never experienced a productive and thoughtful strategic planning process, you might not know where to start. The first step is to determine if your organization is ready to move forward in the process. Luckily for you, Charmaine Torma Consulting has developed a worksheet that assesses your NFP’s readiness to undergo strategic planning.

If you have determined that you are ready for strategic planning, the next step is to determine what your organizational needs are, as well as what you anticipate the outcomes from the strategic planning process will be. I can’t stress enough, that you should never, ever move forward with strategic planning without knowing what you hope to achieve. 

For your convenience, I have created a worksheet that will assist you in the pre-planning process. It will help you in identifying your NFP’s needs. Plus, it has questions that pertains to all aspects of your organization, financial, programmatic, human resources, facilities, and much more. Don’t bring in an outside facilitator until you have determined your needs and anticipated outcomes for the strategic planning process, because it would be a waste of your resources. 

My NFP is Ready to Move Forward, Now What?

Now that you have articulated your needs and outcomes, it’s time to move forward with strategic planning. Successful strategic planning should always include the following five steps:

  1. Conduct a fact-based assessment by gathering input from internal and external stakeholders. In addition, you will need to conduct a SWOT analysis and a comprehensive organizational audit.
  2. Host three strategic planning meetings on:
    • Mission & Values
    • Vision & Goals
    • Strategies & Tactics
  3. Summarize core future strategies based on the information gathered from the assessment and strategic planning meetings. 
  4. Conduct focus groups and meetings to collect feedback on progress from internal and external stakeholders.
  5. Based on the feedback, revise strategies, draft a detailed plan, and create an annual operational dashboard to monitor implementation.

Each of the five steps are important, but the majority of the work happens in step 1, when gathering the information for the fact assessment and then the analysis of the data. Many NFPs want to avoid this work, but this is a crucial step because the information gathered will better position you to make informed strategic decisions to move your mission forward. 

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