By Guest Blogger: Kimberly Bares
President, PLACE Consulting
“I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.” — Lily Tomlin
It’s that time of the year when organizations reflect on the past year’s successes and misses and begin the process of preparing for 2017. Based on my experience in leading strategic planning with dozens of nonprofits, the best of them use their strategic plan to guide that evaluation. What do you do, though, when your organization doesn’t see the value in the process or thinks it’s a waste of time or money? I’ve put together my top persuasive points to use as you make a case for strategic planning to your Board, staff, stakeholders and funders.
1. A strategic plan spells out concrete organizational goals, a way to measure progress, the people or committees that are responsible for implementation, and how you declare success when you’ve accomplished that goal. It’s your roadmap for your public relations and communications strategy, sets the foundation for your annual workplan and guides daily and periodic decisions you make about staffing, policy and procedure.
2. A plan also gives you permission to say no to projects, initiatives and pursuits that are outside the stated goals and objectives. No successful organization or company is all things to all people; yours can’t be either, especially with limited funds and a staff stretched to full capacity. In order to say yes to the strategic plan, you need to be able to say no with confidence and the support of the Board.
3. An off-site retreat at an upscale location can be a nice thank you to those who work hard for the organization all year-long. The retreat doesn’t have to be held in Jamaica! A local club, tech center, bank or other community institution may have the perfect space with a view to help add important perspective in the planning process.
4. A retreat allows the organization critical time to reflect, recap and reach consensus on how to best move forward. What has changed in your local or regional landscape in the past year? What new opportunities have presented themselves? Is there new technology you could adopt to make your organization stronger or more effective? What programs do you need to revamp, cut or launch to be more valuable to members and the community? And, finally, what critical conversations need to be had about how to respond to those changes?
5. A retreat and strategic plan shows your funders and stakeholders that you take your work seriously. It demonstrates that you are willing to make the investment of time and money into making your organization the most successful it can be, and reminds Board members that they have a duty to contribute their time, talent and treasure to their best ability, and in a way that avoids conflicts with their own professional interests.
6. Lastly, a strategic plan helps you work with the Board to chart a course that is supported by the entire organization. You, as the Executive Director or CEO, can more confidently lead the organization, knowing that you have the full support and agreement from the Board, and that lets the Board focus on its important role of governance and policy, leading to a better balance and clarification of responsibilities among Board, CEO and staff.
As with any list, some of these points will ring truer than others. Figure out which of these points will be most persuasive to different leaders and build your approach strategically. If all else fails, find some peer organizations that regularly engaging in strategic planning and hold them up as models to emulate. Perhaps some good old-fashioned competition will be just the thing to get your Board in planning mode!