So, your organization is about to embark in a strategic planning process…and you want your plan to be powerful, long-lasting and visionary. On the other hand, you want it done quickly, you want it to be easy and you don’t want it to be too much work. Well, you can’t have everything! Or, maybe you can.
What if your strategic planning process paved the way for a visionary future for your organization where you had exactly what you needed to meet your goals? Imagine if you gained new partners in your community. What if you had greater board and donor engagement as a result of your process?
We do this by focusing on these main ideas for strategic planning:
- What we are doing here. When you engage in a strategic planning process you are mapping the future of your organization. Be clear about this. It is a tremendous opportunity. That is the context for the entire process.
- Who you bring to the table. When you establish a Strategic Planning Task Force, be strategic (haha!) about who you invite to be part of the group. Choose individuals who are currently or will later become connectors, donors, stakeholders, and friends of your organization. Invite people who are fun, efficient and who inspire you to be your greatest self! Who would you be excited to work with? Have them join the group – even if they are not currently on your board. (They could become future leaders!)
- Establish ways of operating. In your strategic planning process be forward thinking, practical and efficient. Every meeting should have a clear purpose and intended result. Stick to the timeframe for meetings. Choose ground rules as if you are going to be working together to build something very important – because you are!
- Be bold as you discuss the vision of the organization, allowing yourselves to be a bit outrageous (in a good way!). You will have plenty of time to scale back later. Start by thinking large.
- The mission should include donors. What does that mean? It means keeping in mind the critical stakeholders surrounding your organization. In addition to serving your target population, teach your surrounding community about what you do and find roles for them to advance your work both as volunteers and as funders. Literally state that as an intention of your organization.
- Commit to Equality. For the purposes of your strategic planning process, be sure that all participants have an equal voice regardless of their position authority. It will not do any good to have wonderful, out-of-the-box ideas squelched by someone saying, “Well, as the President of the Board, I don’t think we can do that.” This does not mean that you have to ultimately come to consensus. Simply keep the possibilities alive until it is time to determine what your priorities are.
- Prioritize goals until you can settle on ones that represent your highest values. Get clear about which ones are top priorities, and those that come after.
- Be sure that establishing a Culture of Philanthropy is a key agency-wide goal. Use this goal to establish systems, actions and attitudes that support your intended culture. This goal can impact the development department, donors, the board of directors, the executive leadership, communications and marketing, volunteer engagement and programs.
- Be sure to operationalize your plan. Don’t let your strategic plan end up sitting on some shelf. Use a project management tool such as Smartsheet or Asana to identify who will do what, by when. Actions to make it real are critical to developing a Culture of Philanthropy.
- Schedule time at each board meeting to revisit your plan and timeline and check in on progress. An operationalized plan holds everyone accountable and brings you toward your larger vision.
- Periodically retune your plan, eliminating goals that are no longer relevant, adding new goals when others are completed, and making tweaks as needed.
Strategic planning provides a unique opportunity to engage the people in your community that care deeply about your organization. It allows you to hear what they think of your direction and progress. It also gives you the chance to design your development activities so that they are aligned, but not solely led, by your donors, and integrate the needs of the community at all levels.
In addition, a strategic plan is a living-breathing document that has tremendous potential to alter the future of your organization. If you use it to build a strong Culture of Philanthropy, it is possible that resources will begin coming to your agency more readily. By including these key principles in your process, you can have a meaningful process that results in a plan that is powerful, long lasting and visionary.