Episode 5 | Strategic Planning Step Two: Take a Look at Your World

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In strategic planning terminology, take a look at your world means to do an environmental scan.  What’s happening out there has an impact on your organization.  This is not to come up with a list of excuses of why you can’t get something done, but rather to help you make better decisions for the future of your organization.

You’ve gotten your foundation set, so taking a look at the world around you is going to include articles, research and data trends, conversations you’ve had with your key stakeholders, and other ways you can get information.  What you need to be mindful of when you’re doing your environmental scan are socio-demographics; what is happening in society may affect the work your organization is doing in and for the community. 

Another area to focus on is what’s happening with your competition.  Competition doesn’t have to be a negative term, rather, it’s an honest look at what similar organizations are doing and what’s working for them.  What’s going to be new or different in how your organization provides services and programs?   Sometimes you determine that you should collaborate in order to serve more people in your community. 

Next, it’s important to look at the economy and the effect it may have on your organization in the next few years.  For example, if there is a downturn predicted, how will your organization weather that storm?  Or better yet, how will it thrive?  Knowing what’s happening economically is going to help you have that conversation when you get into the conference room to discuss strategy. 

What’s happening politically?  Are there new regulations that will impact your organization? Keeping your finger on this pulse is especially critical if you are in the advocacy realm and trying to get laws changed.  It’s crucial to understand that there is a difference between observing what’s happening and getting sucked down the rabbit hole.  The way you handle this is to surround yourself with good people who will help you keep your focus. 

Understanding what’s going on with technology is absolutely vital.  Technology is moving and changing so quickly that you can easily become paralyzed.  Understanding the overall strategy – what you are doing and how are you doing it – will give you insights when determining what technology to deploy.  Then you can find ways to leverage technology to help your organization become more efficient.  Keep in mind that technology doesn’t just mean social media and marketing.  It also includes how you are communicating internally with your team, keeping connected to one another, and project management systems.  Don’t let technology work you, you need to work technology.

Finally, you need to take a look at your own clients and the people you’re looking to serve.  What change in demands might put pressure on your organization to perform at a higher level?  Your constituents may come to you asking for more support in a particular area.  You have to listen to your audience so you can better serve their needs.

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.

Download the Strategic Plan Toolkit

For more information about Mary Valloni, visit maryvalloni.com and to download our free Fundraising Freedom Roadmap, go to maryvalloni.com/roadmap. Get a copy of Mary’s book, Fundraising Freedom.

Interested in learning more about Joel Kessel?  Visit kesselstrategies.com to find out how Joel helps growth-minded leaders gain clarity.

Episode 4 | Strategic Planning Step One: Set the Foundation

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The number one reason most nonprofits do not have a strategic plan is because they think it’s going to be a daunting task.  But all you’re really doing is gaining some clarity and focus in order to set the organization on the right path.  If you go on vacation, you have to plan out how you are going to get there.  Strategic planning is the same way; you’re mapping out the steps you need take to get to a desired future state.  There are 3 questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Where do you want to be?
  2. What do you need to do?
  3. How are you going to get there?

When you begin to think about strategic planning in the framework of those three questions, it is easy to put a plan in place.  Today we are going to focus on step one of your strategic plan, set the foundation.

Setting the foundation should happen well before you ever set foot in the board room.  First, you need to gather a planning team.  You want a diverse group of 4-10 people, depending on the size of your organization, that includes a combination of the executive director, the board chair, major donors, other volunteers, etc.  Once the planning team is in place, it’s time to set up a meeting to discuss how you are going to run the organization for the next 3-5 years.  The first step in this process is to discuss the issues or challenges the organization is facing, which is what will set the tone for the 3-5 goals you will establish.  Keep in mind that some of the topics discussed may actually be symptoms of a deeper issue happening within the organization itself. 

Next on the list to discuss with the planning team are the obstacles that could stand in the way of effective planning.  This could be how often you meet, the schedules of the team, or internal leadership support.  Remember, you can easily come up with a bunch of excuses that halt the planning process.  However, don’t let this stop you from building a strategy.

Finally, you want to wrap up the initial meeting with some ground rules like consensus decision making because we want to do this as a team.  Actively support the group decision, even if it’s not the exact one you would personally make.  Make sure you prioritize what matters most.  Lastly, you need to take the time you need and not rush through the process and trust that this it does work.  It’s going to feel messy and that’s ok because it gives you permission come up with creative ideas on how you are going to take your organization to the next level.

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.

Download the Strategic Plan Toolkit

For more information about Mary Valloni, visit maryvalloni.com and to download our free Fundraising Freedom Roadmap, go to maryvalloni.com/roadmap. Get a copy of Mary’s book, Fundraising Freedom.

Interested in learning more about Joel Kessel?  Visit kesselstrategies.com to find out how Joel helps growth-minded leaders gain clarity.

Episode 3 | Fundraising Freedom Overview

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On this episode we are talking about fundraising, on which Mary has literally written the book.  We tend to raise our money by taking whatever we can get, however, there is a strategy behind fundraising.  But first, a little background from Mary.

When I first took my position with the American Cancer Society, the town I worked in had a population around 150,000 with the surrounding area numbering near 250,000.  Rather than solely focusing on my community, I latched on to what my counterparts were doing in their markets.  One of those locations was Chicago.  My friends in Chicago raised $1.8 million on a first-year event.  No one raises that kind of money without a clear strategy!  Another friend in the Tyler, Texas market raised $1 million in their most recent event and I modeled my event after an event in Dallas.  I had access to all of my peers where I could call on them and ask for advice or materials.  This is part of why we created the Nonprofit Executive Club.  We created a community where executives aren’t competing against each other but can be there for one another to bounce ideas off of and find out what is working in other markets.

When I wrote the book, Fundraising Freedom, I was really focused on freedom.  I want every nonprofit to have freedom, meaning to act, think, and speak without holding back.  I want you to be so bold about your cause that you’re not negotiating or belittling your cause and just taking whatever money you can get because you’re so desperate.  The FREEDOM process is a system that works for large-scale organizations as well as those organizations just getting started. 

Step 1Focus Your Vision. The first step I teach is the “F” of the word freedom.  Joel will talk to you more about vision as it pertains to your vision statement and I will talk to you about vision as you look at how much money you want to raise.  By having a clear mission and vision statement in your strategic plan, by the time you get to me to talk fundraising, you already know what you stand for and how much money it’s going to take to fulfill that vision and mission. 

Step 2: Run Your Research.  Once you know what you to, it’s time to start researching what your counterparts are doing, or what successes are happening in your community, and figuring out what our people want. 

Step 3Enlist Your Team.  This is a process of inviting people in.  When it comes to fundraising, you just need one volunteer who is going to be the face of the fundraiser or campaign.  Fundraising should not be the sole responsibility of the staff person.  There’s an old African proverb that says, “if you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  You can go fast if you want, but you are not going to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars if you go it alone.

Step 4:  Enhance Your Brand.  This is when you build out your print materials, get your logo and website designed; turn your fundraiser into something visual. The reason you need to enlist your team before building your brand is so your team can take part in the process.  If your team has a say in this process, they will be more likely to sell the event because they have skin in the game.  Just like Dale Carnegie said, “people support a world they helped create.”

Step 5: Deploy Your Team.  Your volunteers and your staff go out and advocate on your behalf by scheduling meetings and getting out in front of people. 

Step 6:  Organize Your Ask.  This is the reason why we fundraise.  Go ask for your money.  This the number one most difficult thing for boards to do.  But this task is made so much easier if you’ve done all the previous work.  You’ve already done your research, you have a great team, you feel really empowered, your print materials look great, this is what makes it easy to invite others to be a part of what you’re working toward.  Remember, people love giving their money away.

Step 7:  Make Your Difference. Let’s go make a difference and celebrate.  So often when we raise money we immediately jump into the next act.  What I want to see is for you to take a step back and you recognize all the people who made it possible.  You’re thanking your donors; you’re acknowledging the impact you’re making on the world.  This is where you start telling stories and talking about the success of the event because if you’re going to replicate this again next year, you have to make sure to acknowledge the incredible influence your cause is making.

As we move through the upcoming episodes, we are going to delve deeper into each step individually and answer any questions you may have.  To submit a question about fundraising, email mary@maryvalloni.com.

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.

Download the Strategic Plan Toolkit

For more information about Mary Valloni, visit maryvalloni.com and to download our free Fundraising Freedom Roadmap, go to maryvalloni.com/roadmap. Get a copy of Mary’s book, Fundraising Freedom.

Interested in learning more about Joel Kessel?  Visit kesselstrategies.com to find out how Joel helps growth-minded leaders gain clarity.

Episode 2 | Strategic Planning Overview

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On this episode, Joel will take you through a high-level overview of his STRATEGY steps to build your strategic plan.  These 8 steps are built on industry best practices, books and courses, and real-life experiences in taking organizations through this process. 

Step OneSet the Foundation.  What are you planning for?  Who is your core planning team? 

Step TwoTake a Look at Your World.  What is happening in the world around us – politically, demographically, economically, etc.?  These issues are going to impact the decision-making for your organization.  However, this is not an opportunity to create excuses on why you can’t raise “x” amount of dollars, or why you can’t hold an event, or do a specific program.  It’s to arm you with the information you need to make the best decision possible for your organization in the mission.

Step ThreeRealize Your Future.  What is your vision?  Where do you want to be in 3-5 years?  What does success look like?  Part of this step is drilling down into your mission and the things that are going to drive your day-to-day actions that will support your larger vision.  Determining the organization’s core values are a part of this process as well.  What do you believe in?  Once you have clarity and alignment within your organization, you can then go out and recruit the right people to become staff members, volunteers, and donors.

Step FourAssess Your Organization.  Perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).  Whereas step two is taking an external view, step four includes taking an internal look at your organization through the strengths and weaknesses.  There will be overlap with step two when you start to look at the opportunities and threats because these are external views as well.  However, this allows for some checks and balances between the two steps.

Step FiveTighten Your Focus.  This step is where you create a balanced scorecard.  Healthy and smart organizations have a balanced scorecard, meaning they aren’t skewed in one direction or another.  The four areas of the scorecard are capacity, internal processes and systems, finance, and client stakeholder satisfaction. 

Step SixEstablish Your Measurement.  If you don’t know where you’re going, then how are you going to get there?  Did you do it or didn’t you do it?  Simple.  For example, if part of your plan includes to create a marketing plan for year one, what actions are you going to take to make that happen?  This is an action you can control.  Establishing the measurement then comes back to did you take this action or not because we know that taking action will lead to growth and impact.

Step SevenGather Your Tactics.  Tactics are new or continuing projects and actions designed to improve performance of one or more focus areas.  Tactics reduce performance gaps in the focus area and help achieve results.

Step EightYour Plan to Execute.  The worst thing you can do is go through this process and then put it away on a shelf.  This is where a lot of organizations fail in their strategy; they have a plan but then it doesn’t get executed.  Your plan to execute is how you are going to roll out your entire plan and put it into motion.  Remember, this plan does not have to be overcomplicated.  Start with a one-pager, then you can drill down from there into a quarterly, monthly, or weekly plan.

As we move through the upcoming episodes, we are going to delve deeper into each step individually and answer any questions you may have.  To submit a question about strategic planning, email joel@kesselstrategies.com.

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com

Download the Strategic Plan Toolkit

Interested in learning more about Joel Kessel?  Visit kesselstrategies.com to find out how Joel helps growth-minded leaders gain clarity.

For more information about Mary Valloni, visit maryvalloni.com and to download our free Fundraising Freedom Roadmap, go to maryvalloni.com/roadmap

Episode 1 | About This Podcast

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Welcome to the Nonprofit Executive Club podcast.  This podcast is for growth-minded executives who are looking to take their nonprofits to the next level through strategic planning and fundraising.  Meet your hosts:

Joel Kessel has spent the last 25 years in communications and public relations.  He focuses on helping nonprofits get their message out into the world by casting a strong vision and creating a powerful strategy. 

Mary Valloni has raised millions of dollars through her work as the development director for the American Cancer Society, the ALS Association and Special Olympics.  Now she teaches and trains organizations around the world on how to raise more funds and have more freedom.

Currently, there are more than 568,000 nonprofits that are raising less than one million dollars.  The reason why these nonprofits are not taking their fundraising to the next level is because they are lacking a strategic plan.  You cannot raise money without a strategy and a clear vision.  Only 49% of nonprofits have a strategic plan.

What you can expect from this weekly show:

  • 30 minutes
  • Joel’s STRATEGY Steps to create a successful strategic plan
  • Mary’s FREEDOM guide to fundraising
  • Q&A Sessions

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your impact through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.

To submit your questions, please email mary@maryvalloni.com or joel@kesselstrategies.com