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.

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