[By Richard Male, Professor for Regis University's Master's of Nonprofit Management degree program] Nonprofit professionals: do you ever wish you had the proverbial “magic wand?” In one grand sweep, you could raise more money for your nonprofit, energize your board, motivate and reward staff, get more grants, and accomplish more lasting good through your programs. Guess what? The magic wand you dream of may actually be within reach.
It’s called a three-year strategic plan.
Before you groan or roll your eyes, consider that a strategic plan can be a powerful blueprint for action and change. They are designed to help organizations realistically assess their current situation, determine goals for the future, and then draw out a roadmap for achieving those goals.
Sadly, too many small and emerging nonprofit organizations operate without a multi-year plan (and some are so tactical or “hand-to-mouth” in their approach, they don’t even operate from an annual program of work). If you’re on the fence about whether to embark on a strategic planning process now or postpone it, consider the following. Done well, a strategic plan helps a nonprofit to:
- Define its values, a vision, and mission
- Establish realistic goals, objectives and strategies
- Accomplish change – including turnaround or renewal
- Solve major problems
- Set ambitious but achievable goals for fundraising
- Ensure the effective use of resources
- Attract and retain top performers (paid and unpaid) who want to play on a winning team
- Provide a base to measure progress, including program and employee performance
- Develop consensus and ownership on future goals
- Improve board and staff relationships–both in the process and the execution
- Build and motivate strong teams to accomplish “work that matters”
- Tell your story–past, present, and future–to the community and funders
- Establish a framework and roadmap for sustaining your organization
For an organization to plan future growth effectively, we believe it must have two essential characteristics:
- Organizational readiness - a recognition by all of the need to plan, a willingness to commit the time to the process of plan development, and appreciation for its potential power; and
- Organizational commitment - demonstrated across your board and staff teams, and with a willingness to allocate time to its execution.
Remember, too, that the ideal nonprofit strategic planning process is community-based, inclusive, and participatory. A planning process done in the proverbial “ivory tower” or that strays too far from the organization’s mission and direct service on the ground is bound to lose value before it’s even published. Magic wand? Well, perhaps that metaphor is a little generous. But in terms of power and value, you won’t find a better project that can accomplish so much.
Reprinted with permission from Richard Male and Associates, www.richardmale.com, 303-355-2919.