It’s hard to find the time to sit down and evaluate the big picture.
That goes for both the small Nonprofit operating on a shoestring budget and the larger, well-established organization headquartered in Washington, DC.
But as the saying goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Now is the perfect time to put together a good Strategic Plan for your organization.
Why? Because in a down economy, everyone, including your peers (that’s Nonprofit code for competitors), is scrambling for limited funding resources. Funding sources are rarely locked in anyway, but in a tough economy, all of your peers may be courting the same funding sources as you. From the point of view of a foundation or donor, a Nonprofit with a solid Strategic Plan is going to be a far more attractive gift recipient than an organization that is clearly winging it.
Here are the basics of a Strategic Plan.
Your organization wants a Strategic Plan to address its programs, activities, and funding. As an ED, it’s a mistake to try to make a strategic plan by yourself. A good Strategic Plan should be a collaboration. Board members, staff, and stakeholders should participate so that they can buy-in to the plan.
In good times, your Strategic Plan can help you expand sensibly. The process to create new programs is streamlined because the expansions were already addressed in the Strategic Plan. In hard times, your Strategic Plan is your Fire Drill. If there is a budget crisis, you have pre-planned cut backs to programs and services without causing panic throughout the organization.
How far out should the timeline of your Strategic Plan go? It depends.
According to Namrata Maguire, a Strategic Planning Consultant at New Leaf Change Management, “Every organization’s plan will be different. Smaller, more agile organizations can probably make a plan annually, but larger organizations may want to plan out as far as 3 to 5 years. And the plan should be reviewed every 6 months as a minimum”.
If you’re a smaller organization making a Strategic Plan yourself is doable.
Unfortunately, you can’t run down to Office Depot to grab some preprinted Strategic Planning Forms for your organization. It’s going to be a sacrifice in time and effort. Making a good Strategic Plan may take two to three months for larger organizations that have stakeholders and staff scattered around the world. Gathering all those people can be difficult, but you can overcome this problem with good web technology (wink, wink).
Many organizations opt for a hired gun. Hiring a dedicated consultant to guide the organization through the Strategic Planning process can cut the time in half, produce a better product, and protect the time of an overworked staff.
Either way, a Strategic Plan is not a luxury. It’s a requirement to the survival and success of your organization.