Having a well developed strategic plan in place can help your organization in several ways, it will:
- Help to develop a shared vision among stakeholders
- Provide a detailed road map for future growth
- Demonstrate to potential and current donors that you have a plan
- Improve morale among your board and staff
- Excite and motivate stakeholders to become more involved
The language above is very precise in order to emphasize the importance of process and ensure that your plan will not sit on some shelf collecting dust. The purpose of a strategic plan is not to write your organization’s vision. The purpose is to create a vision. By implicit definition, a vision is contextual — it cannot exist independently of PEOPLE! Therefore embodied in a “vision” or vision statement is that it has ‘buy-in’ from stakeholders. Further, the process of creating a vision — or strategic plan — should incorporate several important attributes:
- Utilization of data and evidence-based research
- Commitment to iterative dialog and qualitative analysis
- Openness to critical feedback and divergent/ transformational ideas
- Awareness of the marketplace (competitors, partners, market conditions)
How do you create a strategic plan? There are several ways to design the process, depending on the size and culture of the organization. A small or emerging organization may only necessitate involvement of the executive director and board — much of the work can be accomplished in two half-day retreats, with one-on-one meetings, data collection and market analysis conducted in-between. A regional or statewide organization that includes the general public as its stakeholders may also choose to hold public forums, or host online surveys, to illicit input.
On a more granular level I like to start with a point in time 1 to 5 years in the future and work backwards. What do you want to have accomplished 5 years from now? Once that vision is in place the process of breaking it down into goals, objectives, strategies and actions steps — with financial projections and timelines — can be tackled in a relatively straightforward manner.
Aaron’s role as a facilitator through this process is to keep everyone’s ‘eyes on the prize’ — this document is not meant to be static, intimidating, or a paperweight. The purpose is to excite & motivate stakeholders and set a clear path to help your organization meet its vision!