If you are someone who is familiar with the business or nonprofit world, it is more than likely that you have heard the term “strategic planning”. The phrase gets thrown around quite often, and for good reason too. If done properly strategic planning can offer an organization many benefits, including increased efficiency, innovation, adaptability and longevity. While it may sound simple enough, in reality strategic planning can easily be done incorrectly. Fortunately, if you follow the critical steps for successful strategic planning outlined below, you and your organization will be well on your way to accomplishing its goals!
1.) Get your crew together
The first step is to determine who will be involved in the planning process. As a nonprofit you have a variety of stakeholders whose satisfaction is key to the organizations success. This means you should consider clients, funders, employees, volunteers and board members. Getting these groups to buy-in to the process will facilitate stronger relationships and give you valuable insights from different perspectives (Tregoe, 1983).
2.) Define the mission and vision for the organization
It is crucial to an organizations success that everyone involved understand the goals to be accomplished. Clearly articulating and creating a shared vision has been shown to improve employee performance and increase innovation (Moynihan, Pandey, & Wright, 2014). Furthermore, defining a short and long term vision provides a framework for developing more specific goals and strategies (United Way).
3.) Asses where you currently stand
The next step is to evaluate your organizations external and internal environments, commonly referred to as a SWOTs analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). Look for social, political, or economic trends that may impact your organization in the future. Many nonprofits make the mistake of ignoring their external environment and thus are slow to react when external issues manifest themselves (Renz, 2016). When looking internally ask where your organization could become more efficient. Do you utilize everyone to the best of their abilities? Do you have a variety of perspectives on which to draw information from?
4.) Identify strategic issues
After you have done your SWOTs analysis it will be evident which issues face the organization. For each issue it is then helpful to analyze its probability of occurrence and subsequent impact on the organization if the issue is not addressed. Determine what factors make the issue a fundamental challenge as well (Renz, 2016). This will aid you in your next step of developing a plan of action.
5.) Formulate strategic plans
It is now time to develop your plan on how to confront the issues facing the organization. If you have followed the previous steps you should have a variety of different stakeholders involved in this process. This is a key, as different stakeholders can offer a multitude of perspectives and expertise in a wide range of areas (Tregoe, 1983). For example, board members recruited from outside the organization each have unique background experiences and talents which they can draw upon. It is also critical that any plan receives agreement from all involved parties. By soliciting input and approval from an individual you empower them, which has been shown to result in increased workplace performance (Moynihan, Pandey, & Wright, 2014).
6.) Do it again
Once your plan has been underway for a significant period it is time to evaluate the outcomes. More than likely things will not be exactly as predicted. Even if success has been achieved, new issues will continue to arise. At this point it is time to go back to step 1 of the planning process and prepare for the next stage in your organizations development.
Strategic planning is an art unto itself. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to make it all go perfectly, so don’t be discouraged if you run into a few hiccups along the way. Just by engaging in strategic planning your already miles ahead of your peers. Follow the steps above and before you know it your organization will be achieving its dreams.
Hamel, G., & Prahalad, C. K. (1989). Strategic intent. Harvard Business Review. 63-76.
Moynihan, D., Pandey, S., & Wright, B. (2014). Transformational Leadership in the Public Sector: Empirical Evidence of Its Effects. In Yogesh K. Dwivedi, Mahmud A. Shareef, Sanjay K. Pandey, and Vinod Kumar (87-105). Public Administration Reformation Market Demand from Public Organizations: New York: Routledge.
Renz, David O. The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
Tregoe, Benjamin. 1983. “The Challenges of Strategic Management.” In Top Management Strategy. Benjamin B. Tregoe and John W. Zimmerman. New York: Simon and Schuster.
United Way of Dane County. Strategic Planning Process.