The idea behind planning is to be purposeful and strategic. But why make a strategic plan? What do we include?
We’ve done 6-month partnerships, day retreats and “sprint” courses as well as coached an individual on what to work on with their team next. This is what we think about it:
Vision: The ideal of what you want your community to look like. The American Cancer Society says, “A World Without Cancer.”
Mission: This is the how you are getting it done, typically written as an action or description.
Values: Three to six principles the organization holds highest when considering their next move.
Theory of Change: Often shown as a diagram, this describes how all the above are interconnected and the process of change you are expecting clients to experience.
SWOT: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. S/W are internal questions and answers whereas O/T are external factors.
Client Avatar: Not only should have you have demographic information on your client base, but you should also create at least three client avatars. Think through your programs, services, outreach, etc through their eyes. What will serve them best? How? When? Why? Where will you reach them?
Outreach: You need an outreach and marketing plan. It’s time to stop wasting money on advertising that had worked in the past (but don’t now) and wasting money on “shooting in the dark.” If you know your client base, you should be able to plan the best ROI on your outreach dollars.
Fiscal Analysis: Look at your last 3-5 years and see how your expenses and revenues have increased and decreased. Look deeper into how or why that happened and let it guide your upcoming goals.
Competition and Gaps: Who else is doing this work? What is working well for them and what areas are they performing poorly? We can learn from our competition! But also, were are there gaps in our area – does it make sense for us to expand to meet those need or build a collaborative? Maybe neither.
Program and Staff Descriptions: Nail down the positions you need and the positions you want in order to run the programs and services you currently have, that address the growth rate you are seeing in your population, and the services you’d love to offer.
Organizational Culture: You have staff, but how do you want them to interact with each other or with clients? What is the general “vibe”? What is morale like? How does it get that way? What do you want protocols to be? Do you have an inclusion task force? Do you have a staff or board orientation?
Goals, Objectives, and Outcomes: While in for-profit business they talk about Key Performance Indicators, non-profits tend to break this down further into goals, objectives, and outcomes. We recommend using SMARTER – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timebound, evaluation, and re-evaluation.
Different groups are going to move through this process at different paces. Typically we see groups work on this for two to six months for strategic plans that last one to three years. Here are some milestones to consider or watch for as you plan and work on your strategic plan.
If you haven’t read it yet, we recommend reading Collins and Porras book on Visionary Organizations as they have decades of research and support. We 100% use their insight and advice in the work that we do with our clients.
We recommend you make sustainability and legacy planning as part of your thinking and strategic plan structure. We assess the strengths your agency has held throughout it’s life course and how those things can keep you moving forward.