Strategic planning doesn’t have to be a painful process. It’s necessary to maintain and revise a strategic plan frequently in order to ensure your nonprofit is meeting goals and achieving it’s mission. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, “Ideally, as staff and board engage in the process, they become committed to measurable goals, approve priorities for implementation, and also commit to revisiting the organization’s strategies on an ongoing basis as the organization’s internal and external environments change.”
As you begin your strategic planning with your board, here are three steps to get started:
- Ask yourself this question: What significant measurable community impact do we want the YMCA to produce over the next 5 years? Your answers to this question will be the framework for all your discussions moving forward. If you are having trouble answering the question, start with the things you are already doing. How do you take those efforts to the next level? Is there a logical next step that stems from something you’re already doing and doing well? This may lead you to new programs and services you can offer your community! Thinking big here is not a problem, but once you have some ideas down you need to whittle your thoughts down to be clear, concise, compelling, and challenging. According to Wes Bender of Triangle2 Solutions, “With a clear, concise, compelling and courageous plan, each action of the organization becomes self-reinforcing and creates more options that are beneficial. Each victory during the strategic planning process is a step to clear the path for your organization’s future.”
- Review the data: Triangle2 Solutions advises YMCA, JCC, and other community nonprofits to base their plans on concrete facts. This includes operations or engagement data, community research, board and staff insights, and societal trends. Sifting through vast amounts of data can be challenging but it’s important to know where trends are emerging and where you can have a meaningful impact in your community. Need help getting started? Consultants can offer resources to help you mine and sift through your organization’s data stores. They may also offer help accessing and deciphering societal and community trends.
- Set priorities and expectations: Once you have a solid answer to how you want to impact your community and you have the research to best channel your efforts, it’s time to prioritize. You can’t do everything and be everything to your community, so you’re going to have to pick and choose based on your strengths. “All current operations and new development should be placed into categories,” says Triangle2 Solutions Consultant, Tom Massey. Those categories are: Top Priority, Future Priority, Ongoing Work, and Reduced Emphasis. By placing all your efforts into buckets, you get a really clear idea of everything you’re organization is doing including where you might be spread thin, and where you might be able to scale back.
By following these initial steps you save time and stress later down the line. The next step in the process often involves assigning a team for the planning process and if you have already begun working on these three things you can more easily commit to the measurable, important goals that make your organization and your community a better place.