Strategic Planning for Everyone

What do academics, accountants, and authors have in common? They all volunteer for organizations that need strategic planning! Last month I facilitated sessions with organizations representing these three communities. Interestingly, my process applied to all of them.

The not-for-profit sector

When I developed my business plan almost five years ago, I added a couple of lines about the not-for-profit sector in my market research. I knew there were a high number of organizations in my region; however, I really did not think they would be a big impact on my revenue.

Wow, was I wrong! Today over 80% of my clients are in the not-for-profit sector. Passionate people, working for, and volunteering on Boards, fill these organizations to better their communities. No matter the cause or groups they represent, one thing they all need is a strong strategic plan.

Over the past four years I have worked with a variety of groups. As a result, I have developed a process that really does work for everyone.

A SWOT analysis

To prepare for a strategic planning discussion, I encourage clients to complete a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. Staff, Board of Directors, clients, and other stakeholders are invited to provide their view of the organization. Often I conduct this via an online survey. Respondents send their feedback in anonymously directly to me. After that, I compile a summary document with all verbatim responses (shuffled) for my client to review. Similarly, this can be done at an in-person session with sticky notes.

Themes and priorities

At our first strategic planning session, I review the summary with my client. Participants identify themes. Themes are listed on a flip chart for all to view. Participants identify 1/3 of the items listed as their priority. As a result, 3-4 themes are usually chosen. Certainly, the organization now knows what areas to focus on.

Goals and objectives

Above all, the purpose of a strategic plan is to provide guidance to an organization for a set period of time. Typically, most of my clients use a 3-year format. Based on identified priorities, we discuss and develop goal statements. Each goal is subsequently divided into annual objectives. We identify key indicators of success.

Mission, vision and values

To the surprise of many clients, I leave developing mission and vision statements to the end of the strategic planning process. I find it much easier for folks to articulate them once they have a clear understanding of the direction the organization is taking.

Similarly, developing values is easier later in the process. Values help guide organizations and inform decision-making when carrying out identified priorities.

Clients I have worked with

Each client has a specific need, and available budget when it comes to strategic planning. For some, I conduct all of the above activities and I write the final plan. On the other hand, for other clients, I conduct only a portion of the process. Listed below are clients that have hired me to conduct some or all of their strategic planning work:

  • Atlantic Edge Credit Union
  • CBDC Humber
  • Community Mental Health Initiative Inc.
  • Community Youth Network
  • Deer Lake Regional Airport Authority Inc.
  • Friends of Writers at Woody Point
  • International Education Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous Tourism Association
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Workforce Innovation Centre
  • Nunatsiavut Government
  • Sheep Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Western Environment Centre

You can read testimonials from some of these clients here.

Follow it up with action planning

A plan is only as good as the commitment to it. Therefore, I encourage all clients to follow-up strategic planning sessions with a focused action planning discussion. A simple approach is developing a W3 chart – What, Who, and When.

So, if your organization is looking for help to develop a strategic plan, please contact me to discuss! I would love to apply this process. Likewise, you can join academics, accountants, authors and others in setting your organization on a focused path. ~ Carole