Here are seven tips for emerging leaders and managers of small nonprofits to consider for a strategic planning process:
#1 Collaborate on the creation of the plan: Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint suggests “Rather than stepping back or working clandestinely behind the scenes, I believe the planning process is best served by executive directors modeling for all on staff and board the qualities that are most likely to lead to transformative decision making: courage, condor, pragmatism about competitive advantage in the marketplace, and financial savvy” (Bell).
#2: Share your plan: write it up, turn it into a living online document, or broadcast your vision through a short film. Elegantly use photos, quotes, and impact data for stakeholders to feel and connect with your work. See “Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document for a Nonprofit” by Carter McNamara for frameworks and templates.
#3 Progress report: many strategic plans fail because they’re not managed once they’ve been developed. Report on your progress to internal and external stakeholders in a graphically engaging way using charts, dashboards, and images so it is appealing to the eye. Remember that staff, board, and volunteers are stakeholders, too, and internal reports don’t have to be dull.
#4 Celebrate and share successes: recognize key players who help achieve strategic goals or who grow significantly through the process. These days it doesn’t have to be done at a party. Tweet it or share a photo op on your company’s Facebook page.
#5 Failures can be teachable moments: it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t reach a strategic goal. Reflect on why you didn’t get there. Be frank and honest. Lead by example. What could you have done differently or what did you learn from the experience? Model for your teams what you want to see in them.
#6 No sacred cows: get rid of them! Successful 21st century nonprofits will let go of old ideas that don’t work or those ideas that have grown immune to analysis. You might have to reconsider how you do what you do and embed resources in the budget for professional development of board and staff in order to remain competitive.
#7 Adaptive change: endow your teams and the plan itself with permission to change, evolve, live, and grow. Have courage to make midcourse corrections based on credible evaluations. That doesn’t mean changing strategic goals just because they’ve grown inconvenient! Reflect on why you didn’t achieve the goal or celebrate when you do but don’t change the goal post until you and your teams have had a hard look at the game plan. Change can be hard but it is going to happen today more rapidly than ever before. Successful strategies embed opportunities for change.
References and recommended reading:
- “Stance: The E.D.’s Role and Attitude in Strategic Planning” by Jeanne Bell: various attitudes of executive directors are explored in this Blue Avacado blog.