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5 vital ingredients for effective strategic planning

Consider each one as vital to your strategic planning process and I assure you it will improve your outcomes. How you apply these principles varies based on several factors, including the size and scope of your organization.

1. The planning team.

In the words of Jim Collins in Good to Great, “first who, then what.” Identify a group of committed leaders and stakehold­ers—people interested and invested in your work, and/or the issues you address or the clients you serve. Recruit people from your board, staff, volunteers, clients, stakeholders, and community.

Assemble a broad range of perspec­tives and insights.

2. Board involvement and support.

Ultimately, the board is responsible for ensuring that your organization has an effective strategy guiding the organization to its desired future. In organizations with smaller boards, all board members may participate in the planning process. Other boards may appoint a committee to oversee the process. The point is that, ultimately, strat­egy development is part of the board’s stewardship responsibility, and they must ultimately own it.

3. Ownership for outcomes.

Make sure your plan includes strategy. People have a greater sense of investment for plans they help create. This applies to both board and staff. Avoid developing a plan in isolation and then handing it off to others for implementation. It will not be effective.

4. Strategy.

The plan is i​mportant: the planning process is priceless.

This seems elementary and redundant. However, this is where I see the similarity between kids’ letters to Santa and the strategic plans of many nonprofits—they are wish lists, not actionable plans. Of course, these plans were well-formatted and many were nicely bound and presented, but, in reality, they had limited use for the organization because they lacked strategic clarity or commit­ment to see these wishes fulfilled.

5. Action!

Finally, make sure everyone understands that the plan is not the final product of the planning process, but the map for the journey. Include an implementation plan as part of your strategy. Celebrate the completion of the plan as a milestone in the journey, just be clear that no one confuses it for the destination.

The plan is important: the planning process is priceless.

Kevin D. Monroe is Managing Partner of X Factor Consulting, a recognized leader in helping nonprofits build sustainable organizations and programs, and partners with GCN as a consultant on board governance.

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