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Budgeting for a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning usually reaches beyond traditional long-range planning. In addition to developing a roadmap for the future, the goal of strategic planning is to engage the planners, the decision makers, the stakeholders, and others important to the organization in a dialogue that will produce a series of decisions that will ensure the viability of the organization. 

Solid strategic planning anticipates the inevitability of change and focuses on the organization’s mission, while producing a plan that is realistic, comprehensive, and integrated across all organizational functions.

Whew—now you’re thinking that this is going to be really expensive! Not necessarily. There are several methods that can be employed to develop a plan for your organization.  The most common scenario is to develop a three-year plan, including an annual operating plan that supports it.

Here are the key questions that an organization should ask itself to develop a plan that is challenging, yet achievable:

What is our long-term vision? What is it that we are trying to achieve?

Your vision should inspire the organization to reach even higher. And it should be aspirational, perhaps even just out of reach.

Is our mission still viable? Does it match our organizational vision?

A planning discussion should validate that our mission is, in effect, what we do every day to work toward that organizational vision.

What are the goals that we need to establish to move us closer to our vision?

Organizations should have no more than three to four goals. Each goal will have strategies that support its achievement. The operational side of the plan, developed annually from the strategic plan, will include a timeframe for each strategy, the human and financial resources that will be required to achieve the strategies, the success measure that everyone can aim for, and a document that shows who is responsible for each strategy you have outlined. This process also gives you a methodology to drive your annual budget.

Organizations can develop their own plans with skilled staff and board members, or they can hire a consultant to help guide the plan’s development. If you are going to hire an outside planning consultant, be clear about what your organization needs, ask your trusted colleagues in other nonprofits who they have worked with for this type of process, and ask for proposal outlines from consultants. In your organizational budget, include a line item for planning and follow up on that planning process.

You may still be wondering how much all of this costs. The answer depends on how you choose to put your plan together and how much time it will take: The cost can range from $5,000 to $50,000,  depending on what your organizational needs are and how complex the process is.

Terri Theisen is the founder and and principal consultant with Theisen Consulting LLC, providing services to corporate clients, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies.

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