4 Questions to Create a Strategic Plan Your Charity Will Actually Use

Nov 10, 2015 | Executive Coaching Blogs, Social Responsibility, Workplace Communication

Strategic planning and operating strategically are two different things.

Chances are you’ve sat through a strategic planning retreat. There’s an excitement and energy in the air. It might be from all of the coffee and donuts, and it might be because people are legitimately excited about the possibilities.

The consultant does a great job ensuring that everyone shares. The group comes up with some new ideas. The only thing left to do at 5 p.m. is to craft a budget and create operating plans. No problem. We’ll have those done in two weeks. Great job, everyone!

High five!Men high fives

And then it all falls apart. The plan is crafted. It’s approved by the board. The staff have questions about the goals and how to actually make it happen. And somewhere along the way a leadership team member says, “We’ve got to try to make this happen. The board approved it.”

Uh oh.

At that point, staff find it easier to go back to their day-to-day activities helping clients than trying to struggle through a convoluted plan on paper.

Strategic planning goes awry when the focus isn’t, well, focused.

Our sector is notorious for long, broad, vague mission statements. The strategic plan can help focus the mission statement, but it must also be implemented strategically. There are four key areas that must be addressed that will allow a plan to succeed.

According to Harvard Business Review and its team of experts, strategy has three key principles.

  1. “Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.”
  2. “Strategy requires you to make trade-offs in competing — to choose what not to do.”
  3. “Strategy involves creating fit among a company’s activities.”

In order for your organization to actually follow through on its plan and execute it well, the activities must be clear; the organization must decide to stop doing other ancillary activities, and all activities must align toward departmental and organizational goals.

We often do this well for fundraising activities, such as a capital campaigns. Alignment can be clearer when it is time to build a new homeless shelter because most everything can be measured in dollars: ($ new building) + ($ existing + additional clients services) + ($ existing + additional staff salaries) + ($ additional services) + ($ utilities) + ($ admin time) = $ capital campaign goal.

This alignment becomes more tricky in day-to-day program delivery and staff goals.

There’s a way to create alignment.

And it involves these 4 key questions. These must be answered in a strategic plan in order to align activities, provide focus and clarity, and increase your chances of the goals being met.

  1. To succeed financially, what are our revenue goals and revenue mix?
  2. To achieve our vision, what experience do we want our key stakeholders to have?
  3. To create our revenue mix and create a unique experience for our key stakeholders, what business processes must we excel at?
  4. To achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and improve via our people resources?

These key question require that your budget (1), your stakeholders (2), your business processes (3), and your staff and volunteer workforce (4) are all working toward the same goals via consistent processes. It also presumes that staff have learning and development goals, not just activity goals. We need to equip them to reach their activity goals through professional and personal development.

The process for finding focus is rather simple. It is the tenacity to stick to it that is difficult.