Stealing Smart: For-Profit Best Practices for Nonprofits
It's the difference between goal setting and achieving goals. Nonprofits are often very ambitious in their goals, but many times they lack the true strategic planning to accomplish those goals.
Delaney lays out the example of a nonprofit organization that feeds the hungry. Strong strategic planning would look at whether more or fewer people will need to be fed — and how many more or how many fewer. How much money is needed? Is the organization's kitchen big enough, or does it need to open a second kitchen?
"These are strategic ideas that a nonprofit has to think about in addition to measuring the day-to-day activities," Delaney says. "… Some nonprofits tend to get so lost in the weeds that sometimes they lose track of where they're really going."
That's where the strategic plan comes in. It looks at not only what the organization is doing, but how what it's doing today affects tomorrow … and how the needs of both the organization and its constituents will change in the future. Then the foundation can be laid for the steps the organization needs to take.
Once a nonprofit has its strategic plan, it's important to periodically and continually review it to make sure the strategic plan is working. Delaney suggests reviewing the plan every six to 12 months, making sure every activity the organization does makes sense for the plan — and that the plan still makes sense for the organization.
"Lots of nonprofits spend lots of time chasing money and get off mission. Here's a grant; let's do that … no, let's do this instead. It divides an organization's energy and reduces effectiveness," Delaney says. "You need to make sure it all fits together. It's really important to stay on track."