Three Keys to Developing a Strategic Plan
Being a new leader comes with many challenges, and if you’re not accustomed to the culture of nonprofits (and even if you are), the task of moving the organization’s mission forward can seem daunting. But the encouraging news is that it can be done -- and it usually begins with having a solid strategy.
To start, ask yourself the following questions:
* What’s your fundraising direction?
* Do you have a strategic communications plan or are you struggling to get the word out about your organization?
* How is the organization collectively moving your fund-development plan forward?
* Are your key staff and board members trained on their roles in raising money?
If you’re less than satisfied with your answers, not to worry. Just by asking these questions, you’re already on the path to thinking strategically.
When people are being strategic, it means they are doing a few things:
* Taking a long-term, broad approach to problem solving;
* Asking “what if” and “why” questions;
* Sharpening their observation skills; and
* Being empowered to think beyond the day-to-day.
Another major benefit to being strategic is that it allows organizations to fully assess options and implications around their programs. A great strategic plan or approach must include three elements: objectives, strategies and tactics.
1) Objectives. Your objective answers the question, “What is to be accomplished?” It’s a clear explanation in one sentence of what the organization’s ultimate goal is. For example, if you’re working on an anti-tobacco campaign for young people, your objective may be to increase awareness about the health effects of tobacco use among local teens ages 13 to 17.
2) Strategies. Now that you’re clear about what you want to do, you have to figure out how you will accomplish it. That said, your strategies will answer the “how” behind your objective (e.g., how will you increase awareness among teens). While you’re developing your strategies you might discover that you need more resources; that’s OK. As you’re brainstorming all the “how” possibilities, be aware that your strategy will be the foundational framework for your program.
3) Tactics. The last piece to the puzzle is your tactic, or action. The dictionary’s definition of tactic is the method or maneuver to achieve a goal. This means your tactic should be a specific action that directly supports your strategy and works to achieve your ultimate goal. For example, if your strategy around increasing awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use is to build alliances and partnerships with schools and youth groups, then a tactic might be to create a peer-to-peer program that teens can promote in their health-education classes. This tactic feeds right back into the objective of increasing awareness. When all three dots connect, that’s when you know your strategic compass is pointing you in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of nonprofits do not prioritize long-term planning and infrastructure building. This can leave today’s leaders unequipped to efficiently and effectively take their organizations to the next level. It’s important to take a step back and ask important questions, which will allow you to begin creating a strategic road map or revisiting the one you already have.
Christa Thomas is co-founder of JC Partners, a Pasadena, Calif.-based provider of fund development and communications plans for nonprofit organizations. She can be reached via www.jcpartners.net