Organizational Planning: How Far Do You Stretch?
Continuous improvement — often incremental — can transform an organization.
There are also times when sudden, dramatic improvement is called for.
Both have implications in nonprofit planning — strategic plans for an organization and development plans for the fundraising function.
This morning I was having breakfast with a friend who was involved in a planning process for his church. He lamented that a church member had suggested that the plan was not "bold" enough. My friend shared that the process of seeking broad insight from church members did not uncover the need or desire for transformational change.
Just last week, I was having the same conversation with the executive director of a nonprofit. One of his board members had suggested that the organization's new strategic plan did not have a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) — really more of a vision statement helping an organization focus on a single, medium to long-term goal made popular by authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in "Built to Last," published 20 years ago.
The executive director was all ready to jump on the BHAG bandwagon. But he had engaged in a comprehensive and objective planning process. I asked him if the data from nearly 1,000 interviews and surveys indicated a need or desire for a BHAG. "No," he shared. Then I asked if this board member or any others called for a BHAG during the process. "No," he shared again.
"Your organization is struggling with its identity and is really divided over any major changes," I suggested. He agreed. Then, I asked, "If you had sought a BHAG, what would probably have happened?"
He thought for a moment and then said, "Probably half the board would have revolted or resigned." He clearly did not have the need to call for a BHAG. The organization was absorbing the impact of a major property acquisition that had yet to be integrated and implemented programmatically.
Both of these circumstances are where continual improvement is needed. No BHAG for just the sake of having a BHAG. That would be influencing a planning process — not facilitating it.
The implications are the same for a development plan. Fundraising goals must be based on real needs — not just a desire to be bigger and better or to be bigger than a competitor.
There are times in an organization's history when a leap in improvement — transformational and fast change — is needed. We see this often. There are also times where ongoing, continuous change is most appropriate — and when accomplished, it also can be transformational.
Be sure that your organization's plans — overall through its strategic plan and with the fundraising plan as well — are grounded in valid needs.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.