Look Long, Gain Much

Every executive can learn to be a capable and successful long-term thinker and planner.  It is a skill that most nonprofit boards value.  However, while they value it, they seldom encourage it and reward it.  That is unfortunate because when executives practice long-term thinking and planning, their nonprofits gain strength, increase sustainability, and benefit in other ways.

Long-term thinking and planning simply takes practice and encouragement.  Practice, of course, means having permission to fail periodically.  In other words, boards can create a great thinker and planner.  They can also allocate funds for training and coaching which will shorten the development time for the executive.

Part of supporting and encouraging an executive to be a long-term thinker and planner is for the board to model those skills.  If the board is unwilling or unable to embrace long-term thinking and planning, it will block the executive’s initiatives.

Benefits available to nonprofits when their board and executive practice long-term thinking and planning are:

Big Picture – Long-term thinking or planning requires looking broadly and deeply in all directions.  When you see the big picture you also see new threats and opportunities.

Strategy – When your board and executive see the big picture and how many things may or will influence critical parts of your nonprofit, it is easier for them to devise strategies that will mitigate threats and enhance opportunities.

Research – The success of every strategy depends on research, experimentation, change, and often innovation.

Competitive Advantage – The mission is always the board and executive’s primary focus.  Therefore, every change enhances the mission or provides additional value to the clients or community.  The additional value enhances the competitive position of the nonprofit as well as helps to keep the mission relevant and sustainable.

Inspiration – People are inspired when they discover how someone plans to make the world a better place for others.  That inspiration translates into more engaged staff members, supporters, and clients.

The biggest obstacle to long-term thinking and planning is finding the time.  Boards often let the urgent delay the important.

Next Step:

Prioritize board long-term thinking and planning by delegating urgent and operational matters to the staff

Create a plan to enhance the board and executive’s long-term thinking and planning skills

Practice long-term thinking and planning at each board meeting

Use the change in the staff’s, supporters’, and clients’ engagement to determine the success of your long-term thinking and planning

If your board and executive grow their long-term thinking and planning skills together, it will enhance the bond between the two.  It will also increase board member engagement and the potential for retaining your executive.

Take It Further:

Recruit board members who have a history of long-term (more than 3 years) thinking and planning

Encourage your executive to hire staff members who have a history of long-term thinking and planning (more than 3 years)

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