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Look Beyond the Present

Preparing a nonprofit for the future is the primary reason to have a strategic plan.  Creating the strategic plan is primarily the responsibility of the board. A successful strategic plan depends on input from the executive and staff and requires that everyone look beyond the present.

A strategic plan developed 10 years ago is unlikely to have predicted many of the social, economic, political, or technical changes that have happened. However, it could anticipate that changes would occur.  An employment services nonprofit might have had a goal in its strategic plan like, “Prepare our clients to be consistently employed for at least 10 years after exiting our program.”

For the past 100 years, adaptability has been something every employee has needed.  The need for it has been intensifying during that time.  Similarly, as the world has become more complex, problem solving has become more important.  The employment services agency easily could have assumed that its clients would have to be better at both of those skills today than they were 10-years ago.  Part of that anticipatory process might have been to place an emphasis on honing those skills through their programing.

Today, the agency could survey its clients to see if they have been consistently employed over the past 10 years and what could have prevented some from having inconsistent employment.  Doing that would allow the nonprofit to report to its donors on its success.  It would have evidence of its value to its community (consistent employment).  It would also point out how to strengthen the programing.  The goal plus the emphasis on particular skills (adaptability and problem solving) would have helped the staff to evolve the programing as the marketplace’s demands for those skills evolved.  The constant evolution plus the look back both contribute to increasing the nonprofit’s sustainability as well as helping everyone remain mission focused.

By setting a 10-year goal, the board is doing its job of preparing the nonprofit for the future.  It also causes the staff to look beyond helping the clients write a resume and develop interview skills toward skills that will enhance their employability.  In combination, the board and staff create a strategic plan that is effective and realistic.  Some of the collateral benefits of the plan and collaboration are increased sustainability, greater value for the community, more durable outcomes for the clients, and evidence of success.

Next Step:

Ask your board to revisit your strategic plan and increase its future focus, practicality, and usability

Ask your board to create goals that will increase the value, sustainability, and durability of your client outcomes

Translate the board’s goals into intentional, meaningful, and measureable components of your programing

Ask your donors for their comments on your strategic plan, goals, and programing changes

It is the board’s responsibility with the staff’s help to create the strategic plan.  However, the plan will fail without donor support.  Therefore, it is important to share the plan and its major components with the donors. Changing the plan after the donor review is unlikely to be necessary. However, it is very likely that you will want to rephrase parts of the plan to increase your donors’ understanding, support, and enthusiasm for your mission.

Take It Further:

Use the same process to create a funding strategy where the emphasis is on the donors rather than the money, and the timeframe of the plan is aligned with the needs of the strategic plan

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