I help CEOs, boards, and executive teams create more sustainable futures for their nonprofits.
We all know that we need a plan, but we also know that planning can be a pain. No doubt you’ve heard these complaints (or maybe muttered them yourself):
- Planning takes too long. The plan’s out of date before we’re done.
- It’s too exhausting. Everyone groans when they hear the words “strategic planning.”
- It feels like an empty exercise. The board never follows up.
- We’re too busy to plan.
So it’s not surprising that 55% of nonprofits don’t have a plan or their plan is out of date. And 42% of those that do have a plan don’t regularly track progress — those painfully created and expensive plans are gathering dust rather than serving as living guides.
There are many problems with traditional approaches to planning.
Here’s how I can help you plan better:
Start with your organization’s burning questions. At any point, there’s a handful of “burning questions” your organization faces. Questions that your plan must answer. Before we start planning, we’ll identify those questions.
Match the approach to your organization’s situation. I draw on a broad collection of planning tools and match the planning approach to the organization’s size, scale, planning history, operating condition, environmental uncertainty, and so forth.
Make sure your business model works. Outdated business models are the Achilles’ heel of many nonprofits, but old-school strategic planning rarely looks at this fundamental element. We’ll assess and strengthen the business model and ensure that everyone in the organization understands it.
Emphasize mission outcomes. We’ll start by clarifying your organization’s social impact vision — how the world will be different as a result of its work. And, at the other end of the process, we’ll identify the impact measures and the dashboards that will keep everyone focused and on the same page.
Engage, align, and energize the team. Organizations put too much focus on the plan document as if it were an end in itself. The real product of planning is a clear sense of direction and a team that’s engaged, aligned, and energized. My planning projects are an “all leaders on deck exercise” — a joint governance and management project.
Emphasize follow-through. Too many organizations exhaust themselves creating the plan and they underinvest in follow-through. Planning shouldn’t be episodic; rather, it’s an ongoing strategic dialogue. I’ll help you frame and structure that dialogue.
Provide a planning framework that’s solid on direction and flexible on means. For some institutions, traditional strategic planning is just right. But for most organizations, it isn’t nimble enough. I start with the most agile framework that the organization’s complexity and situation will allow.
Advance organizational sustainability. Sustainability isn’t solely a financial issue or a fundraising problem; it’s a function of strengths in six fundamental areas. We’ll assess those fundamentals so the plan can focus on strengthening the priority areas.