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Strategic Planning: Developing a Common Vision

Close your eyes and try to imagine the differing ideas and perspectives that various stakeholders have about your organization’s future. Does your board think about the future the same way your staff thinks about it? What about your clients and consumers? And, what do your funders, supporters, and even potential funders have to say about your future?

Coauthors

The contributors of this article are Lynne T. Dean, CFRE and Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE.

Nonprofit Strategic Planning - the Manual

They are the coauthors of Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Develop a Plan That Will Actually Be Used! published by CharityChannel Press.

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We have good news for you. Your completed strategic plan can integrate these diverse perspectives into a well-crafted vision of your organization’s future. No matter how large the differences may seem among your various stakeholders, you will find that this diverse group can play a significant, even vital role in your planning process. They will have an opportunity to be heard. They will bring differing perspectives and ideas on everything from organizational resources to potential obstacles to priority action areas. And, believe it or not, your organization will benefit by listening and working through these widely varying viewpoints.

For example, we see organizations struggling with board members who have different ideas than staff members. Rather than limit the planning process to only board members or only staff members, most organizations find it helpful and refreshing to bring everyone together, recognize differences, and even incorporate some of these varying views into the process.

The end product—or your shared vision—will reflect the culmination of your work together throughout the planning process and will enable each contributor to “have ownership” and feel a part of its creation. Another benefit of this inclusive approach is that you and your stakeholders may discover an exciting energy and enthusiasm for moving forward on identifying the path to achieving that desired future.

Increasing Sustainability

Strategic planning often lays the groundwork for development planning and these two levels of planning have a major impact on the sustainability of an organization. Before we go any further, though, we want to emphasize that your strategic plan should not simply say what your funders want you to say to get funding or be a response to an item in a grant application. Remember the importance of diverse perspectives we talked about earlier?

We all agree that funding has significant impact on sustainability. And a successful development plan will generally start with the strategic plan and then add such elements as the case for support and an outline of how donors will be identified, cultivated, and asked to give.

Definition

Strategic Plans are the basis for department action plans:

  • development plan
  • program plan
  • facilities plan
  • marketing plan
  • governance plan
  • financial plan

But sustainability really includes more than organizational funding. Sustainability also relates to the programs and services your nonprofit provides or seeks to provide. Throughout the planning process, your organization and your stakeholders have the opportunity to look at what you do, or its particular service niche, as well as funding strategies for ensuring that you can manage and operate those services.

In addition to closely reviewing your organization’s current areas of service, the participants in your planning process may also identify areas of service that can be changed if funds are lacking. They may also pinpoint service areas that might benefit if more funding becomes available. You can thus directly connect strategic planning to sustainability in programs and services and have more clarity as you make critical decisions in the future.

So, yes, you can certainly develop and include information required on grant applications and proposals about planning. But this information really shouldn’t be a substitute for the strategic planning process. You will need a case for support, but often the case can be developed by building on the strategic plan.

Maybe your organizational budget includes restricted funds that are tied to a specific donor’s requirements. These restrictions, however, should not define or be part of your overall strategy. We emphasize here and throughout this workbook that strategic planning is a process. And, yes, that process is different for different organizations.

Lynne T. Dean

About the Contributor: Lynne T. Dean

Lynne T. Dean, CFRE is Managing Associate of Dean and Associates and Director of Institutional Advancement at Northwest Vista College, a part of the Alamo Colleges system in San Antonio, Texas. With more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit marketing and fundraising, she has received the CFRE designation, a level of recognition obtained by completing extensive training and testing and exhibiting the highest levels of professionalism and talent in the field. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and has also completed special studies in journalism.

Nonprofit Strategic Planning - the ManualLynne is the coauthor of Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Develop a Plan That will Actually Be Used! and contributing author to YOU and Your Nonprofit: Practical Advice and Tips from the CharityChannel Professional Community.

YOU and Your NonprofitDean and Associates, a full-service nonprofit consulting company, specializes in planning and implementing capital and endowment campaigns. The firm also provides counsel and direct assistance in major gifts and planned giving, foundation research and proposal preparation, strategic planning, board development, annual fundraising and marketing and community relations.Lynne was a key part of the More than Houses campaign, which raised more than six hundred million dollars for Habitat for Humanity International. In addition to her work with Habitat affiliates in Dallas, Lynne was a key part of the More than Houses campaign, which raised more than six hundred million dollars for Habitat for Humanity International. In addition to her work with Habitat affiliates in Dallas, Denver, and Spokane, she has conducted successful fundraising activities and campaigns for nonprofits in healthcare, human services, education and arts and culture.Her capital campaign experience includes service with two major consulting firms and direction of campaign feasibility and planning studies and campaigns for health, human services and arts and cultural organizations in Oklahoma and Central and South Texas. She also serves as an Affiliate Consultant for Greenlights for NonProfit Success.

Her capital campaign experience includes service with two major consulting firms and direction of campaign feasibility and planning studies and campaigns for health, human services and arts and cultural organizations in Oklahoma and Central and South Texas. She also serves as an Affiliate Consultant for Greenlights for NonProfit Success.In addition to serving on the Association of Fundraising Professionals External Communications Committee and the American Association of Museums Development and Membership Standing Committee Executive Board, she has also served on numerous local and regional boards of directors. She is involved in the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning and serves on the board of directors of the San Antonio chapter. Her activities also include serving on the board of directors of the San Antonio chapter of AFP.

In addition to serving on the Association of Fundraising Professionals External Communications Committee and the American Association of Museums Development and Membership Standing Committee Executive Board, she has also served on numerous local and regional boards of directors. She is involved in the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning and serves on the board of directors of the San Antonio chapter. Her activities also include serving on the board of directors of the San Antonio chapter of AFP.

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