Strategic Planning for Non-Profits

Making Your Strategic Plan More Clear

In a 2014 survey of over 2,100 non-profits by The Non-profit Marketing Guide, a majority of non-profits identified a "clear strategy" as their number one challenge. Considering how important the "big picture" is to Non-profit, it surprised me that they identified "clear strategy" as a challenge. 

 Apparently non-profits are falling prey to the temptation of letting budgets, tactics, outcomes, and the personal whims of management replace the ultimate purpose for which the enterprise was founded. As the strategic planning process passes year after year through more and more hands, a clear statement of purpose can easily become obscured. 

 When the Harvard Business School developed the Harvard Policy Model in the 1920's, government and business began to adopt the strategic planning concepts that were first conceived by the Greeks in 500 B.C. Our term "strategy" derives from the Greek "strategos," which means literally, "general of the army." The strategoi (generals) gave strategic advice about managing battles to win wars, rather than tactical advice about managing troops to win battles. This perspective has been handed down to our modern military, government, and, finally, corporations and non-profit organizations. 

 What does "managing battles to win wars" mean to a modern non-profit organization? What is the difference between tactics and strategy? What is a goal? What is a mission? Who are the stakeholders? What about budgets? Donations? Donors? Volunteers? 

 For non-profits, the road back to a clear strategy is through common sense and plain speak. The strategic planning process has become bogged down in academic jargon and mental artifice. Terms like macro-environment, formulation, internal rate of return, implementation, incrementation, etc. obscure clear thought and communication. 

 Strategic planning is nothing more than a focused thought process designed to keep complex organizations working toward a clear mission. Any intellectual artifice that dilutes focus is detrimental to formulating a clear strategy. Let's get back to asking our organizations frank questions and demanding straight forward answers. 

 Try the following questions. 

Collect and collate the answers. 

See what you have left. 

    1.       What are we all doing here, anyway? 

2.      What problem are we trying to solve? 

3.      Who is the primary beneficiary? 

4.      Who else benefits? 

5.      What is preventing us from solving the problem? 

6.      How do we eliminate that obstacle? 

7.      What's my part in the solution? 

8.     How do we know if we've solved the problem? 

9.      How do I benefit? 

10.  What do we do next? 

 When the straightforward answers to these simple questions are collected from the entire organization, your strategic plan will write itself.