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Passion, Not Poetry: Strategic Planning that Works

by Molly O'Connell

With perennial budget cuts, the sequester, government shut-down, changes to charitable giving incentives, and increased competition for limited dollars (and the list goes on) these are turbulent times for nonprofits. Good thing Strategic Planning: A Must in Turbulent Times is less than a month away!

In anticipation of this training we asked presenter Gary Stern of Stern Consulting International to remind us why strategic planning is not a chore, but an opportunity.

Gary writes:

Gary Stern

Gary Stern

Last year I had the opportunity to facilitate a strategic planning process with the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.   An environmental blogger summarized that my handiwork was to “Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for directional and informational signage and visitor way-finding…”

I went on to pray publicly that someone other than the person who wrote that sentence be found to write the helpful new signs.

Plans (or signage) as poetry are rare achievements.  Less rare, and of the utmost importance for strategic planning to pay off, is a process that produces a collective commitment to improvement and a passion for visionary change.  That’s what worthwhile planning is about.  A recent comment from an artist on a board here in Maine,

“I get why we need to create a 3-year budget projection with this plan, but I didn’t expect it was another way to challenge our vision and make sure we are solidly behind it.”

The purpose of nonprofit strategic planning is to bring to life the most inspiring vision for the organization and the change it can create in the world.   

The planning process itself is a special time for imagining new accomplishments, grappling with uncertainties and ultimately shaping the organization’s direction.   The result is not to mastermind the future, but to have real goals that enable everyone in the organization to pool their talent and orient their efforts.  Strategic plans should have specific measurable objectives, but also serve as thought frameworks to help make short-term decisions in ever-changing circumstances in light of long-term aims that endure.

At the end of the day, strategic plans only matter if they lead to action and results.

Authors Mike Allison and Jude Kaye, formerly of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services point out,

“Good strategic plans have two dimensions:  one you can touch, and one you can only feel.  The first is, of course, the written document.  The second is the organizational consensus and commitment to the priorities outlined in the document.” 

Here’s a simple sign: Strategic Planning:  This Way to Our Future.

Take the Next Step

Explore the right time and approach for your organization to make the most of a strategic planning process. Join Gary on November 20th from 9:00am – 12:00pm in Portland. You can event stay for lunch after the training to chat further with him.

Can’t Attend this SkillBuilder?

3 thoughts on “Passion, Not Poetry: Strategic Planning that Works

Nanette says:

I will be responsible for updating our current 3-year strategic plan next year, as Pres of the board. I am currently VP. Would this course be helpful if one already has a strategic plan or is it strictly for beginners?

Molly O'Connell says:

Hi Nanette,

Thanks for your question! We believe that the workshop’s material will still be relevant and beneficial for individuals who have some personal experience already, and/or whose organizations have a strategic plan in place that is reaching its end. The training will cover things to consider each time you take on a strategic planning process.

We’ve also reached out to our presenter to see if he has any insights he’d like to share and will email you directly if he can add further detail to our response.

Take care,

Nanette says:

That sounds good. Thank you!

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