Truly effective nonprofits operate with a detailed strategic plan, but an effective one takes time to build, and 2023 will be here before you know it. Beginning now will provide you the time to gather input from stakeholders and craft a truly solid plan. Working with an Association Management Company, or AMC, can make this process easier and more effective.
Let’s review the five phases of the strategic planning process and the ways an AMC can help. But first, let’s review Step Zero.
Step Zero: Decide on a Standard or Issue-based Model
Some advice on strategic plans presents five or more types which address specific situations an organization might find itself in. However, you only really need to consider two models: Standard and Issue-based.
The Standard model is the go-to if conditions for your nonprofit are relatively calm. The Issue-based model is designed to focus attention on one or more pressing problems that are affecting your ability to operate successfully.
Decide which of these models fits your current situation, as it will affect the way you construct and implement your plan. Standard plans will tend to be broader and have a longer time horizon; issue-based plans will be more tightly focused and more urgent.
Step One: Evaluate Your Strategic Position Considering Your Mission Statement and a SWOT Analysis
Starting with the “why” of your organization is the best way to evaluate how well you are accomplishing your mission and what needs to change. A SWOT analysis—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—will make these needed changes (and the means to make them successfully) even more clear.
How can an AMC help? AMC personnel are experts in nonprofit operations and can gather the information you need to identify emerging problems and execute a SWOT analysis that covers every important detail. They also know how to make board processes more effective in general.
Step Two: Set Objectives Expressed as SMART Goals
Now you know what opportunities there are to grow, or what problems you need to eliminate to succeed. Create a series of objectives to address them and assign one or more SMART goals to each. SMART is a mnemonic for the best way to construct a goal: It should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound, e.g., having a deadline.
Assign each goal to members of the board of directors, the board itself, subcommittees, staff, or your AMC.
An AMC can help by bringing information to help you craft objectives that are ambitious, but realistically attainable.
Step Three: Create the Plan
This is more than writing a document, though having a polished document you can present to stakeholders is essential. Ensure that as you finalize the plan everyone is certain what it will accomplish, how, when, and why it’s important, as well as how often progress will be checked. A standard plan can cover up to three to five years; an issue-based plan should be for just one year.
An AMC can help you form your plan and create the actual document and the messaging that will help you make the most of it with your stakeholders.
Step Four: Execute and Evaluate Your Plan
As each person or group is given their SMART goals, the gears will begin to turn. The performance of your plan should be examined at least quarterly, with monthly attention to particularly urgent issues. If your board meets less often than that, a subcommittee should keep tabs on it and provide instructions to staff if changes are needed.
An AMC can help execute the items in your plan and prepare reports that keep the board apprised on its effectiveness.
Step Five: Revise Annually
Revising your plan annually will help you refine your planning process, but it will also let you create and implement new goals to replace those you’ve met. Seeing this process in action will help donors and other stakeholders see that you’re a mission-focused organization on the move.
How can an AMC help? At V2, we’ve provided full service and outsourced services for national nonprofits for many years and can deliver the resources and expertise that help you create and execute a solid strategic plan. Get in touch with us today, and let’s see how we can improve your strategic position together.