Let’s assume you are among the minority of nonprofit agencies who have actually gone through a strategic planning session over the past year or two or even three. In that previous session, your leadership, board, volunteers, funders, and other community members may have worked with an independent facilitator to put together an amazing strategic plan that includes your mission statement, your organizational values, your 5-year vision statement, and perhaps even your objectives, goals and tactics. Why, then, would you ever again need, let alone in the next few years, to hold another strategic planning session? One reason:
Change happens, and if you and your strategic plan do not adapt to change, you become the epitome of obsolescence.
Which changes are likely to turn your strategic plan from beautiful creation to relic? Here are 7, for starters, along with the types of questions your strategic planning group should be asking itself every year, even if you already have a plan in place:
- Economic: Whether the economy improves or spirals down, how might it affect your clients, your employees ,your vendors, and even your policymakers? If the economy goes way south, is our organization prepared financially and do our programs have contingencies to adjust?
- Legal: Speaking of policymakers, many of them see their job as making laws, sometimes even new laws when they are unnecessary. Are you tracking federal and state laws and regulations that affect the way you do business? When a law changes, is replaced or expires, how will that change your own compliance issues?
- Industry-related: What developments in your service sector or industry are changing the way you do business? Who from your organization is attending industry trade group conferences? Is that person attending strategic planning review meetings? What are the critical issues you and your competition are facing together? Is there a need or opportunity to partner with competitors or other organizations to address threats to your industry?
- Competitor-related: With regards to your competition, who is new to your field that may be taking away some of your business, your customers or even your vendors? What are they doing differently than you? How are they innovating? What are your options?
- Technological: Innovation is critical, even in the nonprofit service sector. Technology is, though, not just about innovation. Yes, you want to know if there is new technology that will help you be a more efficient organization, but that technology does not always have to be new. What technological resources does your staff need to be most effective and efficient?
- Staffing: Even when properly fitted with resources, staffing turnover can change your ability to fulfill your mission and achieve your goals. Your strategic planning review meetings need to address staffing changes. Who has left the organization? What were the strategic plan-related assignments that person was involved in? What unique skills and resources did we lose? How are we replacing those and with whom?
- Cultural: This change may not be as quick or noticeable, but it is definitely critical to bear in mind. Look at the headlines and hashtags over the past year and ask your planning meeting participants: “What are the trends in our communities that either require our organization to change the way we get things done or that provide us with an opportunity to build and grow our services?” This is not the same thing as jumping on the bandwagon. This is being aware of shifts within our communities that can fundamentally change the way people see our services and the way our organization can serve our communities.
When the winds of change blow your direction, your organization will either be tossed about as on the waves of the sea or you will harness the power of this wind and sail on to do the greater good that only you can. The end result will depend upon whether you accept and adapt to change or not. Make sure that these conversations are part of your strategic planning and strategic plan evaluations.
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