Posted on April 2, 2014

5 Tips for Leading Your Non-Profit through Strategic Planning

Over the past decade, the number of non-profits has grown by 30 percent, increasing the competition for funding and top-caliber talent. Executive directors and board members need to think more strategically to keep their organizations healthy, but major roadblocks often stand between non-profits and strategic planning.

Non-profit consultant Jane Page-Steiner’s recent Paycor webinar delineated for non-profits how to conduct successful strategic planning, including the following five tips.

1. Demonstrate commitment from leadership

Many organizations are focused on day-to-day issues and putting out routine administrative fires, but leaders must prioritize long-term strategy. There’s no trick to doing that; it’s simply a matter of making the decision at the leadership level and committing to carving out time. To do so, executive directors might need to delegate some tasks to other committees or staff members to free up their schedules.

Once strategic planning has been conducted, leadership must maintain focus on the plan, work to change organizational behavior and structure and develop the resources to implement the plan.

2. Conduct pre-planning

Identify three to six people to make up a pre-planning team that will steer the planning process, working with a combination of board and staff leadership and possibly an outside consultant. This will make meetings with the full board much more productive.

Pre-planning should include:

* Defining objectives and the scope of planning: Does the organization need to revisit its vision and mission? Will the new plan be internal or broad and community-based? What will be the duration of the new plan period?
* Determining the planning timeline: Generally, it’s three to six months or even as long as a year, depending on how much pre-work is done.
* Preparing documents and planning agenda.
* Assessing your current status. Each board member will see the organization somewhat differently. It can be helpful to conduct surveys or one-on-one interviews to paint the full picture. Those tactics, as well as focus groups and community research, can help you understand the community’s perception of your organization and provide feedback on ideas for new programming.

3. Perform an internal analysis

When you take a deeper look at your organization, consider these five key points:

* Financial status and trends: Do you need to replace major equipment or conduct a capital campaign? Is your fundraising program providing enough revenue to sustain your work?
* Current programs and services: Are they still effective? Do any need to be tweaked or even eliminated?
* Organizational and board performance: How is the board performing? How could its members be more effective?
* Structures and staffing: Do you need new leadership? Are all committees necessary and functional?
* Bylaws and policies: Are your key documents updated and relevant? It’s helpful to create a board retreat packet in advance so important papers can be referred to throughout planning meetings.

4. Consider areas of focus

Think about your organization’s priorities as you determine which need to be addressed during strategic planning. For example:

* Mission and programming: Are there programs you want to launch or enhance? To do so, do you need to develop any key partnerships?
* Leadership development: Do you need to hire more staff? Do you need to develop your board? Does it have the right makeup of skills and connections?
* Sustainability and revenue development: Run a deep analysis of the current situation as well as financial trends. Do you see any opportunity to create a social enterprise?
* Marketing: What's the perception of your organization in the community? How can you have a higher profile and be more recognized?

5. Communicate the results

Once your plan is in place, share the outcome of your hard work, both internally and externally.

Within the community, publicize your highest priorities and your focal points for the plan’s duration.

Within your organization, as you move forward, don’t forget to share progress on the plan with staff and volunteers. Remember that you can (and should) make adjustments to the plan if something just isn’t working, and make a point of thanking and recognizing everyone whose work supports the plan.


For more expert advice from Jane Page-Steiner, *download her recent Paycor webinar

And if you’re inspired to focus on strategy but feel too pressed for time, explore the ways Paycor’s HR and payroll technology can put an end to manual processes and disconnected data throughout your organization, allowing you and your staff to focus on the mission. View this 2-minute demo and contact a Paycor representative for additional information.