A Strategic Plan is a road map to lead an organization from where it is now to where it would like to be in the future. It must be flexible, practical, written, and simple.
While a strategic plan is good in theory, it is only good in practice if you have buy-in and have involved the right people. Success lies in getting involvement from all parts of the organization, so you should actively recruit support. A Strategic Plan should lead to action and build a shared vision of your organization’s values. But it also needs to be based on data and grounded in reality, that includes being sensitive to the external environment in which your organization is currently operating.
A strategic plan should include the following main sections plus appendices for the budget, organizational structure, and metrics.
Vision Statement - The purpose of a vision statement is to describe a shared picture of the future you seek to create. The vision is the highest aspiration the organization can strive to attain. The vision statement should be both realistic and ambitious. Engage the planning committee around questions to help identify what future you seek to create and what you ultimately hope to accomplish as a result of your work.
Mission Statement - The mission statement describes what an organization plans to do today to make the world a better place for tomorrow. It serves two purposes: to help guide and focus the organization, and to inform others about what the organization does. A mission statement should be short enough to remember yet strong enough to inspire. To develop your mission statement, your planning committee should focus on why your organization exists, what it does, and whom it serves.
Value Statement - Where missions and visions may change, an organization’s values should serve as an institutional compass assuring that evolution over time does not erode the core character of the institution. A value statement tends to be longer and is often in more of a list format than the mission or vision statements. Engage your planning committee around what are our organization’s core values as you develop your values statements.
Strategic Objective - The strategic objective sets the context for the strategic plan. It defines the overarching goal of the plan. It is a broadly defined objective that an organization must achieve to make its strategy succeed. The planning committee should explore the critical issues facing your organization in the next 3 years, and the priorities and accomplishments you hope to achieve in this time frame.
Goals, Objectives, Tactics - Develop the goals, objectives, and tactics over a series of meetings, and focus your planning committee on developing draft goals that capture your intended results for the next 3 years. You should ensure your draft goals fit together in a unified strategy and prioritize the issues under each goal in order of importance and add or subtract as needed. Then create action statements for the tactics under each goal, being sure to determine the who, how, and when for each.
In our experience helping nonprofit organizations with strategic planning over the years, JGA has developed some best practices we encourage organizations to incorporate into their planning.
- Create a strategic planning committee - It is important for the strategic planning process to be led by a strong volunteer and staff group that is representative of the organization’s key stakeholders.
- Assess the current state of the organization - Review the outcomes of the most recent plan and build consensus around the most critical issues facing the organization today.
- Develop specific elements of the plan - The core of the planning process is the sequential development of the strategic plan elements, beginning with the overarching goals and progressing through the more detailed and measurable objectives and tactics. These are then further developed into action steps with specific metrics, timelines, and assignments.
- Test elements of the plan - At some point in the strategic planning process, test some or all of the strategic plan with a broader audience beyond the organization. Test the goals and objectives with key stakeholders during the planning process to get an external perspective on the planning process in real time.
- Develop supporting materials - Develop materials that support the implementation of the strategic plan, including budgets, development plans, facilities plans, and other organizational infrastructure planning.
- Approving the plan - The board of directors should be informed each step of the way prior to being asked to approve the plan. Board approval should not be taken lightly – the board is approving the road map for the future.