The bottom line is that the most effective nonprofits I know, do not hesitate to invest in planning and thinking strategically. Conversely, those nonprofits with an uncertain future choose to focus on the immediate rather than the long view. The future is coming and inaction is not an option. It is up to the leadership of nonprofits to Shape, Adapt, or Reserve. The choice is yours.
Taken together, when a nonprofit organization thoughtfully engages in the development of strategies focused on values, competencies, impact, leverage and sustainability, I have confidence that the adjectives of new and better will follow. However, starting with new and better may not necessarily lead to the stronger foundations of an organization. So when it comes to developing nonprofit strategy, nouns are indeed more useful than verbs.
Relational philanthropy is gaining momentum and, while it may not be the norm (yet), we need to start adopting a philosophy that is aligned with erasing the power differential between philanthropy and nonprofit organizations.
The changes in the nonprofit funding landscape continues to shift from “what was” to “what will be” and those nonprofits with the mindset and supporting planning discipline will be best able to capitalize on the changing trends. For development professionals, especially those flying solo or who are part of a small shop, the stakes of thinking and planning are even higher. Planning can’t be squeezed in between prospect calls, and the annual fund letter but needs to be an intentional part of your nonprofit’s DNA.
Yesterday’s thinking and keeping your organization on “solid ground” is not enough any more. Organizations need to plan and act strategically, build on strengths, and myopically think about relevancy, focus, action, and accountability. Those that embrace this ethos are leaders both today and tomorrow. Indeed, nonprofit strategic planning is at the heart of this leadership. So what are you waiting for?
Strategic planning is not dead. What is (or should be) dead is the pedestrian and un-strategic way many approach planning and/or the inability to use a plan effectively after it is written. To argue that planning is dead is nonsensical and it is time to dismantle the lame excuses we use to avoid planning.
Wow. Nearly a third of nonprofits don’t use a written annual budget? That number holds true of nonprofits with budgets of over 1 million dollars. Really? Nearly 60% of nonprofit agencies don’t have a strategic plan? Over 80% have no business plan? Only one out of ten nonprofits are guided by a theory of change or a logic model? These are stunning numbers. Add to that that few are developing succession plans to manage transitions, and the profile of nonprofit effectiveness in our region becomes disturbing.
As an opening premise to strategic thinking, I contend that the foundation for nonprofit strategy is an organization’s theory of change. A theory of change describes how your nonprofit organization connects its activities to create a pathway towards the goals and outcomes associated with your organizational mission. In some cases, your organization’s theory of change may be quite simple and in other cases your theory can be quite complex. The classic illustration of a theory of change is the story of the village on the river…
True evaluation of a nonprofit consultant, involves assessing a consultant’s experience, hourly rate, in the context of the the complexity of the task with a clearly defined project approach and scope of work. Smart Nonprofit leaders recognize this and go through the due diligence of an RFP when seeking consultant.
In this article, I outline five anchors to a nonprofit strategic plan. There are many models of strategic planning used by nonprofit consultants. Unfortunately, many of these models are hopelessly genetic, come out of a textbook and provide little useful guidance for nonprofit leaders. It is no wonder that so few nonprofits invest the time in developing a written plan.