Strategic Planning Primer

Many nonprofits start the new year with goals of crafting a new strategic plan. January is a great time to elevate out of the day-to-day and to think about your organization’s strategic direction.

Every strategic plan is written in the context of external factors that are outside the organization’s control — the economy, public policy and election cycles, population and demographic shifts, workforce disruptions, global affairs, public health risks, and more.

When we pause to consider external factors at play in 2024, it can be overwhelming.

Some current external factors include the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, November’s presidential election, inflation and the risk of recession, lack of affordable housing, the southern border immigration crisis, and the overall civic climate of division and mistrust. All of these factors impact nonprofit missions and can create tremendous uncertainty for leadership as they seek to plan.

One way to mitigate the uncertainty is to create a near-term strategic plan, which we call strategic visioning. Trying to think about a three- to five-year strategic plan in this environment can seem incomprehensible.

Our strategic visioning process focuses on the next 18-24 months, which creates a dynamic plan that leadership can get their arms around. It’s also a highly efficient process that can be completed in three months. When that happens, there is a sense of immediacy and relevancy that leadership recognizes and values.

As you think about your next plan, we encourage you to consider a near-term plan instead of a long-range plan. The more we can break big things down into incremental parts, the more progress we can make.

We also invite you to review some of our former columns that provide strategic planning guidance.

Best wishes as you navigate planning for, and operating in, this monumental year. If our team can help you craft a near-term plan, send me a message to get started.

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