By Guest Contributor Katelyn Murphy McCarthy
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That's what you get when you Google Strategic Planning Process. The Google search links to scholarly articles, general guidelines, ads for templates and consultants, and lots of do-it-yourself models. There is no shortage of information about strategic planning.
Undoubtedly, a strategic plan is a comprehensive yet easily readable document that serves as a roadmap to the future, keeping the organization on track while maintaining focus on mission and vision. Good strategic plan goals are quantifiable and reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Surely then, every nonprofit organization has a strategic plan, right? Well…maybe not.
Over half of nonprofits lack a current strategic plan
“Maybe they had one in 1976, or one that ended in 2016," according to Dolph Goldenburg, firm principal with the Goldenburg Group. "Those that have a strategic plan often do it because a funder requires it. Sometimes the executive director and board chair throw it together, ask for board approval, and call it a strategic plan. And a number of organizations use consultants who claim to be able to deliver a strategic plan for $500-$1,000.”
Goldenburg has participated in strategic planning processes from multiple viewpoints: twice as an executive director, multiple times as a board member, once as a board chair, and many times as the facilitating consultant.
"I've taken the best of strategic planning from each experience, and combined them into a process I call Participatory Strategic Planning.”
Participatory Strategic Planning
The participatory planning process starts with the formation of a work group. The consultant designs a comprehensive environmental scan for the work group to complete, and an important component of the scan is the identification and interviewing of key stakeholders. Analysis of financial trends, programmatic outcomes, fundraising assessment, board effectiveness and future trends are also developed and reviewed by the work group.
At a full board retreat, the work group presents its findings and recommendations for the board’s consideration and feedback. Following the retreat, the consultant and work group develop tactical plans for achieving the agreed-upon goals, and a final strategic plan is approved by the full board.
A unique aspect of Goldenburg's process is quarterly check-ins with the director and board chair for a full year after the strategic plan is approved. Following each check-in, Goldenburg prepares a report for the board to review.
What does this look in real life?
Two Atlanta-area nonprofits recently went through the Participatory Strategic Planning process with The Goldenburg Group. Each brought unique needs to the table, and they will be featured in upcoming blog posts this month.