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Forte Foundation

4 Times When A Nonprofit Needs a Strategic Plan

Call me biased, but I think most nonprofits should have a strategic plan, and I mean a good strategic plan, not a bad one. But many don’t. And I get it, sometimes a nonprofit simply doesn’t have the time, energy or resources to devote to a good strategic planning process. But there are some particular times when a nonprofit simply will not be successful without one.

Let me give you an example, Forte Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on getting more women into business careers, wanted to double their reach and impact but didn’t know how to grow or create a sustainable financial model to sustain that kind of growth. At the same time, the organization was trying to be too many things resulting in their small staff being pulled in too many directions. The organization needed to figure out how to focus their resources in order to grow and become more financially sustainable.

Elissa Sangster, Executive Director of Forte Foundation, hired me to lead a strategic planning effort to result in a 4-year strategic plan. I led a strategy committee comprised of school, corporate, and organization board members to conduct market research on trends in the marketplace, analyze key strategic decisions, revise the organization’s vision and mission statements, develop a 4-year budget, and create measurable, executable 4-year goals and objectives. The resulting plan allowed Forte to dramatically increase their impact, while focusing their resources. Once the plan was adopted by the board of directors, I then worked with Elissa to create an annual diversified financial plan to fully fund the costs of the strategic plan.

With a new strategic plan and financial plan in place, Forte is moving forward on growth. Their staff and board now have a much clearer idea of the organization’s value and focus. And they are committed to growing the organization and the revenue to fund it. Forte plans to hire a new Development Director and launch their first ever major donor campaign in the coming months, setting them up for the growth they have envisioned.

So when does a strategic plan really make sense for a nonprofit? Here are the top 4 times:

  1. You Want to Grow. As Forte, and many of my other clients,  discovered, you cannot double, triple or more the work you do in the community without a comprehensive plan for how you will grow operations, staffing, and funding, and make that growth sustainable.

  2. You Want to Raise More Money. It is simply a fact that you will attract more and bigger dollars if you have a clear strategy for the future and a plan that ensures that strategy will actually come to fruition. Without a strategic plan, you are simply asking people to give to your “cause”. That will only get you so far.

  3. You Want to Wake Up Your Board. Board engagement does not come from some magic pill you secretly feed to your board at a meeting. An engaged, excited, invested board is what happens when you give your board the opportunity to come up with a future direction for the organization and determine how they as individuals and as a group fit into it.

  4. You Want to Change Your Program Model. Sometimes because of changing client needs, increasing competition from other providers, changes to government regulations, or other internal or external factors, a nonprofit needs to shift their operating model. But you can’t make a significant change without a plan.

It cannot be denied, there are key times when flying without a plan will get you nowhere. If you are serious about changing business as usual, then you need a strategic plan to get you there. If you’d like to learn more about how I help nonprofits develop a comprehensive strategic plan, check out my Strategic Planning Consulting Service.

Photo Credit: Lauren Tucker Photography

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