3 Steps to Bring Your Strategic Plan to Life

Does your organization have a current strategic plan? Is that plan embedded into everything your organization is doing? As nonprofit consultants, we often get asked, “How do we move from planning to doing when we’ve completed our strategic planning process?”

The strategic planning process is a lot of work, and no one wants all that time and effort to be wasted. We embark on the process to help our organization chart a course for the future, and the end result must be an actionable plan for the next three to five years.

As part of the Nonprofit Effectiveness Framework, we challenge nonprofits to consider the following question:

True or false: My organization has a strategic plan that guides our daily work.

What we’ve heard is that while many nonprofits do have a strategic plan, fully integrating it into day-to-day operations is a struggle. The strategic plan shouldn’t be something that sits on a shelf collecting dust for years. Instead, it should serve as a tool to help organizations stay on the right path in order to achieve greater impact

A Tool for Discussion

Commit to making the strategic plan an item of discussion at leadership team and staff meetings on a regular basis. It is vital to discuss your strategic plan with your staff often and help each staff member understand how his or her roles and responsibilities are vital to achieving the goals of the strategic plan.

  • Action item for leadership: Encourage department leaders to discuss the strategic plan on a regular basis at team meetings and individual check-ins.
  • Action item for all staff: Connect employee performance goals to strategic plan goals. Review each employee’s goals often to ensure continued alignment with the strategic plan.

A Tool for Tracking and Reporting

Set up a system to regularly track, analyze and report on key metrics included in the strategic plan.

  • Action Item for the board: One of the top responsibilities of a nonprofit Board of Directors is ensuring strategic direction, so it is essential that the board has a clear way to monitor the plan’s progress at a high level, particularly any metrics related to the board’s own work. Create a dashboard to share with the board that outlines the key goals of the strategic plan. The National Council of Nonprofits recommends including a short discussion about some part of the nonprofit’s strategic plan on every board meeting agenda.
  • Action item for staff: Help your staff to keep the goals of the strategic plan top of mind by creating a dashboard that highlights the progress the organization is making toward each goal. Share the dashboard quarterly and facilitate a discussion about the key metrics of the strategic plan. Be sure to celebrate your successes along the way! Remember that your staff are at the heart of delivering on your organization’s mission, and it is critical that they understand their role in contributing to the success of the organization. Develop work plans that clarify expectations and how specific tasks relate to larger strategic goals.

A Tool for Decision Making

Use your strategic plan goals as a filter for organizational decision making. Whenever a decision needs to be made, always start by reviewing the strategic plan to ensure that the decision-making process is rooted in the plan’s objectives. Which goals does this help you further? How are you addressing it in other ways? What is the cost-benefit based on your desired ultimate impact?

  • Action item: Create a simple, one-pager of the strategic plan goals for each employee and ask them to hang it up in their office or cubicle.

Your strategic plan is your North Star. Allow it to guide your organization and show you the way. When you make the plan part of your daily work, the sky’s the limit.

Ready to dive in to your own strategic planning process? Join us on for the upcoming Strategic Business Planning Intensive on May 19th designed to help staff and board leadership teams identify key questions and map the strategic planning process that best meets their unique organizational needs.

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