Starting a New Strategic Plan

May 24, 2011

Posted in Strategic Planning.

Pepe and Memere photo by

I started sharing articles about non-profit strategic planning back when the Camp Fire council started its planning process in 2008. By the end of 2009, we had a plan in place and were working toward those goals. We made a ton of progress, but since then we’ve adjusted and adapted – exactly what you should do for any plan. However, we also took a major step and sold a piece of property. This was a shortcut and drastically changes the remaining work in our existing plan.

Originally, it was intended as a 5-year plan. But it wasn’t quite that detailed and we were able to do some things quicker than others. So here we are, halfway through the schedule, and the plan is largely useless. Fortunately, we’re asking the right questions about the future.

So we’re starting a new plan, and I’m leading the planning effort (this time with fewer distractions). Here’s how I’m starting our strategic plan:

Create your plan for the plan

I want to lay out the steps that need to go into this plan, including research, benchmarking, specific activities, and plenty of time for discussions. We should have dates and deadlines as well, for various responsibilities and for drafts of the plan elements. Since our board meets monthly, and the summer is a very busy time with camp and people’s vacations, we can’t expect a ton of extra meetings. So the schedule should account for that. Check out a sample strategic planning schedule.

Set expectations.

Some of our board members were around for the first planning process. Others have done this in other organizations. Some are completely new to it. It’s important to get everyone on the same page with regard to the purpose of a strategic plan, timing for creating it, and how we’ll use it once it’s compiled. If people think this is quick and easy, or that our work is done once a plan is approved, this will all fall apart.

Schedule meetings early

If you’re like me, you do what your calendar tells you to do. So it’s best to get on calendars now, before they fill up. I’m going to schedule the meetings months ahead of time and try to carve out time in each board meeting for continued discussion. That way we can ensure that people are included even if they have to miss a meeting here or there.

Identify your doers

In any organization, there are some who are simply more active than others. Figure out who the people are who really want to be involved and will make time to do so. Get them into key roles. If you have a critical stakeholder who isn’t going to be very active, involve her with separate meetings or interviews – not by giving her a lot of responsibilities.

Start strategic planning right away

We have energy around looking forward, thinking strategically, and needing plans to guide our fundraising, facilities, programs, etc. So there’s no better time to start the planning process than right now. We’re going to kick it off with a meeting and mission, vision, and SWOT.

Want to comment? Send me a note on Twitter or email me.