We often get calls from nonprofits asking them if we can help them with a strategic plan. The typical calls starts with something like this: “Our last strategic plan is about to run out and we need to update it. Can you help us? Three years ago when we did this we held a board retreat and a special staff meeting and came up with our goals and objectives. We think that process will work again.”
As we talk further about current realities, more complexity emerges:
- Our founding executive director plans to retire in 2 years.
- Our decades-old service organization is being pushed by some of our funders and board members to consider the long-time structural barriers that have kept our clients in poverty.
- We see value in being involved in partnerships yet our current funding sources don't allow us to dedicate time to multiple meetings with no clear outcomes.
- Our revenues are shrinking because the organizations that once paid membership dues to demonstrate support for our mission now demand more tangible value.
- Given our visible role in recent policy battles, national funders are more interested in our work. We don’t know what work to prioritize.
When we hear these types of statements, our ears perk up and we move to the edge of our seat. The work that we are being asked to do is not the typical technical work of creating a strategic plan. It’s not about a small group of leaders gathering in a room to conduct a SWOT analysis and articulate goals and objectives.