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Think of a location across town, a grocery store, for example. There is probably more than one way to get there. There’s a short way, a long way, the scenic way, and the way with the most traffic, etc. None of those ways are inherently bad, and each might serve a purpose. For example, if you are right in the middle of cooking dinner and forgot an ingredient, you’ll probably take the short way. A stressful day? Perhaps the scenic route. Maybe you need to just get out of the house, so you take the long way. I’m not really sure why anyone would take the one with most traffic, but it’s still an option.
When nonprofits set their 10-15 year goals, how do they accomplish it? Well, it better be strategic and documented because it’s common that non-profit Boards are volunteer led and there’s usually turn-over due to term limits. Also, the strategies are often executed by a blend of staff and committee leaders, and there is opportunity for turn over there as well.
Let’s say that the association wants to achieve 85% market share of members by year 2032 – that’s a big goal for some organizations! I’d imagine that your mind is lighting up with all kinds of ideas for how to accomplish this. If you shared this big goal with your team, then they will have their own unique ideas as well. BUT without deciding together what the best “how” is (via -a strategic plan), all of these ideas could be implemented. The resources, of course, would be competing (human and financial) and therefore the initiatives might not be as effective. There are so many ways to get to the goal (and the grocery store), but only one is the best fit and when you are a team, everyone should be using the same roadmap to get there.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important for nonprofits to have strategic planning sessions every few years. In those sessions, they’ll likely review the big goals (the ones that take 10-15 years to accomplish) and measure their progress in accomplishing it. If the big goals haven’t been set yet, this is the time to do it! Next, they’ll review (or set) the secondary goals or objectives. These are bite sized goals that can be more easily accomplished in 1-5 years. And then there are the strategies, which are actionable items. The idea is that if all the strategies are completed, then the secondary goal/objective will be accomplished. Once all the secondary goals/objectives are complete, then the big goal will be achieved!
Most importantly, the strategic plan needs to be a living document. Every staff person, committee chair, and Board member should have a copy. All decisions (not withstanding emergency decisions, ie COVID) should first be viewed through the lens of the strategic plan. It drives and informs the work of the organization.
So does your organization have a strategic plan? What’s one of your 10-15 year goals?