Our Observations

Strategic plans: 1 of 2 nonprofits operates without one

Does your organization have a strategic plan? If so, do you know what it says? According to a national survey, 29 percent of all nonprofits say they don’t have one. Four percent didn’t know if their institution had one. Nineteen percent of those that said they had a plan admitted that it wasn’t written down. One out of five of those with a plan said that their plans were “not voted on or approved by the board.”

This led the Concord Group, which conducted the study with more than 1,000 responses, to conclude, “49% of nonprofits are operating without any knowledge of or access to a strategic plan.”

Too often the overall goals of an organization are overlooked as leadership and board members find themselves mired in the details and day-to-day responsibilities. When they do have rare conversations about the future, those talks are not conducted in a way to move the organization but operate more as an avenue to vent and speculate.

The firm said organizations with a written strategic plan were more likely to:
•    collaborate with other nonprofits (83% vs. 76%) 
•    allow boards to take calculated risks (65% vs. 51%)
•    conduct an annual performance review for their CEOs (36% vs. 21%)
•    measure leadership effectiveness across the organization (75% vs. 50%)

Our experience tells us that undertaking the strategic planning process by nonprofits always results in board members and stakeholders having rare discussions about organizational priorities and direction. Having a skilled facilitator who is focused on creating a plan with timelines and accountability is critical for success. We’ve worked with clients who take six months to a year to make sure they have a complete and exhaustive plan, and we’ve worked with others who can only afford to create one in less than a month. 

Regardless of the time or budget you have available, don’t be on the wrong side of the coin on whether your nonprofit your nonprofit has an active, approved and accessible strategic plan. Make it a goal to have a plan in place for the start of 2017.

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