STRATEGIC PLANNING: A TEN-STEP GUIDE*
I. IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING
There is broad agreement among nonprofit leaders and experts that planning is a critical component of good management and governance. Planning helps assure that an organization remains relevant and responsive to the needs of its community, and contributes to organizational stability and growth. It provides a basis for monitoring progress, and for assessing results and impact. It facilitates new program development. It enables an organization to look into the future in an orderly and systematic way. From a governance perspective, it enables the Board to set policies and goals to guide the organization, and provides a clear focus to the Executive Director and staff for program implementation and agency management. Most organizations understand the need for annual program objectives and a program-focused work plan. Funders require them, and they provide a basis for setting priorities, organizing work, and assessing progress. A growing number of Hispanic communitybased organizations go beyond funder requirements to develop annual objectives and operating plans which also include a systematic plan for resource development, organizational development, and in some cases Board development. Most groups find it practical to define objectives for a 12-month period, and to design strategies and programs to meet them. Longer-range planning – planning beyond the next year or two – often seems more difficult and less rewarding. With the external environment changing so rapidly, Board members and senior staff ask, how can we expect to develop plans that will remain relevant? With so little control over external events, how can we hope to influence them in a way that benefits our community?
In fact, planning is no less important in a changing environment; it may well be more important. Most Hispanic community-based organizations exist to serve a specific community. To do that, they need to be very clear on community needs and then work to address them through similarly clear organizational missions, priorities, target groups, and objectives. If the external environment – funding, the economy in general, government enforcement of civil rights laws, etc. – is changing or hostile, then our organizations must be that much more effective in defining needs and marshaling internal and external resources to meet them. The community's needs will change over time, but the most basic ones – such as access to high quality educational services, job training, employment opportunities, safe and affordable housing, sufficient financial resources to meet basic needs, human services directed at various age groups and special needs populations, and a secure environment – remain fairly constant. The challenge of meeting them can become greater with changes in the local or national *
Prepared by Emily Gantz McKay. Based on materials originally prepared for use with SHATIL, the technical assistance project of the New Israel Fund. Modified for the National Council of La Raza, and further modified for MOSAICA, May 1994 and July 2001.
environment, such as a poor economy or a hostile or unresponsive government, however; and it is here that strategic or long-range planning can be most helpful. Planning is designed to help an organization define its vision for the future and then determine systematically how it will get there, understanding obstacles and figuring out ways to overcome them. There is an important caveat: Longer-range planning requires some level of organizational stability. It is very difficult to plan in a crisis, and unrealistic to look five years ahead unless an organization has some confidence that it will exist next year, and that most of its key staff and its Board leadership will continue to be affiliated with the organization. Board and staff also need the time to plan, which means that they must not be using every minute to carry out functions...
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