Yes, strategic planning is fodder for many a jokester. And many for-profits as well as nonprofits are less than enamored of or effective at doing it. But solid planning is essential. It reunites the dream with the possibilities. The alternative is the flowchart joke: “and then a miracle happens.”
In our March newsletter, we introduced a “big picture” approach to fundraising. (It’s also available on our blog) The touchstone of a whole system approach is entity planning. There are many books written about strategic planning, offering many different frameworks. We see it as a four-step process.
Entity planning all too often is a one-time event culminating in a thick report that gets put on a shelf to gather dust. It needs to be revisited periodically to check progress, and make course corrections as needed. It also needs to be responsive to emerging opportunities or challenges, in the external environment (e.g., technology change or new legislation) and internal environment (e.g., new talent or “broken” processes). It is a dialogue that should engage key stakeholders and those involved in its implementation (yes, including development folks). And, finally, it is a key leadership responsibility.
Forgive us but we can’t resist…
It is important to appreciate that there is a back-and-forth relationship between entity planning and fundraising strategy development. The entity plan assumes that identified funding gaps will be met. That assumption needs to be tested with development staff. If it seems unrealistic (e.g., no identifiable prospects for a major initiative), the initiative may need to be scaled back or a new approach taken (e.g., partnering with someone). Or you may have the opposite – and very nice – “problem;” the emergence of an unexpected donor and gift.
Each of the four entity planning steps will be discussed in more detail in upcoming blogs.