What Ever Happened to Our Strategic Plan?

Organizational Success

What is the relationship between your organization’s fundraising objectives and its long-term vision for the future, and its strategic plan?  Most fundraising professionals will concur that your campaign objectives should be tied to a higher vision developed through long-term planning.

In our experience, however, we have witnessed a much different reality:

    • We have seen the endless, all-consuming, staff-driven planning efforts that provide little or no clarity of direction to the organization’s future.
    • We have counseled organizations that have no overall financial plan except the present cause celebre of its board or executive director.
    • And, we have noted numerous carefully drafted strategic plans that fail to influence the organization’s board and staff, and simply collect dust on the CEO’s bookshelf.

People must be at the center of every planning effort

Long-term planning is vital to the health of a nonprofit organization and to its fundraising success.  However, we must also create the structure that avoids these common pitfalls.  Perhaps the best first step is to redefine expectations of what the process is, who is involved, and what success will look like.

Regardless of your organization’s mission, the core of what you do is accomplished through people, for people.  Therefore, people must be at the center of every planning effort.  At the same time, the end result does not rest the plan itself, but in its implementation and action.  People are the key to this implementation.  People do not follow plans.  People follow leaders.

Strategic LEADERSHIP is a different approach that encompasses both planning and implementation.  This approach creates a process that involves your people—your staff, board, and volunteers—in creating goals for the future.  Greater involvement leads to greater ownership, which then leads to greater commitment and support.

People do not follow plans.  People follow leaders.

Strategic leadership does not focus on the creation of plan. It is a process that starts with an understanding of how your organization serves the needs of the community and pays attention to both positive and negative outcomes.  Opinions and experiences must be heard and acknowledged from both internal and external constituencies, creating opportunities for involvement in the organization’s future.

Through greater involvement, your constituencies can focus on the vision and mission of the organization to identify the actions it must take to achieve success.  Most traditional planning approaches end with the identification of goals.  If implementation is an acknowledged part of the process, it is usually identified as the final phase in the planning process.  But with strategic leadership, implementation is just the beginning.

Strategic leadership drives the organization to realize its vision for the future.  It ensures that all resources (i.e. financial resources, professional staff, trustees, volunteers) are channeled for this purpose. Unlike traditional planning, strategic leadership is a continuum like the fundraising efforts that support it.  It is an ongoing process of assuring that an organization identifies and implements the actions that bring the desired results.  It creates the structure that assures the strategic plan will be implemented.  It involves actively promoting and celebrating progress towards the vision and goals, so the people involved in the organization stay committed and excited as they create their new future.


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For more on Strategic Leadership, Advancing the Organization from Planning to Reality, access Goettler Series Volume 5