Strategic Planning FAQ
Q. What is strategic planning?
A. Strategic planning refers to a coordinated and systematic process for developing a plan for the overall course and direction of an organization for the purpose of optimizing future potential. The central purpose of this process is to ensure that the course and direction of the organization is well-thought-out, sound and appropriate, and to ensure that the limited resources of the organization are sharply focused in support of the mission. The process encompasses both strategy formulation and implementation.
Q. Why should my organization undertake strategic planning?
A. The primary motive for organizations to do strategic planning is to learn and to make decisions about the future of the organization based on that learning. Some specific reasons include:
- To give the organization better control over external forces.
- To serve as a tool for decision making and resource allocation.
- To bring everyone together in the organization so that they are on the same page.
- To raise board member awareness of current issues and operations.
- To reawaken and motivate key people within the organization.
- To create a document suitable for fundraising and public relations planning.
- To relate organizational capacity to community need.
Q. What are mandates, and why are they important?
A. Formal mandates are requirements enforced by an authority group, including funders and state and federal governments. Mandates require nonprofit organizations to remain in compliance with a variety of regulations. Failure to identify and remain compliant with all mandates may result in your organization losing funding, paying penalties, having its tax exempt status revoked, or being dissolved completely.
Q. How long does strategic planning take?
A. The amount of time it takes an organization to complete a strategic plan varies greatly depending on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the organization, past experience with strategic planning, accessibility of planning data, and time and availability of board and staff. In general, it will take an organization about three to nine months to complete a strategic planning process if they are going at it alone. Working with a nonprofit professional can speed up this process.
Q. When should my organization undertake strategic planning?
A. While there is no right time to do strategic planning, it is usually inadvisable to initiate a strategic planning process if the board is extremely weak, if there are serious internal conflicts, or if top leadership has recently left the organization. There are advantages to doing strategic planning in the early stages of the organization as well as later stages. What will typically differ in the strategic plans is the core focus, strategies, and time span of the plan.
Q. Is strategic planning important for all organizations?
A. Strategic planning is a process that is important for organizations in a variety of situations, including:
- New organizations.
- Organizations that have never conducted a strategic planning session.
- Organizations that would like to add a program or service.
- Organizations experiencing a change in leadership.
- Organizations that have become stagnant.