Strategic Planning often feels like a daunting task for leaders of nonprofit organizations because the process has many components. Another perspective is that strategic planning is invigorating because, among other activities, it offers organizations the opportunity to engage an array of stakeholders – internal and external – and learn from their insights.
The board of directors and staff are the obvious and fundamental internal stakeholders. Each has a unique, central role in the planning process. Their reflection on strengths and challenges, articulation of aspirations and goals, and desire to seek the organization’s next level are essential to developing a visionary yet realistic strategic plan.
Another key to a high impact strategic plan is engaging external stakeholders – your funders (foundations and corporations), individual donors, organizational partners, clients, and even those who do not use your services or have chosen not to fund or contribute to your organization – in the process. By asking focused questions and listening to these stakeholders, you benefit from their observations and discover:
* What about your organization they value.
* What distinguishes your organization from others they fund.
* What makes your organization a desirable partner for collaboration.
* Why do they seek your services.
* What are their hopes for your organization.
* What compelling issues their organizations face.
* What critical environmental issues, important to all nonprofits, they cite.
An additional advantage to engaging external stakeholders is that the process builds bridges and fosters closer relationships with these organizations and individuals.
Often organizations contemplate skipping this step in the strategic planning process. Think again. Engage as many external stakeholders as you can. Welcome diverse points of view and new information. Weigh it. Take it for the valuable resource that it is. Decide how it matters to your organization and how best to use it. Finally, enjoy the richness of the strategic planning process.
Amy Wishnick, Principal of Wishnick & Associates, works as a trusted advisor with a wide array of nonprofit clients on projects geared to clarifying priorities and building capacity, such as strategic planning, organizational assessments, and board development. Please visit Amy’s web site and Linkedin profile.