Expanding the Guest List Yields Stronger Strategic Planning

| by Shannon Williams

Strategic Planning.

Just the words make some people sigh, while others clap, grinning ear to ear.

I have found strategic planning to be kinda like liver—you either love it or hate it. Either way most organizations know they need it.

Wherever you fall on the love/hate spectrum, I have noticed a trend that seems to strengthen the process. The last three strategic planning retreats I have facilitated have included stakeholders outside of the board and staff. Former board members, non-board volunteers, collaborative partners, and donors have been invited to join in the strategic planning retreat.

Here are seven things I have observed about non-board stakeholders involved in the strategic planning process:

1. They are honored to be asked to participate. They feel valued.

2. They say “yes” and they actually attend—this surprises and inspires staff and current board members.

3. They bring energy to the retreat that fuels the board and staff.

4. They are not bogged down by the politics or non-productive behaviors of the board or staff.

5. They have an interesting perspective and great ideas because they are not bogged down . . .

6. They leave feeling like they contributed in a meaningful way and are more connected to the organization. I plan to see if that connection leads to greater financial investment.

7. Some continue to walk with the organization in the planning process beyond the retreat.

The result of expanding the guest list is ultimately a stronger plan with greater buy in from the community beyond the board and staff. It actually is a no-brainer, but it is amazing how often organizations are afraid to bring others into the process.

We wouldn’t limit our next fundraising campaign to only our current donors, so why limit our strategic planning retreat to only our current leaders. The more the merrier, literally!

Whether you love or hate strategic planning, we can help you make it a valuable process for your organization. Let’s get started!

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