Lessons from the Court

With the NBA playoffs underway, I have been thinking about basketball and strategic planning. Now, you might be wondering, what does a former college basketball player know about strategic planning? Well, let me tell you a little story that might just dribble its way into your heart and mind.

Back in my college days, I spent more time bouncing balls than brainstorming boardroom strategies, but the parallels between the court and the conference room are more than just coincidence. Just like basketball, nonprofit strategic planning requires teamwork, vision, and a game plan that can pivot when needed.

So why does strategic planning matter?  

Picture this: you're on the court, the clock's ticking down, and you need a game-winning shot. Without a strategy, you're just throwing up prayers and hoping for the best. The same goes for nonprofits. Without a solid plan, you're just throwing money and resources around and praying for impact. And let's face it, the only thing that's guaranteed without a strategy on the court is missed shots and disappointed fans.

But fear not, my friends, because I've got some slam-dunk tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of strategic planning and come out victorious.

  1. Know Your Team: Just like in basketball, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Take stock of your organization's resources, talents, and areas for improvement. Are you a sharpshooter from beyond the arc or a beast on the boards? Understanding your team will help you craft a strategy that plays to your strengths.
  2. Set SMART Goals: In basketball, you don't just aim to score points; you set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. The same goes for strategic planning. Set clear objectives that you can track and measure progress against. Whether it's increasing fundraising revenue or expanding your programs, make sure your goals are SMART.
  3. Full-Court Press on Communication: Communication is key on the court, and it's no different in strategic planning. Keep the lines of communication open between your team members, stakeholders, and supporters. Everyone needs to be on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  4. Stay Agile: In basketball, the game can change in an instant, and you need to adapt on the fly. Don't be afraid to pivot if things aren't working out as expected. Stay flexible and be willing to adjust your strategy as needed.
  5. Celebrate Every Win: Whether it's sinking a buzzer-beater or hitting a fundraising milestone, celebrate every win along the way. Recognize the hard work and dedication of your team members and use those victories to fuel your momentum moving forward.

So, there you have it, folks. Just like on the court, strategic planning for non-profits is all about teamwork, vision, and having a game plan that can adapt to whatever challenges come your way. So, grab your clipboard, draw up your plays, and get ready to make some magic happen. With the right strategy, anything is possible – even a championship ring for your organization!

Melvin Scales is a Senior Advisor with Armstrong McGuire who specializes in strategic planning, staff and board leadership/management, and talent acquisition. Learn more about Melvin in his bio.

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