Creating a strategic plan, if done right, involves stakeholders and requires time and thoughtful work. It builds consensus around shared goals, provides direction, and hopefully creates excitement. So then why do some nonprofits do nothing with it when finished?
Is it time? Effort? Accountability? Change? Or simply not knowing what to do next?
The answer might be all of the above, but the reality is that if nothing happens following a strategic plan, credibility is lost among staff, board, and stakeholders. So how do you put it into action?
Who? What? When? Why?
Just like when you were in grade school, answer the simple questions. Doing so is important for clarity and you might learn that others have different assumptions. Review your plan and determine which year you will tackle which strategies or tactics. Then define who will lead that effort. Accountability is key. Working on this as a team or in teams is important; you might need to answer questions like “Why?” again but doing so creates alignment and empowerment so everyone can help drive the plan.
Create a Tracking Tool
It could be a dashboard or a scorecard but, whatever you call it, simplify what you are trying to accomplish over the next year by goal into an easy format that includes the objective, who is responsible, status, and progress notes. There are many templates, and even software, you can use to set this up, but choose the one that works for your plan, organization, and culture.
This is key! After putting in the time and effort to set up your strategic plan, you must monitor it. Determine as a leadership team the frequency at which you will review your progress. Make this work for you, not create more work. How and who will update your dashboard? Then talk about it: Where are you seeing success? What’s working? What’s not? Are there barriers? Does an objective need to change? It’s how you work through the answers to those questions (or not) that defines your organization.
Communication is integral. As you build the pieces to live into your strategic plan and as you monitor, communicate! Make sure the whole staff knows what’s going on. I hate it when I hear, “Well they don’t need to know that.” Why not? A shared vision can be powerful and create opportunity. Also determine the frequency at which you share updates with the board.
Yes, strategic plans are work, but they are worth it. They are a blueprint to live into your mission and vision. They create a case for investment. They unify your efforts and build synergy. Once you have your strategic plan defined, you just have to take a few more steps to actualize it.