Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Painless Strategic Planning

The Nonprofiteer today has a great posting on why funders often ask for your nonprofit's Strategic Plan, and offers a fairly painless outline of a quick and useful planning process.

First, to the question of "Why plan?" the Nonprofiteer offers this:
"Serve as many people as possible" is not a strategic plan; it's a mission--and a relatively uninspiring one, at that. You might try explaining the difference to your ED this way: the mission says what you're going to do, while the strategic plan says how.
And why do funders care about the how? Well, the how gets right to the heart of how you are going to be spending their money. A look at your Strategic Plan will also give them a little insight into your organization's broader goals, potential issues, and future vision -- and get a sense of whether or not your proposal to them is an integral part of that vision.

And the planning process? The Nonprofiteer says it need not be an over-long, over-tedious affair "resulting in a notebook which will collect dust on your shelf," and I couldn't agree more. To be useful, a plan has to be usable. It's got to directly address the issues your organization is facing, any obstacles you've identified to achieving your mission, and offer workable, realistic solutions along with a timeline and identification of the person or persons responsible.

I'll also be a little self-serving here, and include this last quote from the posting:
...It's useful to have a paid person to act as facilitator and scrivener, especially because an outsider can ask the questions all the insiders are too polite or too shy to ask: "Why don't you have a Board give-or-get? What do you mean, you don't have a computer system?"

If you absolutely positively can't bring in a paid consultant, you can do it yourself, with the Board chair acting as facilitator, the team reporters writing their own reports, and the staff formulating it all into a plan; but it'll take longer and you'll fare worse.
As somebody who's done a fair amount of facilitation (and attended a seemingly unfair amount of meetings), I can tell you that's it's nearly impossible to do justice to the role of facilitator and be a full participant at the same time. And the point about having an outside "expert" to point out best practices cannot be over-stressed.

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