The Strategic Planning Process for Social Enterprise & Nonprofits

Why develop a Strategic Plan for a Social Enterprise/Nonprofit?

There are many valid reasons for developing a strategic plan for a social enterprise or nonprofit. The main benefit that flows from planning is the establishment of common goals and creating a collaborative environment where all stakeholders are working towards the same mission, vision, and values.

Strategic plans can also have an impact on the financial bottom line, by providing potential funding partners with a clear path that your organization will follow, and how you will reach your goals. This document provides a historical context for the current situation the organization finds itself in, sets the future direction of the organization and how it plans to meet its targets, and ensures an evaluation and monitoring process is set up to measure the success and challenges as the plan is implemented.

Steps in Developing a Strategic Plan

First, make sure you have set aside sufficient resources to complete the plan. Establish the steward of the plan, by either appointing an individual or a group to take responsibility for the progress of the plan. Get the buy-in of leaders in the organization, including senior staff and board members.

Second, gather the information about your organization that tell the story of your history, your current situation, and anything that might provide some insight into the purpose of your organization. It is extremely important at this point to ensure you clearly define your social cause, and create a dedicated section in your final document to address your plan to push your cause, as well as the other important factors of success, such as financial planning and operational planning.

Third, after review of the supporting documents and consultation with stakeholders, compile a common vision of the future that most closely reflects the history, current situation, and feed back that has been collected to this point. At this stage, you will determine what approach works best for your organization, depending on the needs identified through the planning process.

Review the results and the draft plan, making adjustments as required, until the leadership and/or stakeholders are favourable to adopting the plan.

The last step is the implementation of the strategic plan. The implementation phase includes the ongoing monitoring that is vital to the long term success of the plan. In order to ensure the strategic plan does not sit on a shelf, ongoing monitoring is essential. Set out a time in the future when your organization will revisit the strategic plan, and make changes to keep the plan relevant as time passes and the situation evolves.

The “KISS” Principle Applies Here

Keeping it simple is important. Stay focused on the major issues impacting your organization. Develop a strategic plan that makes sense for your situation and social cause.

Strategic planning can take place at any time, but is often used by organizations at critical points in time, to refocus the goals of the organization, to review the direction due to the loss or hiring of a senior staff person (Executive Director) or in response to significant changes in board membership, or as a result of the loss or availability of funding. These situations may cause an organization to revisit an existing plan, or develop the first strategic plan for the future.

There are various techniques and processes that may apply to each of the situations described, and there is not a one size fits all approach for every plan. In the articles to follow in the series will address these approaches and provide guidance on which process might suit your organization in the development of a strategic plan with meaningful impact.