PMA Consulting, LLC

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Strategic Planning: Drafting the Plan

The term “strategic planning” gets tossed around quite a bit in the nonprofit field. To help demystify the process, our consultants will weigh in as a part of an on-going series on subjects related to strategic planning in the nonprofit sector – process, trends, fresh perspectives and tales from the field.

Business-Plan-GoalsIf you have been following along with this series from the beginning, you know how much work goes in to the strategic planning process.  From setting expectations to conducting discovery and convening voices, months (and months!) of work can go into preparing for the creation of a strategic plan.

So what about the actual plan itself?  We haven’t addressed that yet intentionally – before putting pen to paper, the process needs to be informed by all the steps that have come before.  You’ll be ready to start drafting your plan roughly half-way through the period of convening voices, providing ongoing framework for your planning entities to begin putting the pieces together.

The outline PMA uses is:

  • Mission: “We are…” statement – the purpose of your organization
  • Vision: “We will…” statement – what your organization endeavors to achieve in the future
  • Goals: Serves the Vision – Broadly, how your organization will achieve the vision over a specific period of time
  • Objectives: Serves the Goals – more specifically, how your organization will achieve a goal
  • Strategies: Serves the Objective – methods by which objective will be achieved
  • Tactics: Serves the Strategy – activities that ensure a strategy is fulfilled

You are likely to end up with a number of goals (4-6 total) with associated objectives, strategies and tactics, addressing the ambition of the vision and beginning to clarify the mission.  A useful strategic plan doesn’t attempt to set 10+ goals, with more detail than can be managed by staff and volunteers.  Strategic planning is about prioritization, and setting goal areas is a critical first step of your steering committee.

PMA often considers goal areas ahead of convening voices, as issue-oriented Task Forces are created with broad goal areas in mind (covered earlier in this series).  However, it is important to not over-design the process to result in a manufactured outcome – the act of convening voices will hopefully shape priorities, and you may find that what you thought would be a goal is no longer one, or is an objective in support of another, better-articulated goal.

In general, PMA uses the following outline to drafting the plan with the involvement of volunteers and staff:

  • Meeting #1: Provocative questions lead to discussion that informs prioritization and vision-setting
  • Meeting #2: Initial articulation of goal(s), discussion to ensure language isn’t too broad or too specific, discussion regarding how to meet the goal, broad consideration of how the goal will be measured (which begins discussion of Objectives)
  • Meeting #3: Review of language describing Objectives as prioritized by the group,  discussion of strategies for meeting the objective, more specific consideration of how the objective will be measured
  • Meeting #4 (and beyond): Review of language describing Strategies as prioritized by the group, discussion of more granular tactics needed to give life to strategies, discussion of how the plan affects articulation of mission and/or speaks to an overarching vision for the institution

It is in this effort that the role of the facilitator becomes clearer. In between meetings, a strategic planning facilitator is working to clarify discussion and tee up planning language for reaction. A quality facilitator will take time to bridge concepts, find ways to state ambition clearly and directly, and work with all participants to encourage consensus. Slowly but surely, the plan will begin to take shape, “co-created” by volunteer and staff participants.