PMA Consulting, LLC

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Strategic Planning: Getting Started

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.

StrategicPlanningProcessIt is the most oft-heard reason for not engaging in strategic planning:

“We just don’t have the time or energy to commit to that right now.”

And yet, it is an answer a nonprofit leader could likely give at any time.  There never seems to be an opportune time to engage in a substantial planning effort, and yet the longer it gets put off, the more an organization may suffer from broken processes that are disconnected from community trends.  So, how does your organization undertake the effort?

Patton McDowell & Associates suggests independent counsel is a critical component to well-designed strategic planning processes for several key reasons:

  • Project Management: The fast-paced nature of a nonprofit setting means strategic planning is typically happening alongside continued programming, marketing and fund development efforts.  Independent counsel serves as the project management needed to ensure that the process stays on schedule, communication is timely, and stakeholders remain on-task.
  • Independent Counsel is Independent: Strategic planning is rarely easy, and while many voices are encouraged to be heard, it doesn’t always lead to quick consensus.  The value of an outside facilitator is often in being able to remain a neutral convener, assisting those engaged to see all perspectives.  At the same time, the goal of the consultant is to help build bridges and encourage communication that leads to compromise and unity of purpose.
  • Community Perspective: Your consultant is likely to have worked with other organizations as they encounter similar challenges – “How do we do more with less?” “What is the future of philanthropy in our city?” “How do innovate to meet our mission in new and exciting ways?”  While a good facilitator is likely asking questions to get your stakeholders engaged in conversation, a consultant is also an important source of community perspective.

Throughout 2013 on the PMA blog, the firm will be sharing its unique methodology for strategic planning, informed by many of the great thinkers on the subject and projected through a prism of the challenges facing nonprofits in the Carolinas.  PMA’s seven-step process to strategic planning ensures that hard data and creative ideas are married with the voices of multiple constituencies, leading to a plan that has the buy-in of those whose backing will be needed for success.

Have a question about strategic planning? Feel free to contact Patton McDowell or Josh Jacobson.