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Strategic Planning: Marketing Your Plan

Congratulations!  Your strategic planning process has been a real success.  After months in development, your plan is finally written, providing clear and structured goal-setting.  You’ve hand-written thank you notes to all of the hard-working volunteers who helped you create your plan.  You’ve even begun implementation, with near-term “quick wins” as described in our last post.  You believe you have everything you need to ensure success.

handshakeNot so fast.  Before you clear your schedule and start tackling the nuts and bolts of implementing your strategic plan, consider taking the time needed to continue building buy-in through focused outreach.  To be successful, you will need many individuals to endorse the plan’s ambition, whether formally or informally.  “Marketing your plan” is an intentional, proactive effort to inform those you’ll need most about your goal setting. Key audiences include:

  •  Planning Volunteers – It may seem obvious, but you should keep the folks who helped you create your plan close.  Too often, staff leadership loses touch with these volunteers, sensing that “they need a break.”  While that may be true, don’t wait too long!  These individuals are some of your biggest advocates.  Consider a hosting a “thank you” social event within 90-days of the end of the planning process, featuring a brief summary of activity since the last meeting but focused primarily on acknowledging their hard work.
  • Stakeholders Interviewed – Remember them? Your planning counsel likely met with 20+ individuals to inform the current conditions assessment, and they probably are wondering what ever happened after that discussion.  For folks who were not involved in the planning effort, consider making an appointment to meet with them one-on-one.  Create a one-page, high level version of your plan to share with these people, and ask for their feedback.  Better yet, ask for their support.  After all, they helped to inform the plan and should feel some degree of ownership.
  • Staff – The group most commonly overlooked during the post-planning outreach is the organization’s staff – the individuals who will likely be most critical to achieving success.  At times, the strategic planning process can feel like a challenge to staff members, who see individuals from “outside” given a voice to determine the future of beloved programs and projects.  The Executive Director/CEO should move quickly to garner buy-in from department heads and encourage an open-door policy with questions and concerns.
  • Peer Organizations & Partners – As word begins to leak about your new strategic plan, undoubtedly the leaders of peer organizations will be asked by shared contacts about their take.  If they aren’t familiar with your effort, that can be a recipe for trouble.  Get ahead of those questions by reaching out to key leaders and let them know what your plan entails, how you hope to achieve your goals, and provide informal talking points.

As your intentional effort to market your plan eventually becomes standard marketing of your organization more generally, don’t forget to make time for updates to everyone who helped you get where you are, or will be counted on to help you get where you’re going.