The most effective nonprofit strategic planning process involves a planning team that consists of those people who can add value to that planning process. It is a mistake to use only the staff, or only the Board, of the nonprofit organization in the planning process.
Those people whose points of view truly matter to the organization’s future should be included. Senior staff, constituent representatives, supporters of the organization, perhaps even some ‘competitors’ should be considered for the planning team.
Planning teams made up of only the nonprofit Board or staff may not be functional, as there is a tendency for nonprofit CEOs or Chairs to attempt to create something distinctive during their term, and often 'pet' projects get emphasized.
These planning team individuals should be chosen for their knowledge and skills, not just for their position in the hierarchy.
Included should be a mix of constituents, Board members, senior staff, suppliers and some key stakeholders who are not as familiar with the operations of the organization but who have a point of view that truly matters to that organization.
There is no ideal number of participants for the planning team, but it should encompass individuals who represent different skill levels in knowledge, expertise and thinking styles, and more importantly, in group dynamics. The group could be anything from five people up to seventy, although a team of between fifteen to twenty people works very well. The facilitation of these groups will differ depending on size, but the outcome will be very similar.
The roles of the various groups in the strategic planning process can be summarized as:
The nonprofit Board — monitoring role
The Board ultimately approves the Strategic Plan, but does not necessarily formulate the Strategic Plan. Board members may participate in the planning process, but they do so as individuals, not as a formally constituted meeting of the Board. The Board then monitors the achievement of the Strategic Plan, and undertakes corrective action where required.
The CEO — implementing and controlling role
The CEO sets the climate and tone of the strategic planning process, establishes the planning group, and ensures the Action Plans are completed on time and have appropriate control and measurement systems in place.
Senior staff — implementing role
Senior staff duplicate the nonprofit CEO's role within their respective departments, maintain communications between the Board/CEO and other staff, provide functional guidance to other staff, and report on progress of the Action Plans.
Stakeholders — expert advice or representative role.
Stakeholders could represent a current or potential consumer base, key suppliers and indirect competitors.
Committees — support role.
Committees can be formed to support the achievement of the various Action Plans of the organization. These committees would be formed to support staff in their implementing role. If the nonprofit organization is too small to have staff who can implement, committees can often be used in this capacity to assist the CEO in implementation.
Your organization's strategic plan sets the trajectory for its future. It is very important to make the most of this process and that starts with choosing the strategic planning team. The guide below summarizes the five critical groups of people you should consider for your next planning team.
What tweaks can be made to produce a better planning team? Let us know in the comments below.