NPL 273  Introduction to Nonprofit Leadership

Strategic Planning and Action Planning for Nonprofit Organizations


I.                    Strategic Planning:  a series of discussions and decisions among key decision makers about what is truly important for the organization.  The process is iterative rather than linear.

a.       Step 1:  Develop initial agreement—pay attention to the “givens,” or what is not up for discussion.

b.      Step 2:  Identification and clarification of mandates

c.       Step 3:  Development & clarification of mission & values

                                                               i.      Stakeholder analysis (key to organizational success is satisfaction of stakeholders—according to their criteria)

                                                             ii.      Mission statement

1.      Who are we as an organization?

2.      What are the basic social or political needs we exist to fill, or what basic social problems do we exist to address?

3.      How do we recognize or anticipate and respond to these problems?

4.      How should we respond to our key stakeholders?

5.      What is our philosophy and what are our core values?

6.      What makes us distinctive or unique?

d.      Step 4:  External environment assessment (“Opportunities & Threats”)

                                                               i.      PESTS (political, economic, social & technological forces and trends)

                                                             ii.      Both competitive and collaborative tendencies

                                                            iii.      Functions:

1.      identify trends

2.      interpret trends

3.      develop useful information for tracking trends

e.       Step 5:  Internal environment assessment (“Strengths & Weaknesses”)

                                                               i.      Monitor

1.      resources (inputs)

2.      present strategy (process)

3.      performance (outputs)

                                                             ii.      “If the organization cannot demonstrate its effectiveness against stakeholder criteria, then regardless of an ‘inherent’ worth of the organization, stakeholders are likely to withdraw their support.”

f.        Step 6:  Strategic issue identification—fundamental policy questions about the organization’s mandates, mission, values, product or service level and mix, clients, users or payers, cost, financing, management, or organizational design.

                                                               i.      By definition, strategic issues involve conflict over

1.      ends (what)

2.      means (how)

3.      philosophy (why)

4.      location (where)

5.      timing (when)

6.      winners/losers (who)

                                                             ii.      Statement of strategic issue should contain

1.      Succinct description, framed as a question that organization can do something about (if nothing can be done, then it is not an issue)

2.      Frame the issue in terms of factors that make it fundamental (these factors will be the basis for resolution)

3.      Consequences of failure to address the issue (if no consequences, then it is not an issue)

                                                            iii.      Approaches to identifying strategic issues:

1.      Direct:  SWOT analysis (works in pluralistic, partisan, politicized, and fragmented situations)

2.      Indirect: 

1.      Background studies prepared

2.      Options for action written on “snow cards”

1.      responses to stakeholders

2.      responses to SWOT

3.      responses to mandates/mission/reports & studies

3.      Options compiled into “portfolios”

3.      Goals:  Rational model, deriving actions from objectives (works in single-function, hierarchical settings)

4.      Scenario/Vision of Success (useful when difficult to identify strategic issues directly)

g.       Step 7:  Strategy development

                                                               i.      Strategy is a pattern of purposes, policies, programs, actions, decisions, and/or resource allocations that define what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it.  Should create consistency across

1.      rhetoric

2.      choices

3.      actions

                                                             ii.      Process:

1.      Identify practical alternatives

2.      List barriers

3.      Proposals for achieving alternatives or for overcoming barriers

4.      Identify actions to implement proposals

5.      Develop detailed work plan to achieve each action

h.       Step 8:  Organizational vision

i.         Step 9:  Implementation process

j.        Step 10:  Reassessing strategies & planning process

II.                 Tailoring the process to specific circumstances

a.       Sequencing the steps

                                                               i.      Participants typically rethink what they have done several times before reaching final decisions

                                                             ii.      Doesn’t matter where you start—always end up back at mission

                                                            iii.      Implementation usually begins before all planning is completed

b.      Make use of visions, goals, and issues

                                                               i.      Usually, beginning point is not vision or goals, but issues (“issue-driven planning”)

c.       Applying process across organizational subunits

                                                               i.      Strategic management, not just planning

                                                             ii.      Involves deliberations, decisions, and actions

d.      Applying process to collaboratives

e.       Roles for planners, decision makers, implementers, and citizens




© 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 20 December 2005