Strategic Planning Matters. Here’s the Proof.

Strategic Planning Matters. Here’s the Proof.

The Association for Strategic Planning suggests there’s a reason successful organizations are successful–it has little to do with size and EVERYTHING to do with how well they create, and even more importantly implement, a strategic plan.

In a nutshell, the survey suggests there’s a reason successful organizations are successful–it has little to do with size and EVERYTHING to do with how well they create, and even more importantly implement, a strategic plan.

Strategic Planning Practices Result in Higher Performing Nonprofits

Sponsored by Association for Strategic Planning and the University of Arkansas, Department of Political Science. Presented by Denise McNerney (iBossWell, Inc.), Dominic Perri (Essential Conversations Group) and Margaret Reid (University of Arkansas) at Annual Meeting of the Association for Strategic Planning – Atlanta GA April 23, 2013. Full Survey


Based on the survey results, here are the things nonprofit organizations should be considering when working on a strategic plan:

Plan Development

  • Successful organizations make strategic planning a consistent/routine periodic process, and not just something they do in times of crisis, or because a funder requires it.
  • High-success nonprofits are far more likely to engage in ALL of the recommended planning preparation activities, including looking at industry trends and their external environment, as well as internal strengths and weaknesses
  • Medium success organizations are more challenged with lack of leadership support/direction, and have more difficulty in making some of the tough choices that good strategic planning can demand. Leaders must arm themselves with good information to inform direction setting, and prepare themselves to step -up and make the difficult decisions that will help them develop and implement clear strategic direction.
  • To better position themselves to work through common challenges encountered during plan development, leaders should: a) Gather input from key stakeholders, b) Focus on making the goals, objectives, and other content concise and understandable for planning participants, c) Communicate how the plan will lead to action, d) Carefully define expectations and the planning process on the front end.

Plan Implementation

Evidence clearly supports the value of maintaining consistent/routine and explicit plan implementation practices, including assessing progress to plan goals/objectives/metrics and reporting to key stakeholders.
Since evidence indicates that high-success nonprofits are more disciplined in conducting systematic implementation practices, staff and board leaders must put reasonable processes for assessment and reporting into place, and keep in mind that highly successful nonprofits do this 3 to 4 times per year.
All organizations face implementation challenges; it is crucial to keep these higher occurring challenges in mind and position the organization to deal with and minimize them.

The Call to Action

This research leads us to believe that high-success nonprofits have a “culture of planning” that involves a commitment and discipline that lower success organizations do not have. The results of this survey lay out a path to success, from initial steps through implementation. The survey confirms that the practices the field of strategic planning and management has identified are in fact inextricably linked to organizational success. With this evidence supporting the value of strategic planning and strategic management, planning advocates should:

  • Use it to guide your processes for development
  • Use it to create a culture of discipline for implementation
  • Use it to sell the value of planning – as it clearly impacts the bottom line of organizational success

Clearly, successful organizations credit strategic planning and management to their overall organizational success. This evidence is so compelling, regardless of size of organization, we believe these successful practices should be adopted by all nonprofits, demanded by boards, and supported by funders. Furthermore, funders should consider not only supporting strategic plan development, but also supporting development of ongoing plan management/implementation practices, and requiring plan assessment reports/updates as part of the grantee’s reporting. Once the bar of strategic planning and management is raised to this level, we all can feel more confident that the success of nonprofits in achieving their goals, and ultimately fulfilling their missions, will significantly advance. And, in the end, isn’t that what this is all about?

No Surprises Here

The results of this survey come as no surprise to us here at iBossWell. We’ve long understood that the purpose of strategic planning is not to simply create a plan, but to build a road map and a culture of implementation that will guide our clients toward a successful future. The results underscore our approach to facilitating a strategic planning process and emphasize the value of having an online strategic management system like WePlanWell in the toolkit we offer our clients.

One thing this survey makes crystal clear-strategic planning matters. We’re proud to be part of the ASP effort to provide the evidence that supports the case for ongoing, robust strategic planning and strategic management.

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