The Purpose of Planning
planning is intended to accomplish three important tasks:
to clarify the outcomes that an organization
wishes to achieve;
to select the broad strategies that will enable
the organization to achieve those outcomes;
to identify ways to measure progress
many organizations use the process to affirm their links to important
stakeholders by involving them in the creation of the plan.
many possible approaches to strategic planning. Our preferred approach takes
into account current thinking concerning the importance of “outcome-based”
planning and evaluation. In other words, our starting point is the impact your
organization will have on your clients and community. Who will be affected by
your programs and services and how will they benefit?
general, we will guide you through a process of asking and answering
four sets of questions about your organization:
What do you want your organization to
accomplish? What will be the impact of your organization if it is successful?
Where is your organization today? What are the
characteristics of your organization and the environment in which it operates?
On what strategies will you focus your energy
How will you monitor
and evaluate your progress?
do you want to accomplish?
approach to strategic planning begins with the development of what we call the
“framework policies” of mission, vision, and values
and the goals that that will direct all organizational activities
during the period covered by the plan. This is usually done in a facilitated
retreat, involving the Board of Directors and CEO. Many boards invite selected
staff and other stakeholders to participate. It generally takes a full day for
the group to create the mission, vision, values and goals statements.
Where is your
In order to plan for the future,
an organization must know where it currently
stands and what factors might influence its future. Early in the planning
process, therefore, the organization must consider its current strengths and
weaknesses and to examine its environment for potential opportunities and
problems. Some planners call this a situation analysis or environmental
scan. Nathan Garber & Associates will help you select an approach to
appropriate to your organization’s specific needs. These might include:
Critical Issues Review: an analysis of the
issues most important to the future of the organization;
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities,
Threats): an analysis and evaluation of internal conditions and external factors
that affect the organization;
Force Field Analysis: an analysis of the forces
propelling an organization forward and those holding it back;
identification of those directly or indirectly affected by the agency's actions.
What strategies will help you to
The point of strategic planning is to develop long-term strategies that use
organizational strengths and take advantage of opportunities so that the
organization can achieve its goals. Based upon the strategies, short-term
operational plans are developed, consisting of measurable, time-limited
objectives and the activities necessary to achieve them. Operational plans are
normally developed by agency staff. The budget
resources according to the priorities
set by the Board of Directors. Strategies and operational plans are the most
flexible element of strategic planning and
may be adjusted throughout the period covered by the plan in order to
respond to changing conditions. Many organizations are now using the
"program logic model" approach to develop their strategies. For
information about logic models, see below.
Nathan Garber & Associates can provide a
structured facilitation process to help with the development of strategies and
How will you monitor your
A key element
of outcome-based planning is the identification of performance measures
or indicators of success (benchmarks or standards to measure progress).
Often, these can be difficult to define, particularly for social service
organizations and programs aimed at prevention or social change. It is
important, however, that consideration be given to measurement and evaluation
throughout the planning process. Monitoring of performance is an important part
of the Board’s role and funders are increasingly requiring performance
measures as a condition of funding. In
the strategic planning process, performance measures are normally established by
staff, sometimes with the assistance of experts in evaluation.
The Role of the Consultant
experience with strategic planning has taught us that no single model of
strategic planning that will work for every organization. Accordingly, our goal
as consultants is to assist our clients to determine the shortest, most
efficient and most economical approach to producing and implementing a strategic
plan: Our assistance may take
different forms including:
providing guidance and training on the planning
designing surveys and interviews;
gathering background information through
surveys, interviews and focus groups;
facilitating planning meetings and retreats;
preparing and presenting interim reports;
drafting the strategic planning document;
providing an impartial perspective on the
Garber & Associates believes in a
flexible approach, enabling the process to be modified
at key decision-points as required to produce the most meaningful
For More Information
There are dozens of helpful websites and books devoted to the process of
strategic planning. Use your
favourite search engine to find some. Here are a few that I particularly like.
Kellogg foundation publishes two excellent manuals on evaluation based upon the
Program Logic Model. They can be downloaded from the website or ordered online.
They are free of charge. http://www.wkkf.org.
The Nonprofit Genie http://www.genie.org/
. The website of the California Management Assistance Partnership, a consortium
of 14 regional, nonprofit support organizations.
The information centre of the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy includes
many links, articles, and online reviews. http://www.ccp.ca/information/index.html
CharityChannel publishes book reviews and hosts online discussion groups
where you can post questions and get many points of view on strategic planning
issues. Their archives can be searched for previous discussions.
Carter McNamara’s nonprofit management library http://www.mapnp.org/library/
includes many links and planning forms.
BoardSource (formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards) lists a
number of publications on strategic planning. http://www.boardsource.org
A good manual is Strategic Planning Workbook published and
sold by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. They have a new workbook
called Crafting Effective Mission and Vision Statements. I
haven’t read it yet. For details, browse to http://www.wilder.org/pubs/.