Too often, the owners of many businesses of all sizes and industries don’t see the need for a strategic plan. They make critical decisions on which deals to do, what systems to put in place, and who to hire based on the current vision of the business. They focus on the near term of the current year or at best the year to come.
In the past month, I have met with non-profits and for-profits who have yet to even think about a budget for next year, let alone a five-year plan for their organizations. When pressed for revenue and funding goals, they throw out a number that sounds good to them. Do they have a date for when they want to achieve that number or a plan to get there? No. “Sometime in the future” is the most common reply.
What is your vision for the organization? “We’ll be a $X business.” Or “We want to raise $N to fund our cause.”
That’s no way to run a successful long term business. It’s essential that you can realistically answer the following questions (at any time during the year):
- How are you going to do that?
- When will you get there?
- Who is going to be involved?
- What is the plan?
Tomorrow Never Comes
The future doesn’t just happen. Tomorrow doesn’t come because when we wake up it is today! Today is the day we must define who and what we want to become. We have to sit down today and decide who our clients are and what their needs are. We must clarify our vision and set goals to make that vision happen.
If you want to do more, then you have to DO MORE!
The year flies by and before we know it a new year begins. My recent conversations with organization’s leaders have been about how to get their performance to improve. If you want to do more, then you have to DO MORE! Whether your business is a for-profit or a non-profit, if you want a bigger impact then it means doing more to make it happen.
A new calendar or fiscal year is just around the corner and it will be here before you are ready. That is especially true if you are waiting until 6 – 8 weeks before it’s due to start making plans for your organization. One non-profit board chairman told me they won’t start working on a budget or fundraising plan until November for the new operating year that starts in January. I asked about their strategic plan and vision for the organization. He said they had been working on one for the past several years.
Yes, they have been working on developing a vision and a strategy for their organization for several years. They are currently just “going along” raising “enough funds to keep the lights on.” I was asked to work with this non-profit’s development (fundraising) team, whose stated goal was to at least double the funding they currently have. This 10+-year-old non-profit has a fantastic opportunity to DO MORE to serve their community. Yet they aren’t because there is no vision. There isn’t a plan to serve or to fund.
Timing is Almost Everything
The non-profit had an opportunity to pursue a multi-year grant that would cover more than half of their operational costs each year. They couldn’t pursue the funding because they didn’t have the strategic plan, a budget, or a timeline to support funding activities. In general, they start looking for funding for a year when that year gets started. What?!
The time to raise funds is when the funding is available AND before you need it.
Strategic Plans — Roadmap to Success
Not having a strategic, long-term plan is a recipe for failure. Without a plan, you can’t share your vision for the organization or set a clear direction for your team, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Without a strategic plan, you don’t know which opportunities and priorities to pursue. You also don’t have the ability to get others to join in to help you succeed. Stakeholders, including (and often especially) funding sources, want to know you have a vision and a plan. They want to know you have taken the time to create a roadmap for organizational success.
Steps to Develop Your Strategic Plan
- Define the vision for the organization.
- Specify size – revenues to generate or funds to raise
- Specify customer — who do you serve and how do you serve them
- Set goals — translate the vision into specific, measurable, achievable (with some stretch), result-oriented, time-based goals.
- Cash, milestones, and timelines — when do things need to happen
- When are grant and other funding sources making decisions
- When will you need cash flow to fund growth, pay bills, hire more people
- What are the needs of the organization to “keep the lights on”
- Actions, Activity and Opportunity
- Activity – things that keep the organization going
- Opportunity – things that you pursue because they impact the goals
- Actions — things you take because they move you toward your priorities and goals.
Your strategic plan—or lack thereof—will determine how successful your organization is. It will change as you get more information and learn from implementation. The process of planning for your future will align the vision, motivate your team, and enable the entire organization to focus on the priorities to make that plan happen.
Copyright ©2016 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.