Engage Not-For-Profit Boards in Strategic Planning


Your board consists of professionals who are passionate about your cause. Their experience and skills are varied, and they don’t necessarily think about strategic planning as a way to accomplish purpose. Often, not-for-profit organizations focus more on their passion for purpose than the running of the business. It doesn’t have to be that way.
With simple steps, you can engage not-for-profit boards in developing an actionable and measurable strategic plan that is fully aligned with your purpose, and actually allows you to achieve your purpose more fully. This is the first of a three-part series designed to get your board aligned, focused, and achieving results.


1. Assemble your board and identify the 3 – 4 strategic areas that will move the needle of success in your organization. Label these areas with short, compelling actions. For example 10x Growth, or Growing Donor Base. Don’t worry, we will add numbers – this just gets the thinking started.

2. For each of these areas, develop a great “How To” question. For example, How can we grow our donations by 10x over the next 4 years?

3. Write each strategic area and the related question on a flip chart paper or on a colored card, and post these on the wall.

4. Work in groups of 5-7 people per team, and allow 5-10 minutes to identify as many outcomes as possible within one of the strategic areas. Put each outcome on a separate index card. These will become your dials or areas of measurement. For example, if Growth or Growing Donations were the strategic area, possible outcomes are:

– Increase number of donors by 10% per year
– Increase $ amount of donations received by 10% per year
– Increase in-kind donations by 10%
– Increase leader level donations by $50,000 over 3 years
– Increase corporate campaigns dollars by $10% each year over 3 years

5. If multiple groups are working on the same outcome, pool the ideas, sort for and eliminate duplicates and prioritize the remaining ones. Again, introduce fairly tight time constraints 5-10 minutes per outcome. Keep it focused.

6. Repeat the process for each of the strategic areas. You will end up with a prioritized list of outcomes. If you are keeping track of time, so far we are at about 30 minutes, and we have the framework for our plan.

7. For each of outcomes, use the same index card process described above, to identify the actions required to achieve the outcome. Order the actions beginning with the first action required. Keep the thinking process quick. Force the group to prioritize on the spot, eliminate duplicates, eliminate the “fluff”, and stay focused on the future you want to create together. Allow 5 minutes per outcome to identify the actions. If you have multiple groups, have each group work on different outcomes, and then switch groups to validate or add onto the other group’s work for 1-2 minutes.

8. When the outcomes have actions, attach dates and names to each action.

9. Post your index cards like an organization chart on a wall cascading down so that it is clear what actions and outcomes fall within each strategic area.

10. Look for the gaps and add those in before finalizing your plan.

We often make it more complicated than it is. Strategic planning is just a process that will get us from here to there, with a road map that guides us along the way. The harder part is using the plan throughout the implementation and following through on the work that was created together. Learn2 has spent 25 years refining an engagement process that gets people thinking, working together and acting for results in the development and implementation of their strategic plans. Let us help you get GREAT results. Find out more about our Strategy programs and talk to one of our strategy specialists today.

Stay tuned for the second part of our three-part series – How to Live the Plan and Ensure Results.



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