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The Strategic Nonprofit Board

Nonprofit organizations are in various stages of development. Like the terminology used in team development, nonprofits go through similar steps: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing (thank you, Donald Egolf, PhD).
When the nonprofit reaches the Performing level, it’s time (if there isn’t one in place) to invest energy in a Strategic Plan.
I suppose a nonprofit board could decide in its formative phase to do some serious strategic work. If the right board is in place, this could work. But usually, the initial group are good buddies with the director and they’re just not ready to tackle the serious business of setting direction. Heck, they’re probably struggling to keep the doors open.
A high-performing nonprofit organization that’s clear about mission, vision and goals needs to get strategic about the What and How of raising money, marketing approach to identified target audiences, communication approach that makes sense, and, above all, clarity around “what is the program?” What are we offering to our primary customers? How are we helping these customers change their lives for the better? Can we measure that change? Can we clearly articulate that change to our donors and volunteers?
Major funders…foundations as well as major donors…want answers to these questions.
And the best way to identify the right answers is to go through a robust planning process.
When I’m facilitating a strategic plan process, I want the board and stakeholders to work on answering these questions:
a. What is our mission?
b. Who are our customers?
c. What do our customers value?
d. What is the difference we make?
The work on a strategic plan gets the key players, board members, staff, volunteers, other stakeholders on the same page. At least mostly if not 100%.
Getting the group in focus is half the battle. Going out and actually doing what we say we’re committed to is the other half. And getting the where-with-all to make this happen is…the confirmation that we’ve got it right.

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