Six Keys to a Thoughtful Strategic Plan

Jan 04, 2018

co-written with Ben Case, Case Consulting Services Inc.

Whatever business you are in, I believe it is mandatory for every company to have a thoughtful strategic plan. When your day-to-day work becomes overwhelming, you need to have a plan that will keep you focused on where you want to go as a company over the long haul.

thoughtful strategic plan

A thoughtful strategic plan gives everyone a clear sense of the organization’s direction. Leadership commits to it in writing. Staff puts the plan into action.

Before I started Transformational Impact LLC, I worked with my friend Ben Case at Case Consulting Services, Inc. Ben is reputedly one of the best major gift fundraisers in the world, having helped nonprofits raise more than $4.3 billion in his 40 years of fundraising.

In 2016, Ben Case and I wrote a series on Six Keys to Thoughtful Strategic Planning. Here’s a summary of those six keys.


1. Identify Your Mission

Our definition of mission is “a concise statement that articulates the purpose of the organization, why the organization exists.The board should ensure the development of and approve a mission statement. Once established, a mission statement should rarely change and be broadly shared and understood. Many leaders describe a mission statement as “the reason I get out of bed every day.” The mission should define the organization and help attract the human and financial capital needed to accomplish the strategic plan.


2. Cast Your Vision

We define vision as “a concise statement that captures what will be accomplished toward the mission over a defined period of time.” A good vision statement is measurable, attainable, motivational, and differentiates the organization from others like it. We like a compelling multi-year vision to reach a preferred future, or what Jim Collins refers to as a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. Donors want to be excited about the direction of your nonprofit so they can help you get there. They want to be inspired with big ideas. I always say, “There is no shortage of million dollar donors, just a shortage of million dollar ideas.”


3. State Your Principles and Values

Principles are “fundamental doctrine or tenets that an organization holds as truths and which it advocates to all of its audiences.” These beliefs shape and guide everything the organization says, including external communications. Values are “moral and ethical codes or acceptable standards by which an organization operates and by which all affiliated with the organization are to conduct themselves.” These internal rules guide everything the organization does. Only when team members consistently display these principles and values will the nonprofit be perceived in the desired manner.

4. Specify Overall Specific Organizational Goals

Goals “translate the organization’s vision into major policy or operational directions.” They are limited in number, highlight major strategic accomplishments the organization seeks to achieve, respect the needs of constituents, and normally require actions by more than one unit. Goals are the foundation for the deployment of available human and financial resources and development of detailed operational plans for the organization. These goals describe how the nonprofit will define success over a period of time and are the basis to assess the nonprofit’s accomplishments.


5. Clarify Department Objectives

With organizational goals in place, “each department can then itemize actionable, important objectives—tactical chunks—to enable the nonprofit to achieve its overall goals.” This is not an exhaustive list, but the primary objectives and plans that each department must achieve toward the accomplishment of the organization’s goals for the term of the strategic plan. It is necessary to state how these tactics are to be coordinated with other units. It is mandatory to specifically identify who is responsible to achieve organizational goals and department objectives.


6. Adopt a Budget, Timeline and Process for Evaluation

The budget includes “projected revenue and expenses for all programs and personnel over the period of the strategic plan.” Fiscal realities and discipline must be applied to every strategic plan. The timelinesets deadlines to achieve major milestones for the term of the strategic plan.” Adjust it regularly. Evaluation “is the process to regularly review progress toward achieving the organization’s vision, goals and department objectives within the strategic plan.” The evaluation states how the nonprofit will measure success and achievement of each goal and objective.


“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Want to make it more likely for you to arrive where you want—to achieve success? There is no better time of year to have in place a thoughtful strategic plan with a mission and vision, principles and values, organization goals, department objectives and plans, a budget, timeline and evaluation.


Did you know I facilitate strategic planning sessions? I lead executive teams in developing a thoughtful strategic plan for their company. Click the button below to start the conversation.

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