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Why Your Organization Needs A Strategic Plan

An organization cannot survive without a solid plan.

Strategic planning from the beginning is one of the most important steps your ministry can take. It ensures the best chances for your organization to support itself over time and gives you the ability to effectively fulfill your mission. Implementing a strategic plan makes your vision concrete and lays out what needs to happen for success.

Failure to make short term and long term plans weakens your ministry’s impact and quickly leads to lack of funding and organizational breakdown.

Beginning the Planning Process

As the adage goes, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Strategic planning must begin with creating clear vision and mission statements, keeping your organization’s short-term and long-term goals in mind. This is the backbone of all you do. It aligns your ministry’s goals, keeps stakeholders on the same page, and allows the community to understand your purpose.

Establishing a clear vision and mission allows your organization to focus and not drift from its purpose, goals, and objectives.

Start by asking the important questions. What are your organization’s values? What do you hope your organization will accomplish? How will you accomplish your vision? The answers will give you the tools you will use to fulfill your mission.

The Strategic Planning Toolbox

The vision statement is a specific and concrete declaration of your ministry’s hopes and aspirations. It is what your organization would achieve if all the planets aligned and unicorns ruled the world. A vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what your organization wants to achieve.

The mission statement is a clear and concise definition of your organization’s goals, purpose, philosophy. A mission statement focuses on today and what your organization does. The mission statement answers: What do we do? Whom do we serve? How do we serve them?

From your mission statement spring your objectives. Objectives gauge the effectiveness of your strategic plan. They are specific, actionable, measurable outcomes your organization will achieve and a timeline outlining when they will be accomplished.

Strategies and action plans are the steps your organization will take to reach your goals and objectives. They are the engines that drive your success, so the key is to be specific. Define what is to be done, who is accountable, when it is due.

It is important to include your staff and volunteers in this part of strategy building. Inclusion creates buy-in and any winning strategy needs engaged stakeholders to be successful.

Action plans must be sustainable so be ready to modify your strategy as needed – keep what works and change what doesn’t.

Using the Strategic Plan Toolbox

The strategic planning process is useful when you are starting a new organization or your established organization is starting a new project, campaign, or is beginning to work in a new direction. It can invigorate a ministry or campaign that has lost momentum or focus. When applying for grants, strategic planning will clarify your vision and mission so any funding you seek supports what your ministry stands for.

To be effective, your plan needs to be written down rather than floating in the ether of verbal discussions and individual ideas. Written plans demonstrate a level of real, personal commitment and provide a basis for consistency and thoughtful review. Plans may be edited, improved, or discarded as necessary but the important thing is to start with something and write it down.

So, Is Your Plan Working?

Evaluation is critical to an organization’s success yet is often overlooked.

Working toward your mission is important but do not ignore the business component of your organization. Spend time crunching the numbers – assess fundraising costs against the actual income raised, including staffing costs. Make sure you are getting enough return for your output.

Evaluate where your non-profit is in relation to your goals at least annually. Make decisions based on data, not emotion, and modify as necessary.

Use social media to find out what people are saying. Ask your stakeholders – board members, executive staff, program staff, volunteers, community members – what they think and listen to their input.

Find a way to measure the effectiveness in everything you do. Identify what worked and what didn’t in order to learn how to improve. Analyze and adjust!

Planning and evaluation is an on-going process and a vital part of organizational culture. Developing an organization that values and promotes the process of planning and evaluation will always improve your ministry’s effectiveness in achieving its mission.

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Citadel Ministries: Helping the Helpers

Citadel Ministries, is headquartered in Fresno, California. We have worked with hundreds of faith-based and community-based organizations throughout California, focusing on startup paperwork, organizational launch, administrative support, sustainability, and fundraising.

Already have your 501(c)(3) status, but need help with the next steps? Want more information on making your organization sustainable? Contact us to find out about our donor relations classes, Executive Director training, Board selection, marketing, fundraising, and more.