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Strategic Planning

What is it?
"Strategic planning is the systematic process through which an organization agrees on - and builds commitment among key stakeholders to - priorities that are essential to its mission and are responsive to the environment.  Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources to achieve priorities."

Strategic planning:

  • Is strategic because it involves deciding how to respond to changing circumstances;
  • Is systematic in that it follows a structured and data-based process;
  • Sets priorities and shapes decision-making about direction and goals;
  • Builds commitment by engaging key stakeholders in decision-making and priority-setting; and
  • Provides direction that guides the future allocation of resources.
What it Isn't:
Strategic planning...
  • Does not predict the future. It is a plan for the future based on current and past information.
  • Is not a substitute for the exercise of sound judgement. "It is a tool that supports the intuition, reasoning skills, and judgement that people bring to the work of their organization."
  • Is rarely a predictable and straightforward undertaking. It shows the way.
Strategic planning helps...
  • Define the purpose of an organization.
  • Build a common vision.
  • Establish realistic goals and objectives that are consistent with the organization's mission.
  • Convey goals and objectives to key stakeholders.
  • Build consensus on where the organization is going.
  • Build strong Board and Staff teams.
  • Establish a baseline from which progress can be measured.
When Should Strategic Planning be Done?
  • When a new organization is formed. The strategic plan should be integral component of the overall business plan (along with the marketing and financial plans).
  • When an organization is about to launch a new venture, e.g., a new department or line of service(s).
  • Generally speaking, a full-blown strategic planning process should be undertaken every five years. That said, if the organization's internal or external environments are experiencing rapid change, components of the strategic planning process may need to be revisited on annual basis.
  • Action plans arising from the strategic plan should be up-dated yearly.
  • Progress on the implementation of the strategic plan should be reviewed by the Board regularly especially if the rate of change in and around the organization is volatile.
Need help?
There are numerous excellent print and electronic tools and templates available to assist organizations with their strategic planning efforts. Click  here for some of our favourites. 

A Consultant is/may be useful when:
  • The organization has limited expertise in strategic planning;
  • The timeframe is limited;
  • Previous strategic planning efforts fell short of expectation or lacked teeth;
  • There is disagreement or a lack of consensus among key stakeholders;
  • An objective third-party is needed in order to lend a fresh and unbiased perspective; or
  • A funder requests a review and/or assurance that their money is being directed to its intended purpose.

Source:  Allison, Michael and Jude Kaye.  Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations A Practical Guide and Workbook. 2nd ed.  New Jersey : John Wiley and Sons, Inc,  2005.



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