A strategic planning framework

Ongoing sustainability in non-profit community organisations is closely linked to formally engaging in strategic planning once or twice a year, depending on your organisation’s capacity and needs. A basic strategic planning framework includes:

1. Who we are

  • How do we view ourselves as an organisation?
  • How do our customers and partners within the community view us?
  • Assessment of previous activity; what worked, what didn’t work.  

2. What we want to be

  • Create or re-think your organisation’s vision and mission. Your vision contains broad long-term aspirations, it should inspire people to engage with your project. Meanwhile, the mission should focus on how you plan to go about achieving the vision in the medium term.
  • Re-state your key value proposition. When someone asks – “What is your project?” this proposition should summarise the essence of what makes your organisation unique. What is it that makes partners, customers and the community excited about your project?

3. What we do

  • Create a list of strategic objectives for the coming year. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable within a set timeframe, and relevant to your vision and mission.
  • Make sure your objectives can be broken down into specific tasks and activities, thereby creating a to-do list. 

4. What we want to achieve

  • The creation of specific, realistic and achievable key performance indicators (KPIs) are needed to drive you towards achieving your strategic objectives. This not only provides clear targets to strive towards, it also allows you to assess your performance retrospectively during the next strategic planning session. With this information you can best adapt your activities for greater success.
  • Assign KPIs to your project generally, then break some down into KPIs for the key individuals involved with the project. Use the outcomes as part of an annual or semi-annual performance appraisal. 

5. How we get there

  • Use strategic planning tools to assist in developing a financial budget and human resourcing requirements plan to achieve your aims.
  • Strategic partnerships; engage those who can help best achieve your aims.
  • Marketing and public relations strategy; create a plan for externalising your activities and connecting with target markets. 
  • What others are doing; e.g. fellow Empty Space projects and unrelated non-profit and commercial projects. Borrow from their lessons that can be adapted.
  • Create a timeline for key activities and milestones. Keep a schedule and stick to it. 

6. Sell your plan

  • Create a story that will engage your key stakeholders, allowing them to visualise the future. Focus on key outputs from the planning process, not the entire framework.
  • Tell them how they can help you achieve your objectives with calls to action.  

7. Regular tracking

With two strategic planning sessions each year, the progress of the organisation can be adjusted to ensure you achieve your goals. Between planning sessions, meetings will track progress. Apart from maintaining strategic direction, this process can build energy and cohesion within the organisation, along with generating ideas. 

8. Learn from experts

Strategic planning can seem a little overwhelming for the uninitiated so it is recommended you seek the pro-bonon assistance of an experienced strategy consultant to facilitate the above planning steps. If expert assistance is not available, the following books may be helpful: