Justin Narducci – The Power of a Plan is Narducci’s take on the importance of your written task map. Here’s what Justin has to share about where your nonprofit is headed:
I’m writing this article from CURE International’s newest pediatric hospital in Zimbabwe – a hospital that owes its existence to our organization’s strategic plan. The children treated here, the lives changed here, the generational impact made here, would all be impossible without our conscious decision to create and follow a strategic plan. The stakes could not be higher.
I have been involved in various levels of non-profit leadership for 15 years. Over that time, I have made many mistakes and learned quite a few valuable lessons. Allow me to share one of the most important and practical lessons with you today: the power of a strategic plan.
Much like a map helps guide a journey, a strategic plan helps orient and unify all stakeholders (staff, donors, board, partners, etc.) with the vision that you and your team have for the future of your organization.
Often, just getting started is the hardest part of the planning process. Having recently completed our plan, I wanted to share five tips that can help you develop your plan.
One: Think Near-Term
Identity key areas of improvement and growth that you would like to see within your organization in the next 24-36 months. The world today is changing so rapidly that planning beyond three years can be unhelpful. Long-term goals are great, but only so far as they inform near-term planning.
Two: Keep the Plan Achievable
Pick five to seven key objectives that have three to five time-bound goals within them. For example, if we want to double the number of children we serve in three years (key objective) then we will need to achieve several time-bound goals, such as: hire ten more doctors in 2023, build five more operating rooms in 2024, and open one new hospital in 2025. With further detail and development, each of these goals become achievable.
Three: Include More People Than You May Think
Whether your organization is large or small, it can be daunting to turn a blank piece of paper into a strategic plan. If you are starting fresh, I recommend gathering your leadership team to brainstorm the key objectives (Think: “Where are all the places we can go from here?”)
Then, pick the best, most realistic key objectives (or “destinations”) from the list. Get input about those with important stakeholders like board members, specific donors, and key staff. If the key staff can gather input from employees they manage, all the better. Listen to their input and update the key objectives (or not) accordingly. Next, develop time-bound goals that are necessary to achieve each key objective. Put together a budget and take the final version to your board for approval!
Four: Develop Regular Rhythms to Focus on Execution
You may choose to assign key objectives to individuals on your team or decide to tackle them all together. Either way is fine. Share progress with your board at regular meetings and provide regular updates to the entire organization to create healthy accountability to achieve the plan.
The important part is that you talk about the goals – a lot. You will become very weary of talking about the plan. Your board and staff will be able to recite them in their sleep. This is good because it means you have successfully focused the organization on the execution of time-bound goals in pursuit of key objectives. A dusty plan does nothing for anyone, especially the beneficiaries of your organization.
It’s important to note that perfection is not the goal here. No one is (or should be) expecting perfection, so don’t worry about misses along the way. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
Five: Invite Donors into the Vision
Your most engaged donors (or even new donors) want to see your mission grow its impact. Share the broad strokes of the plan, including time-bound goals and key objectives, with your donors who have shown interest in your vision. For donor communication, it’s important to put a general budget together for each piece so they know exactly what their funds can achieve.
Let’s say we need $1M to build a new hospital. When donors see that you are focused and have a plan for achieving the goal, it makes it more attractive to want to help the vision to become reality by making a gift. It allows them to see what they are investing in. Typically, large gifts are given for specific projects to achieve specific goals much more than they are given to support general support funds.
What I’m sharing here is not theoretical. It’s what we did to allow our organization to perform over 14,000 surgeries in the past 12 months (+60% year-over-year). It’s how we were able to train over 2,600 healthcare professionals in the past 12 months (+130% year-over-year). And the plan has helped to garner significant support for multiple capital projects.
I’m not sharing this to make you think highly about me or our organization. I’m sharing this to highlight the importance and power of a strategic plan. A well-developed plan allows you to expand into new levels of impact that are impossible to achieve without it. Maybe of equal importance is the ability of a plan to give your organization a framework for what opportunities to say “no” to when they arise.
Your mission is important. Take the time this summer to develop a plan that you can have ready to kick off in the new year. It can be done!
Justin Narducci is President and CEO of CURE International, a global nonprofit that operates eight no-cost hospitals that provide life-changing surgical care for children living with treatable disabilities.
Justin Narducci – The Power of a Plan was first posted at 501c3.Buzz