Add marketing strategy into your nonprofit strategic planning

“Which road do I take, she asked?” “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn't matter!”

“Which road do I take, she asked?”
“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter!”

“Okay,” the executive director said. “We really need to do some nonprofit strategic planning.”

“Why,” said the board members. “We’ll spend a lot of time and money and the plan will sit somewhere on a shelf.”

This isn’t an atypical refrain. There are, however, important reasons for your nonprofit to do strategic planning. Nonprofit strategic planning answers the 4 big questions:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Where do we want to be in the future?
  3. What part of the status quo do we need to change to get us where we want to be in the future?
  4. How do we make it happen?

But, the planning process doesn’t need to be a chore. Nor does the plan need to sit on a shelf.

I had the distinct honor of working with Bridging The Gap Foundation. I was a consultant for their Strategic Planning, Board Development and Fundraising Grant. This opportunity was made possible through the generosity of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness and Philanthropy Program.

The main lesson I learned is that there isn’t one perfect strategic planning model that works for every nonprofit. There are a number of variables that must be considered, including:

  • the culture of the nonprofit
  • whether or not the organization has had success in strategic planning
  • the volatility of their environment
  • the main reason for doing the strategic planning at this time

My most recent engagement was with a small nonprofit with a hard working and committed board. After some preliminary discussions, we decided on a planning process that integrated vision-based and marketing strategy.

Vision-based strategic planning model:

  1. Identify your purpose (mission statement)
  2. Establish a vision statement
  3. Select the goals your organization must reach if it is to effectively work toward your mission and achieve your vision
  4. Identify specific approaches (or strategies) that must be implemented to reach each goal
  5. Identify specific action plans to implement each strategy (or objectives to achieve each goal)
  6. Compile the mission, vision, strategies and action plans into a Strategic Plan document.
  7. Monitor implementation of the Plan and update the Plan as Needed

Add marketing strategy into your nonprofit strategic planning:

Strategy is not planning. Strategy is about making smart strategic choices. Strategy helps create strategic planning and action into real-time.

La Piana Consulting identifies 5 principles for strategy development that I weave into the strategic planning process:

  1. Know Yourself
  2. Know your market
  3. Build on Your strengths
  4. Make decision-making criteria explicit
  5. Identify Your Big Question, e.g., your greatest challenge

Do you have any thoughts about strategic planning or weaving marketing strategy into the strategic planning process?

We’d love to hear from you!