Questions To Ask About Your Organization

Cost of Strategic Planning

Whenever we're asked about our strategic planning services, one of the first questions is about cost. The first answer is always, "It depends." Every organization contemplating strategic planning approaches the process with different expectations, different needs, different time lines, and different levels of readiness.

It's very easy to sell an "off-the-shelf" strategic planning solution, but it's difficult to get such a solution to "fit" all the varied organizational situations we encounter in our practice.

Valuable Questions

These questions often help to clarify what an organization and its board don't know and need to know, or what issues need to be addressed in order for any strategic plan to be successful. In fact, there are some organizations that can actually be made worse by strategic planning undertaken in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or for the wrong reasons.

Well Thought-Out Plans

A single facilitated meeting and a consultant-written report rarely cause transformational change in an organization. These reports are like Mark Twain's definition of a "classic" book -- a book everyone praises and nobody reads. These quickie plans often hide more than they reveal and seldom deliver any real value to nonprofit organizations.

There are many approaches to strategic planning. We've documented the features and limitations of three popular nonprofit planning models here. In our practice, we've used variants of all three models, and others, as indicated by our clients' particular situations.

Here are some of the questions we ask as we work with the client to determine the scope of services and fee structure:

  1. How old is your nonprofit organization?
  2. What is the composition of your board of directors? (Number of members, tenure, board turnover, etc.)
  3. Does your organization have a current strategic plan? If so: a) when was it developed; b) how was it developed; and c) how is it working?
  4. Does your organization have an established mission statement that reflects the organization now?
  5. Does the organization have vision and values statements that describe the organization's direction?
  6. Would you consider your organization to have stable, diversified funding to deliver your mission?
  7. What are the key issues facing your organization today?
  8. What are the current trends in your industry that may affect your organization's direction?
  9. Does your organization have a management team (whether a single staff person or a group) that will follow through and make the strategic planning operational through annual work plans and evaluative activities as well as through direct service?
  10. Are there any special factors, such as government regulation, presence of a founding board member and/or major contributor on the board, or a crisis situation that affect your organization's ability to chart its future course?
  11. What do you want this strategic planning activity to accomplish? What is your definition of "success," and how will you know when success has been achieved?

Building A Strong Foundation

Asking these questions helps us understand what strategic planning services are needed, what supports are present to make the strategic planning successful, and what related services might be required to enable the organization to realize its mission.

Power of a Well-Defined Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a powerful tool in your organization's success, and it deserves time, thought, and consideration. Just as strategic planning is important because "prior planning promotes proper performance," as the saying goes, these questions asked up front, help us work with our clients to assure that the planning process itself is designed to promote proper performance.