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Driving Strategic Planning: A Nonprofit Executive's Guide
by Deborah L. Kocsis and Susan A. Waechter

Concise, easy-to-read primer

Every so often, an excellent resource crosses our desks, and this is one of them. BoardSource (formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards) has recently issued a 48-page booklet that demystifies the planning process. It shows nonprofit executives how to work through the process, defines the roles of boards, executives, and staffs. It even addresses how (and whether) to retain a consultant to assist with planning.

As a marketing professor says, “If you're reacting to the market, you're not following a strategy.” Planning is most needed when conditions are adverse or uncertain or when the day-to-day is clouding the long-term. Not every time is the right time to begin strategic planning, however: organizations in imminent crisis such as litigation, excessive board turnover, or in the process of hiring a new executive should delay planning until the short-term emergency is handled.

The booklet includes several checklists and appraisal forms to assist in issues such as determining whether the organization is ready to plan, determining appropriate stakeholder involvement in planning, monitoring the planning process, and the elements of a written strategic plan.

Some experts argue that the board needs to take the lead in strategic planning, but often it falls to the executive to guide the board, as well as staff and other stakeholders, through that responsibility.

The authors rightly contend that the purpose of planning is not a document, but rather shared understanding and the basis for renewed, coordinated, mission-focused activity.

This booklet is a concise, easy-to-read introduction to planning process that demonstrates the relevance and benefits to a nonprofit in having a solid plan. “The strategic planning process is a management tool designed to improve the effectiveness of an organization...Strategic planning is, in essence, a disciplined approach to decide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future.”

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