Designing, Developing, and Implementing Strategic Plans

You need Adobe Flash Player to view some content on this site.

Click to install Adobe Flash Player

As an executive director, it is your responsibility to guide the organization and provide a vision for where it will be in the immediate future and the long term. This is achieved through the creation and implementation of a strategic plan. Strategic planning charts a course for reaching your goals and evaluating your progress. Strategic planning is important because it provides an organization’s board, staff, and stakeholders with a universal blueprint for action. Every nonprofit will have different needs for a strategic plan, depending upon the organization’s leadership, culture, and size. Sometimes strategic planning is less about making big, sweeping decisions, and more about clarifying an organization’s top priorities. While board members, staff, clients, community members, and other stakeholders may play a role in forming the strategic plan, the process is often driven by the executive director.

Developing an actionable strategic plan revolves around proper design.

Prior to the development of a strategic plan, you should determine a design process and identify dates of anticipated achievement. You may also want to consider hiring an external consultant.
Following these few simple rules will increase the likelihood that your strategic plan becomes an actionable one, rather than a document that collects dust.

  • Involve the relevant people. Gather input from those upon whom you will rely to implement the plan.
  • Break the plan into tasks. Although the plan should contain large, long-term goals, it is equally important to develop actionable steps for achieving them.
  • Be realistic. It’s okay to think big, but you should also think about what is realistically achievable based on the size and strength of your support team.
Click to open interactivity Idealist.org is a great way to locate an external consultant.

Idealist.org is a great way to locate an external consultant.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view some content on this site.

Click to install Adobe Flash Player

Once you have a plan in hand, you are ready to put it into action.

If there is already a strategic plan in place when you assume the role of executive director, you will want to meet with board members and staff to review the plan and discuss their reactions and experience. Specifically, you should survey the team on who contributed to the plan, how the plan has historically been implemented, and the perceived effectiveness of the plan. These conversations will help you determine the best way to move forward with implementing the plan.
Here are a few helpful activities for implementing your strategic plan:

  • Assign tasks and due dates. For more complex tasks, consider dividing them into smaller action items or assigning them to a work group or team.
  • Insert the tasks into the most appropriate job descriptions and schedule performance reviews to monitor progress.
  • Distribute the plan in a format that is user-friendly and conducive to implementation.