November 2019
March 2021
Bryan Orander, President, Charitable Advisors
10 Strategic Planning Insights that Stick
In recent months, I have been hearing from many nonprofits that they are revisiting their strategic plans and regrouping for the year ahead. As a consultant who has been through many strategic planning processes and reviewed various strategic plans, I know that the outcome can be energizing — making a significant difference for the organization. However, some teams will just go through the motions because someone, such as a funder, has told them that “every nonprofit needs a plan.” I do believe that every nonprofit needs a solid plan, but it must be owned and embraced by your staff and board rather than to merely cater to funders or certifying bodies.

If your team is ready to create a strategic plan that transforms your organization, review the following tips and terminology to invigorate your process. This terminology and special insights, which I have accumulated from first-hand experience or from other leaders during more than 20 years of strategic planning, have been helpful for many teams going through the process. 
Clarify expectations. Get everyone on the same page about your planning process and end product. Ask questions like, “Is this a deep dive into our purpose or existence?” “Is this a quick update to a plan that is working well?” Some people see planning as a Saturday morning task and some see it as a year-long endeavor. Some envision a written plan as a one-pager to guide staff and others want detailed implementation responsibilities with specific dates.

Make implementation the end goal. Nonprofits are famous for treating the finished plan as the accomplishment, but it is just the beginning. Limit the time and energy you invest in your plan so that you have time and energy for implementation. The goal is not a completed plan document but an implemented plan.

Focus on impact and sustainability. Ultimately, your organization has two goals – to make the difference defined in your mission/vision and to be around the following year to make a difference. In your plan, everything should link back to one of those two goals.

Have the “think big and dream” discussion. Taking a little time to dream can be energizing and provide valuable insights about how your efforts might evolve or be better invested.

Don’t run the risk of not having enough strategy in your strategic plan. This advice from LaPiana Consulting highlights the fact that strategy is about cause and effect. If your plan is a “to-do” list of random activities, you may be running off track. Ask, “What is our organization doing and how are we doing it that results in the change we want to create?”

Learn from others. One great way to energize board and staff around new ideas is to provide them with the opportunity to see how similar organizations, often in other communities, are doing the work. Ideally, you can get good bonding time on the ride as well (post-Covid). This also includes benchmarking for costs, processes and staffing structure.

From/To format. Staff and board members should be able to easily explain what will be different as you implement your new plan. This is a simple format to explain your plan in less than a page (i.e., three columns - FROM: Clients come to our downtown office -> TO: We have multiple offices convenient to our clients -> DOING DIFFERENTLY: We increase access and understanding with staff based in communities we serve.) 

Use an Opportunity Filter (aka Strategy Screen). Based on this principle from LaPiana, most nonprofit leaders have new ideas coming across their desks every day – from staff, board, funders, partners. You need well-defined criteria, established in advance, to help clarify the best opportunities for your organization and give you permission to say “No.” Start by assessing your mission and values and what you would exclude, and then look at your best roles, followed by financial and staff capacity. 

Be sure you have both “Change and Trains” in your plan. Doug Eadie, a nonprofit advisor and coach, introduced the idea of a “Change Agenda.” He noted that every plan must have a few elements of change but not everything can be change or it will be overwhelming. I added “Trains” as the complement as in “keep the trains running on time.” Your plan should drive for a few meaningful changes plus some incremental refinement and improvement.

Think long and short when planning. Finally, Bridgespan Group recently introduced their concept of thinking long-term, well beyond the pandemic, to enable you to prioritize the next 12 to 24 months. Read about the concept in the article, To Combat Adversity, Resilient Nonprofits Think Long and Short | Bridgespan

To learn more, please contact Bryan Orander or 317-752-7153.

Please Participate in the Nonprofit Salary Survey – Closing March 12

If you want the full Nonprofit Salary Survey report this year, we need your organization to participate. Charitable Advisors is in the final days of information gathering for our 6th Central Indiana Nonprofit Salary Survey, supported this cycle by National Bank of Indianapolis, First Person Benefit Advisors, VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm and Charitable Allies. The survey has been open since Feb. 2.

Nonprofit staff and board leaders tell us they continually look to our salary survey report to assist in hiring and budgeting decisions around compensation and benefits. The 2021 survey has been streamlined to shorten the completion process but still covers 26 common positions.

There is no cost to participate. To encourage and reward participation, contributing organizations will receive the full report, at no cost, in July 2021. For non-participating organizations and the general public, a summary of the results will be placed on the Charitable Advisors website in September.

We still need 75 more organizations to reach our participation goal to provide the detailed information that benefits everyone the most. Please provide the appropriate contact for your organization to Julie Strublee

The Alchemy of Change:
Better Nonprofits for Better Communities – May 1

North Park University annual conference will engage questions of both organizational and structural change, engaging the strategic and systemic realities that structure the work of nonprofits in Chicago. Be inspired by six TED-style talks, explore deeper at speaker follow-up discussions, and be equipped in facilitated workshops. Learn more

We want to recognize board leaders
For most board members, board leadership roles come with a commitment and investment of time and resources to support a cause they care about. However, for the individual who steps up to serve as board president or chair, the role comes with the assumption of overall responsibility for the nonprofit and guiding the organization’s path forward.  

As we continue to share news of board leaders who have taken the helm, we encourage you to recognize and thank these individuals for tackling the role, because as a community member you recognize the value of his or her investment to help keep the sector strong.  

If you want to announce your organization’s new board leader, please send name, position and a head shot HERE.

We are open to other ways we can support and recognize board leaders. Send us your thoughts or tell us a story about a board leader who has made a difference in your organization. Share your ideas with Bryan Orander, president.
Paul Ainslie
President, Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Indianapolis Archdiocesan Council, Inc.
Jon Loftin 
President and COO, MJ Insurance
Nonprofit Pandemic Resource Page - Every nonprofit leader is dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. Charitable Advisors is continually reviewing available information, adding it to our resource page and sharing it in the Not-for-profit News.
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