The president of the Board of Directors of a non-profit in Washington D.C. called me today and said: “We have a limited budget for strategic planning. We have two days to develop our plan. What do you think we should be asking for from a consultant – particularly on a tight budget?”
I responded: “What do you hope to get out of it? What do you think you most need as an organization?”
He told me he’d listened to me talk about the importance of aligning a Board and staff around a set of well-understood goals, objectives and performance measures. “Bottom line,” he told me, “that’s exactly what we need. We need alignment.”
I listed for him the key elements I thought he should ask a consultant to provide.
1. Facilitate clear agreement among the Board on the vision of the organization. How do you want to change the world? What impact do you want to have? Do you want to enact a new piece of legislation? Do you want to build 250 new chapters? How would you measure success? Internally, do you want to build membership to a certain level? Do you want to increase fee for service revenues a certain amount? Get the Board to agree on what success looks like.
2. Design your road map. What strategies will be the most effective in achieving those goals? What are the most important objectives and actions tied to each goal? Your consultant should help you write them down in a clear, easy-to-use format. Your consultant should also keep you focused the Board’s role vs. the staff’s role. What will the Board do? What will staff do?
3. Define your measuring system. The Board should be clearly aligned around how it’s going to monitor progress. Document each goal and exactly what information the Board will receive so that it can monitor progress. Remember, the Board doesn’t need to be in the business of micro-managing. It should be in the habit of looking for results. This measuring system is the part that most consultants overlook. It’s also the most important to assure alignment.
4. Put it together. All this work needs to flow together into a clear, easily understood document. Before you hire a consultant, ask for examples of other strategic plans he or she has helped put together. Look for a plan with all these elements. It’s tempting to make compromises when you’re on a tight budget, but good consultants are out there. Keep looking until you find the right one!
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