Strategic planning is a major responsibility for a volunteer-driven, nonprofit board of directors.
The presence of paid staff does not exempt volunteer leadership from the duty of strategic planning. Officers and directors are ultimately responsible for insuring that mission and purpose are pursued.
Volunteer leadership should be aware of and understand the import of all documents submitted to state and federal agencies. These documents define organizational operations and the purpose of the nonprofit, and are available in the public domain. IRS and State files are also open for review by anyone who requests to see them.
It is highly recommended volunteer leadership examine and become acquainted with the bylaws, all governmental documents such as federal and state ones, and read the IRS Determination Letter. These are generally called the external documents.
Over the years government agencies will make changes that impact nonprofit operations. Therefore, an update of current requirements is strongly suggested. There are other documents, considered internal, that should also be reviewed.
An overview of meeting minutes, active programs and a sounding of public opinion will reveal the relevance of and performance of the organization. Reviewing financial information over several years will indicate the strength of recurring revenue, its sources and a sense of how monetary obligations are managed.
This historical approach will shed light on current conditions and can even provide some prognostication of the future of the organization.
All of the foregoing leads to the strategic planning process.
Setting direction, goals
Once the investigative steps are completed, the strategic planning can begin. It is crucial that the volunteer capacity of the organization should not be overextended or underfulfilled.
Involvement in too many activities can dilute organizational success. Underperformance of the volunteer effort will certainly lead to lack of accomplishments. Striking a delicate balance of activities is a strategic goal in itself. Focus on essentials and doing them well produces good outcome.
Set doable goals with straightforward wording, use the strong word “will” in your statements. A good example might be: “The Membership Committee will make presentations to groups that represent a potential for new volunteer members. The Funding Committee will seek donations from public sources in our community.”
Using the strong word — “will — leaves no doubt as to its meaning.
Creating the action plan
When the goals and direction are established, creating the action plan starts the implementation process. The next steps should determine what will be done, who will do it, in what sequence will the work be accomplished, what are some alternatives to the planned actions and how best to measure effectiveness.
It is always best for any committee to do the work and for the board to oversee, monitor and support the project or program.