Nonprofits are showing new interest in collaborative strategic planning efforts in which the focus is on a shared customer/constituent base or pressing community issue rather than development of a strategic plan for their organization alone. Examples include several youth and family serving organizations developing a collaborative strategic plan to offer new services to children with special needs in a region or neighborhood development groups focusing on affordable housing in city neighborhoods.
For many nonprofits – even those who see the importance of planning collaboratively – this will require a commitment to build capacity. Here is an excerpt from our capacity building assessment and benchmarking tool that illustrates what this path to increased collaborative strategic planning capacity would look like over time:
LEVEL ONE: Clear need for increased capacity - Organization does not engage in any collaborative planning on community initiatives with other service providers; sees no value in such efforts.
LEVEL TWO: Basic level of capacity in place - Organization engages in collaborative planning efforts at the request of external stakeholders such as funders; such efforts are isolated and usually short term in nature.
LEVEL THREE: Moderate level of capacity in place - Organization engages in some collaborative planning efforts sometimes at the request of external stakeholders and also because the organization views such efforts as a way to increase its impact; collaborative plans with other partners align with the organization's own strategic plan.
LEVEL FOUR: High level of capacity in place - Organization engages in and often initiates a range of collaborative planning efforts; views such efforts as integral to its success and as a way to extend and solidify partnerships and alliances that increase impact; collaborative plans with other partners contribute to the organization’s strategic plan as well as strategic plans of the broader community.