While strategic plans will address critical issues and challenges that are unique to individual nonprofits, it is also true that there are some key strategies that need to be incorporated into the strategic plans of all nonprofits in some way, regardless of mission focus. Here's my starter list:
Boomers. Your strategic plan needs a targeted strategy to engage baby boomers as volunteers, board leaders, donors, and activists. One of the best resources available for thinking this through is Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit by Peter C. Brinckerhoff which outlines in very specific ways what you can expect and how to plan for it. This publication also includes an assessment tool.
Strategic Restructuring. Your strategic planning process also needs to include exploration of partnerships, alliances and other forms of strategic restructuring. It's always been true -- and in the future even more so -- that the ability to forge partnerships and alliances that advance your nonprofit’s strategic priorities is a critical competency. Here are some excellent resources: LaPiana & Associates Strategic Restructuring Website. Also read Forging Nonprofit Alliances: A Comprehensive Guide to Enhancing Your Mission Through Joint Ventures & Partnerships, Management Service Organizations, Parent Corporations, and Mergers by Jane Arsenault. Also see AllianceStrategy.com which offers resources and readings on alliance strategy and management. The site is maintained by Ben Gomes-Casseres, author of The Alliance Revolution and co-author of Mastering Alliance Strategy, a professor at Brandeis University.
Leadership Succession. Your strategic planning also needs to address the challenge of board and staff leadership succession and related executive transition issues. Three of the best resources on this subject are: TransitionGuides, Compasspoint Nonprofit Services Executive Transition resources, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Executive Transition Monographs Series.
Regional Thinking. Another critical theme is regional thinking and decision-making. Increasingly local leaders are becoming convinced that solutions to local problems require regional strategies. Nonprofits also need to think about their missions, programs and services in regional terms. Obviously this will be more important for some organizations than for others. A good place to start is the Alliance for Regional Stewardship.
The Web. You also need to be thinking about technology and specifically Web 2.0. Don't know what Web 2.0 is? You'd better. What are the implications of these new web-based communications and networking tools? Nonprofits that figure this one out are way ahead. Start with Everything You Need to Know About Web 2.0 by Techsoup. And here is an excellent book Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age by Allison Fine.
Collaborative Strategic Planning. Finally look for opportunities to engage in collaborative strategic planning with current and prospective partners. 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. This theme was addressed in a February 14, 2006 post on this blog.