This is not a “how-to” post on strategic planning.
There are certainly other resources, and others far more expert than I, to address the theory and practice of quality strategic planning (you know, the kind that is actually strategic and is actually planning).
But I’ve been working with a couple of nonprofit organizations (on advocacy, research, and capacity-building) that have just completed or are undergoing strategic planning processes, and that has me thinking about two kinds of intersections between advocacy and strategic planning: first, using your advocacy skills to influence your organization’s direction and, second, incorporating specific advocacy objectives and activities into the strategic plan, to increase their acceptance within the organization’s resource distribution and power hierarchies.
Before we get to that, though, it’s worth saying that I agree with the authors of The Networked Nonprofit that “strategic planning” as we understand it today–a discrete, time and resource-intensive, relatively insular process–will soon be a relic of the past, at least for the most nimble and responsive organizations.
In its place will be real-time, continuous, transparent, collaborative listening and analysis and thinking about current opportunities, future possibilities, and how to best position the organization within them. Such a process, integrated seamlessly into how the organization talks with staff, donors, constituents, and community leaders about their work, their environment, and where they’re headed, would guide not only big decisions like staffing and program development but also the daily ones, related to message development, event planning, and fundraising appeals.
And it wouldn’t require three-day-long retreats.
Or those colored dots.
But, today, as you work to steer your organization towards a simplified and opened up planning ‘orientation’, how can you use your advocacy skills to shape agency decisions, while also positioning the organization to value advocacy as you know it should?
Some tips here, from my own participation in five separate strategic planning processes, as a consultant, Board member, and staff member.
Obviously, I want to hear from practitioners involved in strategic planning today. What has worked, for you, in terms of advocacy conversations within this process? What advice do you have? Have you attempted to use your advocacy skills on your own organizational targets? What have been the results? And, what are your thoughts on the future of this “future-planning” exercise?