Like the James Webb Space Telescope, Strategic Planning Can Reveal New Insights

by | Sep 28, 2022 | Strategic Planning

If you’ve been online recently, you might have been awestruck by the stunning images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. As the most powerful telescope ever built, it’s destined to “change how we see the universe.”

Sounds incredible right? 

But scientists are already beginning to wonder whether the telescope is so advanced that current scientific modeling now needs to catch up. After speaking with quantum astrophysicists, CNET posits:

“Are the datasets scientists have been using for decades unable to match the device’s power and therefore falling short in revealing what it’s trying to tell us?” 

For nonprofit leaders, this question may feel oddly familiar. 

How many times have you wondered why you aren’t achieving the impact you could be? You have all the expected tools in place, but something just isn’t working. It could be a program strategy that no longer delivers. Or perhaps your metrics are off. Maybe your organization has taken on too much, but how can you possibly scale back when community need is only growing? 

Like astrophysicists studying the new telescope’s revelations, as nonprofit leaders you may have all the inputs but your ability to identify what exactly isn’t working may be limited by your current models. 

This is a clear sign that it’s time to invest in strategic planning. 


The Key to Seeing Your Nonprofit More Clearly

When you bring in an outside consultant to facilitate your business planning process, you’re not just paying someone for meeting facilitation. You’re investing in a critical resource that can help your board and staff understand your organization with more clarity. 

Your strategic planning facilitator should guide you and your team in taking a wider and longer-term view of your organization. Together, you’ll be evaluating the present and aligning around the future. 

That means objectively considering your nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities—using tools such as an environmental scan or SWOT analysis (more on that here). It also means giving members of your team the space to collaborate in new ways. For example, your board and staff brainstorming together about operational challenges within your organization. 

At Funding for Good, we’ve seen time and again how creating a strategic plan not only increases an organization’s impact, but transforms the ways Executive Directors, Boards of Directors, and staff alike view their role in creating that impact. 


Improve Your Ability to Measure Impact

Nonprofit leaders eat, breathe, and sleep the concept of “impact,” and for good reason. Funders, partners, staff, board, volunteers, and the communities you serve all want to understand whether their investments are making a difference. 

But how do you actually measure impact

For some programs, the answer will be relatively straightforward. You can measure the number of people served, the increase in this number over time, and your beneficiaries’ assessments of your work (such as through pre- and post-surveys). For other programs, assessment may be more challenging. Are you measuring a shift in media narratives or increases in community engagement? 

When creating a strategic plan, you’ll be working with your facilitator to articulate your organization’s goals, objectives, strategies, and activities in a way that is clear and resonant. From there, you can engage further with your facilitator to develop metrics, as well as ensure you’re putting in place the tools to track those metrics and use them for program evaluations


Keep Your Business Plan Fresh

With a strategic plan and metrics in place, Funding for Good recommends preparing quarterly impact reports for your Board of Directors. You can also use these reports to update your strategic plan—keeping it fresh, relevant, and effective. 

Going a step further, you can leverage your impact reports for annual reports, donor communications, and grant materials. 

Talk about efficient and impactful. 

Your donors, volunteers, and staff will be thrilled to see how their efforts are working—and to be part of supporting your organization in making shifts that will increase your impact even further.

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