If you’ve ever purchased or refinanced a home, you’ll understand the frustration of watching mortgage rates rise. Recent headlines about mortgage rates topping 6% for the first time since 2008 have us thinking about all those anxious homebuyers, tossing and turning at night because so much of the process feels beyond their control.
Rising rates are also a stark reminder of how difficult it can be to stay focused on long-term goals when external factors seem to be working against you.
It’s a challenge all nonprofit leaders face at some point.
Maybe your organization loses a major donor despite all your best efforts. Or two key staff members resign in the same week. Or an external evaluation shows the new program your organization launched hasn’t had the impact you expected.
Just like today’s homebuyers, nonprofit leaders can feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and conflicted about how to respond. Here’s how a strategic planning process can help you focus on what matters.
1) Staying Grounded in Your Vision and Mission
When you’re buying a house, it’s critical to have a vision of what you’re trying to achieve. Where do you want to live? What’s your budget? How many bedrooms do you need?
The same is true for nonprofit leaders, especially when you’re making tough decisions in your organization. Should you hire new staff, expand your programs, or invest in more office space? Each choice brings potential risks and rewards.
Having a strong organizational vision and mission can help you understand which choices are most likely to move your organization toward its goals and which will not.
For this reason, Funding For Good advises all organizations to kick off strategic planning with a “visioning session.”
If your nonprofit already has vision and mission statements, a dedicated visioning session—which brings together board and staff members—gives you the space to step back and make sure those statements are still working. For newer organizations, the session enables you to craft a strong vision and mission from the start—and create buy-in along the way.
2) Unifying Your Board and Staff Around a Strategic Plan — and Strategic Decision-Making
Buying a house—like leading a nonprofit—requires that everyone involved is prepared to support your goals. For homebuyers, that could be your realtor, mortgage broker or bank representative, and, of course, family members.
Nonprofit leaders have even more stakeholders to consider.
- Executive Director
- Board of Directors
- Members or other communities you serve
- Partner organizations
Accomplishing your mission requires ensuring your core team—namely your board and staff—are on the same page. As Funding for Good has shared before, there is no better way to accomplish this than to engage decision-makers in a well-organized strategic planning process.
Building on your visioning session, the strategic planning process brings together both board and staff leadership. The goal is to not only create space for diverse voices and ideas, but to ultimately build consensus. This ensures the Executive Director, Board of Directors and staff at every level are clear about what your nonprofit is working to accomplish—and understand the strategic choices ahead.
3) Increasing Your Nonprofit’s Chance of Success
There are no guarantees for success—either in home buying or nonprofit leadership—but you can still stack the odds in your favor.
A strategic plan and a unified team put your nonprofit in the best possible position to succeed. You’ll be able to:
- Clearly communicate your organization’s value internally and externally—including to donors, members, and other audiences
- Navigate ups and downs with greater confidence, retaining a collective focus on your organization’s impact
- Utilize your strategic plan as a living document, one that can evolve as conditions evolve (remember those rising interest rates?)
Predicting the future may be impossible—as off-base mortgage rate forecasts demonstrate—but there are ways to prepare for different potential futures.
The very best way to position your nonprofit to navigate whatever challenges may lie ahead is by creating a strategic plan today.