Bristol Organizations

An Organization Made Up Of Organizations

Suzanne Smith, CEO and Founder

Social Impact Architects

 

Last Sunday, we sprung forward with Daylight Saving Time. It was a perfect analogy for how many of us are feeling – we have been in a holding pattern for the past year and we are ready to spring forward into 2021. Right now, the No. 1 question I have been hearing is: “What does the future hold and what do I do about strategic planning?” We recently worked with a cohort of nonprofits in the Truckee/Lake Tahoe area and helped them answer this question. We hope by sharing this discussion it will help bring clarity to your organization’s next steps.

 

To begin, we reflected on where we have been. Exactly one year ago, on March 18, 2020, we launched our Coronavirus Nonprofit Resource Center and each week we wrote a blog about how our collective life has changed – from stimulus acts to help nonprofits to remote work. In our first blog, Q&A on COVID-19, we shared one of my favorite quotes by Zig Ziglar, “FEAR presents us with two possibilities: Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything And Rise.” We recommended that all nonprofits develop what we called “battle plans” for 2020 (planning geared toward key tactics) and ride the wave. And collectively, we did rise to the occasion – we weathered the storms and adjusted as needed.

 

So, where does this put us now and how should we proceed? In my opinion, while I think 2021 will bring opportunity, I also think our line of sight is still short and fuzzy, which can make strategic planning tricky. Instead of focusing on a new three- or five-year strategic plan, we are recommending for our nonprofit friends and clients to consider a short-term action plan or a bridge plan for 2021. To get started, follow these steps and read our related guide for helpful tips:

 

If you don’t have an existing strategic plan, start fresh and create a 2021 action plan:

  • Conduct a lifecycle assessment for a realistic view of your organization’s current state.
  • Conduct a SWOT assessment and/or program review to consider where you are now post-pandemic with key programmatic and operational areas.
  • Triangulate above and discuss possible future scenarios – then ask:Review our post on the "Great Nonprofit RESET" for additional ideas on how to improve strategy and innovation in your organization.
    • What will best stabilize the organization?

    • What is the best use of time & resources?

    • What is going to prepare you for the future?

  • Develop a short-term action plan for 2021; this will allow you to focus on top priorities yet be flexible as the year evolves.
  • Decide on a future date when you will revisit long-term strategic planning.


If you do have a strategic plan, create a bridge plan for 2021 using your existing plan:

 

  • Review the existing plan and evaluate each objective using our assessment – is it completed or does it need to be continued? Continue anything needing additional work. Sunset anything completed. Add anything needed based on the current environment or new learnings from your battle plan.
  • Conduct a SWOT assessment and/or program review to consider where you are now post-pandemic with key programmatic and operational areas.
  • Triangulate above and discuss possible future scenarios – then ask:Review our post on the "Great Nonprofit RESET" for additional ideas on how to improve strategy and innovation in your organization. 
    • What will best stabilize the organization?

    • What is the best use of time & resources?

    • What is going to prepare you for the future?

  • Develop a bridge plan, which extends your existing plan until 2021.
  • Decide on a future date when you will revisit long-term strategic planning.

 

No matter what you do or how you do it – it is critical that you have a plan for 2021. Recovery from the pandemic will be a marathon, not a sprint, and we have a big task in front of us. While nonprofits and social entrepreneurs have risen to the occasion, there is more to do in 2021 to rebuild our safety net, bring back the arts and ensure our economy is stabilized. It will take our collective effort, but it will also take each and every organization playing their part successfully to make it happen. And, good planning is a step in that direction. We welcome any feedback or suggestions as you plan forward for 2021.


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