Strategic planning and donors

I have a good friend who is a classically trained organizational development professional. In a previous professional life, I employed him to work on a few different projects. In hindsight, he became a coach for me and I remember he used to always insist that the only way you get performance is by designing the process to accomplish exactly what you need … “performance by design”.

I started thinking about this in a strategic planning context this morning while walking the dogs. So, when I got back home into the delightful air conditioning (it is HOT in Chicago today), I googled the search words “strategic planning models”.¬† Click here to see more than 10 pages of process diagrams and countless pages of graphics.

If you need an explanation that doesn’t make your head hurt, I think our friends at do a much better job of aggregating everything into five essential models. My “coach-friend” preferred the organic model and specifically liked one called “The Search Conference“.

With two degrees in urban planning and having facilitated countless strategic planning processes for non-profit organizations, I’ve learned that different situations require different models. However, regardless of the path you choose, it needs to engage those who you hope will get involved in future action for your organization.

With this being said, it is a mistake to involve just board and staff in a planning process. I believe whatever process is chosen, it needs to be inclusive of all stakeholders and for non-profit organizations this obviously includes donors. Here are a few of my random thoughts (regardless of which model you choose):

  • Ask key donors to volunteer on the ad hoc planning committee
  • Survey donors using paper surveys, electronic surveys and/or phone surveys (remember that one size doesn’t fit all and a diversity of responses requires varied survey instruments)
  • Interview donors one-on-one
  • Focus group of donors
  • If you are using a “search conference” model, invite donors to come to the conference and participate

Your strategic plan sets a direction and vision for your organization. If you want donors to invest in this vision, doesn’t it make sense to include them in the planning process?

Has anyone had success getting donors outside of your board volunteers and auxiliaries involved in a strategic planning process? Or do you have any suggestions? If so, please use the comment box and share. Thanks!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653

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