In the nonprofit sector, many organizations operate without a strategy or written annual plan. Even some small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) have avoided the task of developing written plans, focusing more on the tactics of generating revenue and staying alive in their competitive markets.
Some nonprofits have embraced the all-encompassing, five-year strategic plan--the dreaded activity that takes many resources to develop and write, often becoming obsolete a year or two later.
In many cases, the nonprofit strategic plan focuses on the mission and vision, interpreting what the organization's focus and goals will be over the next few years. It may or may not include specific projected revenues and capture growth or shrinkage, because it doesn't often include a bona fide SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis or market research results.
Many nonprofit lay leaders or boards of directors, as well as SMB owners, consider these costs unaffordable or inconsequential. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
In one organization where I worked, a lay committee discussed the development of the strategic plan, after which a VP wrote the first draft. Senior management discussed it during a meeting before the CEO received it for review. The CEO amended it (numerous times) over several weeks, before the VP presented it at a board meeting for review and feedback. It was on the board agenda once more, but after four months they didn't want to make any major changes at that point.
My sole contribution as the marketing and communications director was to provide a projected department budget for the next five years. I didn't find the request that unusual, except that I hadn't seen the draft plan before I wrote the projections! How could I possibly know how to staff the department or develop the tactical costs without knowing where we were heading?
In that case, I did the best I could and provided my vision of the organization's growth, with an emphasis on marketing that I felt would make a difference in generating its potential revenue. With all departments operating in this fashion, I silently questioned the validity of their projected revenues.
Earlier that year, during a senior staff meeting, I had talked up the need for an organizational marketing plan--one that would clarify our strategies and tactics based on the business goals and overall strategy of the organization. I was pleased that the CEO considered the effort and encouraged me to develop it, yet I procrastinated as long as I could. Without the organization first developing a proper business plan, there wasn't much to go on.
Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.
LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel