A strategy is extremely important even if you’re a non-profit. It might be relating to fundraising development or to making your vision a reality, either way having a strategic plan will make you more successful.
So what tips do the experts working in the sector suggest? We ask a few for their expert opinions…
The Strategy Tips
Expect to get things wrong! Meaningful social impact work is often complex- and no one can predict the future. Instead of trying to be accountable for a perfectly written initial plan, be accountable for strong delivery, ongoing evidence-based reflection and learning. Plan for change – if you’re learning and improving as you go, that is a very good thing.
Kimberly Bowman, formerly Oxfam, Canada
For me Strategic Planning is the ability to “bring the business strategy to life”. So, in the charity sector this is about: Engaging everyone by communicating the strategy in language that it easy to understand for staff at all levels in the charity, Ensuring they feel they have the right skills to deliver it, or the ability to develop those skills over time, so that no one feels left behind, and Breaking the plan/deliverables down into manageable chunks (detailed planning). My priority is always to gain co-ownership of the strategy, planning and deliverables.
Vince McAllister, Trustee of SVP, UK
I believe Audience Research (beneficiaries but also supporters and stakeholders, staff, volunteers) > vision (the world you want) > mission (what you do that is ultimately about achieving that world) > objectives (SMART and linked to the mission) > goals (measurables that prove how you are scoring against objectives). Across all of these will be your values, how you go about your work, what your character as oppose to purpose is
Nick Posford, CEO of CICRA, UK
"Top tip from me is not to write it without extensive surveys first, trustees, staff, beneficiaries, funders what they love, what they want to see more of, where they think there is room for improvement, where they want you to be in 5 years time etc. If you do that then the strategy will fall out of it – and you will genuinely have engaged all your primary stakeholders in developing the strategy."
Julie Eason, CEO of The Fundraisers
Think about whose perspectives you want involved and how you will involve them at different stages in the process. I would imagine this is even more important in an international context and where you are working with and through partners. A Simple planning grid of matrix could map out each of the stages of the strategy process.
Janine Edwards, Commercial Director at FSI, UK
Data! It needs to be a key strategic element from the outset and not an afterthought, so make sure that someone with a good understanding of data is involved in the strategy. Crucially, data is an asset of value, critical for insight and innovation, and like any major asset it requires major investment. Embedding good data governance throughout the organisation needs to be at the very top and be treated as an org wide expectation
Kirsty Bluck, Data Consultant at Breast Cancer Now, UK
Understand as much as you can about external and emerging context this is usually where we short cut, but it’s critical for future-proofing aka sustainability
Jane Cockerell, Chair at 52 Lives, UK
Ensure you discuss your strategy at least quarterly with your team, how are you measuring your progress, how are you breaking it down into tasks which people can see ladder up to your wider strategic objectives.
Kirsty Erridge, Dept Director of Raising Futures Kenya, UK
Have goals that scare you because you owe it to the people who need your services. Also, involve your team in creating the plan as they’ll be more invested.
Andy King, Partnerships Manager at Remarkable Partnerships, UK
"Great strategies fail in toxic cultures, and average strategies can fly in a organisation where everyone is on board and pulling together, so don’t look at strategies without looking at culture."
Julie Eason, CEO of The Fundraisers
Remember you can check out our guide to creating a charity fundraising strategy and sign up to Lucidity for to create and execute your strategic plans!