Good nonprofits have a mission and a plan. However, most strategic plans are “workhorse” plans, not “show horse” plans. It’s is often harder for stakeholders to get excited about the “plodding draft horse’ than it is the “sleek thoroughbred.” On occasion, an organization may have an attention-getting, game-changing initiative but even those often extend over a length of time and are subject to losing interest during the process. Here are four tips on how to raise the level of interest for your workhorse strategic plan.
Drawing the finish line
Does your mission statement inspire? In their 1994 book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras replaced the term “mission” with the phrase “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” or as they called it, BHAG (bee-hag). They championed defining a visionary mission that is not only more strategic and emotionally compelling but also point to progress toward an “envisioned future.” The example they used was President Kennedy rephrasing the goal of “beefing up the space program” to “landing a man on the moon.”
Getting the sacred cows out of the horse pasture
Does your strategic plan include sacred cow programs that no longer support your organization’s mission, but you just don’t think you can kill? Reviewing the existing program of work is a soul-searching exercise for stakeholders and staff that needs to be done every few years. Two key questions to consider are:
- Does the organization’s current list of strategies and tactics truly lead to achieving the mission?
- Does your organization struggle with committing resources and time to new, potentially more impactful initiatives because less impactful programs are commanding those resources?
After closely reviewing each program and initiative, you will likely have changes. If this process resulted in the elimination of a sacred cow initiative or program, be sure to reach out to those vested in that program. A sit-down meeting has a greater chance of getting support for the change, or at least no verbal opposition, rather than having these stakeholders find out in an e-newsletter.
Preparing for the race
As you head to the start gate, share the plan and measurements with stakeholders and, when appropriate, the community at-large. Any changes made to the program of work during the review process can be leveraged as opportunities to generate interest. Communications tools should include meetings with stakeholders, websites, blogs, e-newsletters and social media.
And they’re off!
The plan is underway, and your organization is completing tactics and implementing strategies. Make sure your stakeholders know you where you are on your way to the finish line. In other words, communicate wins, including the measures of success and the actual results. Sharing the progress routinely in an e-newsletter and then posting the content to a website blog expands the life cycle of the story and creates a public information resource. Additionally, the blog link is the easiest way to share on social media. Identify and task social media leaders to make positive comments on posts and share on their own feeds and pages.
Hosting an annual reporting event generates excitement and can potentially garner media coverage. When possible, mix up the presentation with different speakers, panelists, video, props and music.
Most important, include outcome measures of success and the status in the presentations as well as collateral. For a community visioning initiative, our Chamber distributed an infographic-style annual report that included its four goals, the strategies affiliated with each and success summaries to tell a more in-depth story. And of course, it included the outcome measures, desired and actual. If we reached or exceeded our measure, we celebrated by adding a “WOW” icon; if we weren’t there yet, we used “WIP” which stood for “work in progress.”
By defining the mission in a compelling way, laying out the plan, celebrating the wins and communicating at all points in the process, stakeholders and the community at-large will gain a greater appreciation of the “workhorse” plan.