The Case for a Strategic Plan

June 6, 2023
Angelica Letcher

Quick, off the top of your head, what do you want your organization/community to accomplish in the next five years? What gaps have been identified in your demographics? Do you know what people think about your organization/community?What are you doing right? What are you doing wrong? How is your organization/community going to sustain its success for the next 5+ years? How are you going to get funding for your next big project? Should you expand? Are there more people you could impact? How are you working with local stakeholders and organizations? But, most importantly, what is your organization’s/community’s goal?

Why am I asking these questions? Well, if you’re wanting to see growth anytime in the next few years, you should begin thinking about these questions. This may seem overwhelming, but what if I told you there was a solution? That there was a document where all these and more are not only answered, but given substantial reasoning and evidence to help you gain a deeper understanding for your organization’s or community’s growth? It sounds like you may need a strategic plan.

So, what is the point of creating a strategic plan?

When determining your potential growth and needs, you want to be proactive, not reactive. You want to build to something, but what exactly should that something be? Is it a better culture in your workforce? The potential to expand? A local revitalization? While these may not be tangible goals right now, they could be if you start laying the bricks for a strong foundation. A strategic plan is just that, strategic. It looks at data, your community, your goals, everything, to provide you with a plan forward. It can help look for the weak spots before they start affecting your organization. It will also point out how you can utilize certain strengths within your organization that maybe you haven’t been using to their fullest potential. A strategic plan not only plans for the future but maximizes the abilities you already have to begin working towards your goals.

What is the process when creating a strategic plan?

When creating a strategic plan, the first thing to do is determine your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish with this? It can vary. Maybe you just want to understand the community and/or organization more. What are your most popular services? How do people see your organization or community? While this type is a little vaguer going in, the results can often help point you in the right direction to begin thinking strategically about feasible growth for your community/organization.However, some strategic plans have a definite goal going in. Maybe you want to understand the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe you want to understand how your revitalization is affecting the community, or maybe you have a specific theme you want to look at such as tourism, mental health, etc. All of these are possible to examine and gain a better understanding of through a strategic plan.

Once you know what your goal is, it’s good to start gaining feedback. It’s often smart to gather community input to understand the perceptions and expectations people have of your organizations/community and its goals. From this, you can identify key themes and reactions to potential growth, projects, and the overall direction you’re looking to go. Is there anything people want to change about your organization? What could make your community more popular? These are the questions that will pull out common themes. These themes will become the backbone of your strategic plan, the pillars. Once you have your pillars, go crazy. Dive into the nitty gritty feedback, the data, the history, everything you need to understand how your organization can move forward.

Once your goals and pillars become clear, you can start determining and prioritizing what’s feasible. It’s good to dream big and those ideas are needed to kick off the planning aspect of a strategic plan, but once you start putting pen to paper, the road ahead will start to form.

Ok, so now I have the strategic plan in hand, what’s next?

Well, that part is up to you. The point of having a strategic plan is to provide a clear path forward to reach an intended goal and proactively plan for growth. Whether or not you pursue that is up to you and your organization. Think of a strategic plan like a key. You have it in hand, but now, it’s up to you to open the door.

There are also ways to use a strategic plan that aren’t just for internal use. A strategic plan helps others get on board with your potential growth. When you meet with stakeholders or legislators, you have a concrete piece of evidence explaining what people want. It shows that you’ve taken the time and patience to craft this and are committed to the growth or project you’re discussing. It can also be a vital tool when it comes to grants and other sources of funding. Many times, high-level grants require some type of plan to be submitted along with the application to show that this is a project or goal your community has been working on. Funders want to see that the public have been engaged and support the potential growth. How was their feedback implemented? How do they feel about their project? Having this information on hand and ready to go not only makes your application more collaborative, but also more competitive to the grant funders.

So finally, if you believe this is something your organization or community needs,I have no doubt that RJL can help you in outlining and creating the growth you desire, because all we truly want is for you to understand your potential and provide a better community. Progress in any community or organization is important. The times have changed, and the needs of people have too. What you think was important even five years ago has drastically changed. A strategic plan may not seem important, but I promise you, to implement any major changes or take on any major project, you need a blueprint to help guide you. The small things you do today could have a major impact in a year or two. With a strategic plan, doors for growth open everywhere. It is a vital tool in your search for funding, your conversations with stakeholders, and your collaboration with your community. A strategic plan is the map that will help you make the trek towards progress.

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