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A Strategic Plan is Vital. But Is Yours Up to Date?

Three people sitting at table with pens in hand and one person standing up on opposite side of table. Three people sitting at table with pens in hand and one person standing up on opposite side of table.

Over the past few years, employees and employers exasperated by Covid-19 restrictions, have been re-examining the ways of work. While many for-profit businesses continue to grapple with the future of remote work environments, investments in technology, and changes in labor forces, not-for-profit organizations should not be excluded from the conversation. Influxes of cash from government programs, as well as variations in program and contribution structures and board logistics are just some of the topics of concern facing not-for-profit leaders. Fortunately, these unexpected changes can provide the opportunity for advancements within these organizations, especially when it comes to strategic planning.

While it’s often considered a road map to moving an organization’s mission and vision forward, a strategic plan is always a work-in-progress. It should be revisited on a regular basis to assess and consider an organization’s evolving position, strengths, and areas for growth. As you begin the process of reevaluating or initially forming your organization’s strategic plan, here are a few important factors to consider:

Cash Flow: Leverage technology platforms to access cash donations and digital currencies.

There are many technology solutions dedicated to storing donations, and collecting and processing payments. This makes it easier to create reports, track sources of donations, and use that information to determine how to solicit additional donations. As crypto-currency and other virtual payment types increase in popularity, the online platforms and organizational websites that are capable of processing these types of transactions allow for greater reach into the public sector. It is also important to discuss any available government funds available to your organization with your financial and accounting partners, which could include local, state or federal grants, or retention credits.

Endowments: Find better ways to leverage cash received during the pandemic.

A crucial component of the strategic planning process is developing a policy statement that incorporates the goals of the organization, while addressing the methods of investing, as well as a spending policy. An investment professional can be a helpful resource. As a not-for-profit organization, it is especially important to take into account the effect of any investments while developing the policy. In several jurisdictions, reporting Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) elements is either mandatory or under active consideration, so it’s best to preemptively adopt investment selection procedures that take these consequences into account. This could also be a point of public marketing to show your organization is socially aware in its mission, as well as in its sources of income generation.

Cyber: Modern hackers can sometimes get the most value from stealing an organization’s information and selling it back.

It is important to consider your organization’s incidental plans, backups, access controls and cyber insurance policies. Then, take the time to ensure there are controls in place to confirm employees are trained and following all precautions set out in these policies. It is important to note that even if you have cyber security insurance, you will need to show that due diligence was exercised or your organization could receive little to no payout.

Reputation: Review your online footprint to confirm that the organization’s web presence is highly recognized and easily accessible.

With the digital world becoming even more augmented in the past few years, it’s vital to have a website that shows your mission, resources, and the ways the public can contribute to your cause. Consider how the organization’s functional expenses are perceived and determine if there are better targets for which the organization should aim to reach. The organization should aim to have a higher program expense ratio to give contributors piece of mind knowing that their donation is being used toward the mission to make a difference, while simultaneously balancing administrative and fundraising.

Transition Planning: Devise a transition plan for the unexpected termination of a director as well as any preplanned retirements.

Regardless of the reason why a leadership position may become available, being prepared is vital to maintaining a smooth transition. Document how the hiring process would be implemented, including if a recruitment company would be used or if the process would be internally completed by the board.  Also, prepare or update documentation of accounting and operational procedures, as they have likely changed over the past few years. This will allow newer staff to reference materials as they navigate joining the organization. For more information on the topic, read Doing it Right: Key Tips for Not-for-Profit Leadership Transitions.

Ultimately, any type of strategic planning requires everyone being involved. By including the team and the board in updating or creating a strategic plan, you can increase buy-in among your entire organization, and bridge any gaps in communication with staff, management, and patrons, therefore increasing the likelihood of staff retention. Better yet, you can boost the odds of accomplishing new goals and make what can be a tumultuous time period, a time of opportunity.

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