Can Nonprofits Justify Not Planning?

Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 2:00PM

Hardy Smith, Nonprofit Consultant & Speaker

The response continues to amaze me when I ask audiences of nonprofit leaders to indicate how many do strategic planning, have an annual action plan, or make time to plan out the projects and activities which are critical to their success.

The results of that exercise always show many nonprofits are operating without the benefit of planning.

There are plenty of excuses given and one of the most frequent is, “Everyone is just too busy”.

With all of the challenges nonprofits face, time for planning should be a top priority.  Don’t we all want ways to reduce pressure, alleviate stress, save money, get more done in less time with fewer people, and find solutions to a seemingly never ending list of other problems?

The benefits of planning are unlimited.  Structure and focus are created,  solutions to potential problems are identified, time is saved, and measurable goals with specific strategies for achieving them are established.  Desired performance levels are set which allows for evaluation and accountability.

I understand many will consider this advice to be a no-brainer but again my point is while most recognize its importance, a large number of organizations fail to take action regarding planning.

It is hard to believe but there are nonprofits that own real estate, operate businesses, and provide services with substantial amounts of money involved; yet don’t operate with developed plans for what they are doing, where they are going, or have any direction on how they will get to where they want to be.

If your organization is one of those that is just too busy to plan, you are pretty much just winging it and should not be surprised at your inability to do as well as you would like.

If knowing that devoting time to planning means ensuring success, I would challenge your organization’s true commitment to its purpose if planning isn’t a regular activity.

Planning doesn’t have to be difficult or overly time consuming. Plans don’t have to be perfect.  Once written, plans can be revised and updated.

Commit to writing about who you are, what your purpose is, and what you want to achieve. Your goals should be measurable.  List specific strategies and timelines for realizing your goals. Include what the cost will be for implementing your plan and identify where the needed funds are coming from.  Recognize any obstacles that may keep you from being successful and their needed solutions. Who is going to do what tasks should be also included.

Get others involved with planning development; the more ideas the better and an added benefit from expanded participation is you create buy-in.

If you are in a leadership role as either professional staff or as a volunteer, it is your responsibility to make sure attention is given to this simple and effective tool which is critical for realizing the success your organization says its wants to achieve.


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User Comments

Excellent Article
Excellent article. Straightforward and timely especially in light of the fact that so many organizations I work with just move on putting one foot in front of the other without a clear understanding of the road in front of them much less a visualized destination. Strategic planning allows us to see the mile marker posts along the journey and measure progress. It also allows us to know when we have taken a left turn or even doubled back. Far too often well-meaning leaders take organizations down an unintended path because they don't have a plan, metrics, or visualized goals.
Author: / Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 10:03AM
Re: Can Nonprofits Justify Not Planning?
Thank you Scott. Thanks also for your great comments that help add to the conversation.
Author: / Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 7:11AM
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