If you like this post, please share:

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Before Covid-19 exploded, I was contacted earlier this year by a small nonprofit foundation that was interested in engaging me to lead a strategic planning session for its board.

While I don’t promote myself as a strategic planning consultant, I’ve participated in many strategic planning sessions with the companies and nonprofit organizations I’ve worked with over the past 25 years. And I’ve facilitated many meetings.

So, I could definitely lead a strategic planning session for a group like this.  As long as they didn’t want any of that organizational development stuff.

That’s definitely not in my wheelhouse.

Brand Analysis vs. Strategic Planning

But after talking with the board chair, I realized that besides revisiting their mission and vision, most of what they wanted to get out of this strategic planning exercise was to better understand their brand essence.  They wanted to know:

  1. Who do we serve?
  2. How do we perceive ourselves?
  3. How do we want others to perceive us?
  4. How can we engage those we serve to support us financially? What messages resonate with them?

These are all great questions. But they are questions that would be better served by a brand analysis process rather than strategic planning.

What Exactly is Strategic Planning?

The strategic planning meetings I’ve participated in over the years have varied in their depth and breadth. But the one common thing is that they all start with a goal. And sometimes it’s a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG).

For this nonprofit foundation, the goal is simple.  They want to grow their endowment so they can give away more money and hire staff to manage it.

So, not only do they need to revisit their mission and vision, but also do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. Now that the world has been upended, this is probably more important to do than ever before.

Have a Plan of Action

Strategic planning meetings should also result in a plan of action. Otherwise, what’s the point?

This plan doesn’t need to be hammered out during the strategic planning meeting. But it is important to end up with 3-5 desired outcomes and build the plan of action from those.

And then, of course, execute the plan.

This nonprofit foundation chose not to hire me. Which is fine.  But I hope they engage a marketer if all they really want to do is understand their brand essence.

One More Thought

The best strategic planning sessions I’ve participated in have always had an outside facilitator. Someone who is familiar with the who you serve and can guide and control the discussion.

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Photo credit: ID 145421935 © Panuwat Dangsungnoen | Dreamstime.com

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Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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