Strategic Planning – If you want Laverne then you need Shirley!

Yesterday, I pitched a strategic planning proposal to a group of board volunteers and their CEO. I thought I rocked it out! I was dressed nice. I had beautiful handouts in color. I was even using newly purchased technology and simultaneously projected my presentation onto the wall for all to see. I felt like a million bucks until it came time to Q & A.

One of the very first questions came from this nice gentleman who seems like a very engaged board volunteer. He essentially asked: “Why should we try to go through strategic planning when the world is so chaotic and changing ever so quickly? What’s the point?”

After answering his question (and I thought I rocked on that, too), he obviously wasn’t convinced. So, I took another stab at answering only to realize that nothing I said would really change his mind.

I really believe in my heart there are two kinds of people in this world — planners and fatalists. Planners think they can affect change in this world through deliberate choices and actions. Fatalists think everything happens for a reason and there isn’t any point in planning for things that are already pre-determined.

If I am correct about the world being populated by these two kinds of people, then it is kind of akin to the Asian philosophy on Yin and Yang.

I am obvious a “planner”. I graduated from the University of Illinois with a BA and MA in Urban Planning. Some of my best work with non-profit organizations (or so I think) has been around strategic planning, resource development planning and board development planning projects.  So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this is what was going through my head during the Q & A exchange yesterday.

After the meeting, I ran off to my local gym to work off some anxiety and work through what just happened. One hour and four miles later, I realized that diversity isn’t just about skin color, age or gender. Diversity is also all about adding different perspectives and personalities into the mix, which includes into our strategic planning projects.

After all, what is Yin without Yang? Or Laverne without Shirley? Or peanut butter without jelly? (OK . . . so I’m hungry and dieting. Cut me some slack. LOL)

The reality is that non-profit organizations (or any company for that matter) cannot exclude fatalists from any of their projects.  Here are just a few random suggestions I thought up while on the track last night:

  • Recommendation #1: Accept the reality and recognize which board volunteers sitting around the table fit into which camp. Keep this in mind when recruiting your committee and ensure there is a balance around the table.
  • Recommendation #2: When it comes to strategic planning, remember that there are many different planning models that can be use. Some models appeal more to planning personalities and some models appeal more to fatalist personalities. Not only should you be conscious about choosing your planning model, but you should also select an external consultant who is capable of using that model. Click here to get a nice overview of a few different strategic planning models from our friends at
  • Recommendation #3: Jim Collins talks about getting “the right people on the bus” in his book “Good to Great,” but remember that you need to also get them in the right seat. Don’t make the mistake of recruiting volunteers based upon who will say ‘YES’ to serving. It is probably very important that the chairperson of your strategic planning committee have the ‘heart of a planner’ and not the soul of a ‘fatalist’. Perhaps, one of the best places for fatalists in the strategic planning process is enlisting their help with assessment, data gathering, and forecasting activities. They might also provide great value when creating indicators as well as monitoring and evaluation tools. Of course, they can participate in all phases of the process, but I suspect they provide greater value in some roles than in others.

The reality is that this topic isn’t just germane to strategic planning. It is relevant to everything in our non-profit work (e.g. annual campaign planning & implementation, board development planning & recruitment, etc). If you’re a non-profit leader, then you need to figure out how to make it work and not cave to your instinct to exclude certain people from the table.

I always say “Planning is an engagement activity”. This is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page and committed to implementation. Try to imagine a room full of ‘planners’ developing the plan, then taking it back to a board room full of ‘fatalists’ and telling them that we all need to implement the plan. Do you really think that works? However, isn’t this what many of us do every day?

How have you maintained diversity on your committees and projects? Do you balance personalities? Do you weave these thoughts into your recruitment strategies? If so, how? Please use the comment box below to weigh-in. We can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on September 21, 2011, in Board development, Planning, volunteers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love your blog, you should add instructions for the RSS feed feature so I can get automatic notifications of new blogs. If you can help me set it up please email me! Ii will bookmark you for now. Again Excellent Blog!

    • Hello Pellucid . . . the RSS feed button is the orange button in the top right hand corner of my blog. It is a square turned sideways and it looks like it is peeking out over the top of the blog. Pass your mouse over the top of it and it will appear to “pop-up”. Click it and follow the directions to add my blog to your RSS feed. Good luck!

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