What is your agency’s case for doing some planning?

planningAs someone with two degrees in planning, I catch myself all the time with my non-profit clients explaining that the solution to their problems is that they need a plan. It might be a strategic plan, resource development plan, or board development plan . . . but oftentimes I am amazed at how many times failing non-profit agencies just haven’t invested in creating plans.  I mean, come on folks! Who hasn’t heard the old expression, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail“?

In recent years, my point of view around planning has evolved slightly. I now believe there is a time and place for planning. When there is too much chaos in the external environment or too much internal crisis or turnover, planning is at best a wasteful exercise and at worst can contribute to the problems at hand.

Of course, I still bristle when I hear board members say something like:

“I don’t want my agency engaged in planning. In the end, all that happens is the plan gets put on the shelf to collect dust. We need less planning and more doing!”

When I hear statements like this, it is usually indicative of:

  • an agency without a culture of planning
  • staff without an understanding of how to engage a board
  • board volunteers without an understanding of implementation tools
  • a board who doesn’t manage or evaluate its staff
  • an agency that is either standing still (best case scenario) or in crisis (worst cast scenario)

When trying to make the case for engaging in some sort of planning activity to a board of directors, I typically talk about “roles and responsibilities” of the board of directors. As you might imagine, this approach is usually met with yawns and eye rolling.

However, I recently found a blog post by Nell Edgington titled “5 Ways Great Strategy Can Transform a Nonprofit” while clicking around on a LinkedIn group dedicated to strategic planning for non-profit organizations. It was in that post I think Nell makes a much better case for planning that might be better received by resistant boards.

Here is what she says:

“People and organizations that make large gifts to a nonprofit are in effect investing in the future of that organization. And if you can’t articulate your future plans in a thoughtful, compelling way, funders won’t make that larger investment.”


So, what has been your sales pitch to your board when trying to convince them to roll up their sleeves and engage in some planning. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC


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 February 4, 2014, in Board governance, nonprofit, Planning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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