We host quarterly Executive Forums for Nonprofit CEOs

Planning to Plan: Are You Preparing for Strategic Planning?


Are you preparing for Strategic Planning now?  As CEO, you will want to be sure that you are careful not to waste time, money, or energy on the process.   Unfortunately, our surveys from CEOs across the country show only 1 in 13 plans are transformational in terms of operational improvement and revenue growth. Operations tend to improve more than revenue grows, but we could do much better in both!  

At HIGOL we like to see our clients get at least 10x their investment back from Strategic Planning.  That means whatever you invest, that work generates 10x that amount in new funding.   So a $50,000 investment generates $500,000 in new funding.  Otherwise, honestly, it’s not worth doing.  The juice is not worth the squeeze!

As CEO, how do you ensure a productive worthwhile process?

There are many things to consider, but perhaps the most critical first question is: 

Is this the right time? 

To answer that question, ask yourself why are you considering strategic planning now?

Here are some real-life answers we’ve heard from leaders: 

  1. A funder is requiring it.   
  2. Our 3 (or however long) year plan will be up at the end of next year, so it’s time to start a new one now.
  3. I realize the business model or our theory of change isn’t working anymore and we’ve got to develop consensus about what the future looks like and the results we are committed to getting and how we are going to generate the revenue to do it. 
  4. I see so much opportunity, but I am getting a lot of resistance from the board and staff in pursuing these new directions.
  5. Our past “strategic plans” have been a very proforma rote exercise that did nothing to expand our capacity or aspirations.  I want to use strategic planning exercises to uplevel the team and where we are going. 
  6. We have really solid systems in place now, we are getting good results and it’s time to take our work to the next level. 
  7. We’re running out of money fast.  What we’ve been doing is clearly no longer working. 

Your honest answer may be something else entirely.  

The Best Reasons

From over five years of experience helping organizations develop transformational strategic plans, I can say with confidence answers 1 and 2 are not good reasons to invest the time and resources necessary to engage in strategic planning.   

Answers 3 through 6 are reasons to consider engaging in a process.  

Answer 7 may indicate you want to use strategic planning as a ‘Hail Mary’ last-ditch effort to save the organization.   Be careful here.  Saving the organization will surely require much bigger changes than a strategic planning process alone.  

Are you ready to let go of sacred cows?  In the end, are you willing to change your own behavior and role to get the organization back on track?  

What ensures a good outcome?  

Regardless of your financial situation, you will be most successful when everyone is as open to change as possible.  That is, open to new roles, new ways of engaging and doing things, new partners, all for the sake of your vision, for the sake of the real measurable change you want to make in the world.    

Change is not easy for any of us.  

This is why planning to plan is vital. So, it’s important to ask yourself, your team, and your board how open are you to doing things differently in service to the vision?   David Whyte describes the resistance we all feel to starting something we know is necessary, but may be hard in his poem Beginning.   

Change and new beginnings come out of successful strategic planning.  

If you see lots of resistance to change, take heart, the process can definitely loosen up the resistance.  Sometimes the process allows for graceful exits as well.  People realize they are not on the ‘right bus’ anymore.  Making your future ambitions clear to the world attracts the right people to you – both board and staff.  It can be a very healing process.

It is upon this basis that we see our clients increase their revenue and community impact by 50% on average within six months of working together.

This is the tip of the iceberg.  Let’s continue the conversation around how to ensure a real ROI from Strategic Planning or any change process.  

If your organization has revenue over $5 million annually, reach out to us here for an invitation to join a conversation with other CEOs on this topic,  April 25th from 12-1:30 PM ET.   

We host monthly complimentary critical conversations with CEOs.    Check out topics for the rest of 2024.  No, you don’t have to come to them all – just when it works for you!

Related Articles

Scroll to Top