Strategic plans come in many ways, shapes and forms. So how can you determine if a plan is a good one? Here are five key points to look for:
1. It describes your vision.
This ideal state can be viewed as the end point where the organization can disband because all its goals have been achieved. While most nonprofits feel that they are nowhere near this point, its definition should be as specific as possible. While words like “promote”, “support” and “conserve” are often used in mission statements, a vision is much more tangible. Statements like “Eradication of Polio” and “No child living under the UN defined poverty limit” provide a clear and compelling picture of what the world would look like if the work is done.
2. It provides a clear link between your vision and what you are doing every day.
This connection is what makes your plan strategic. Theory of Change tools like Logic Models and Systems Thinking can be very helpful to visualize how your organization can have the most impact.
3. It must be more than wishful thinking.
There have to be good reasons to think that the approach will be successful. Generally this means that the decision on what to do must be based on data on what works as well as what the organization is capable of or can learn.
4. It specifies both actions and checkpoints along the way.
Generally the actions are broadly defined to give the Executive Director room to personalize the implementation. However, targets should be clear and measurable at different points in the life cycle of the strategic plan, and these targets should cover progress both toward your mission and toward building organizational capability.
5. Finally, it must be YOUR strategic plan.
All members of the Board should feel complete ownership and staff must be committed to the implementation. This is really the most important point of all; an otherwise brilliant strategic plan can still end up sitting on a shelf collecting dust. But if your plan is empowering and inspiring it can help you to become great at doing good.