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Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Case for Nonprofit Strategic Plans

Strategic planning is a controversial issue among nonprofit boards.
  • Some think it's a waste of resources (time and money) and point to plans on bookshelves or in filing cabinets.
  • Some think it's a good idea, but only if staff is designated to do the implementation.
  • Some think it's "pie in the sky" and gets in the way of normal operating functions.  
I think strategic planning gives an organization the opportunity to dream big and translate those visions into a workable and practical guide. A realistic and actionable plan:

1. Sets a course that advances the organization's mission. For instance, this could be the opportunity to coordinate sustainability actions, improve service delivery, and expand programs in scope or coverage.

2. Directs actions and creates efficiencies. Rather than just doing the necessary daily activities, staff and board have a chance to integrate a few greater goals into their work plans. Thoughtfully done, it can lead to better cooperation and efficiency by removing internal silos that have built up over time. 

3. Builds excitement and encourages participation. This is the chance to demonstrate what is possible beyond the routine, show steps that are realistic, and create a structure for involvement at every level.

4. Enhances credibility. More and more funders of major gifts want to see a strategic plan and implementation schedule. Take heed.

5. Ensures that key opportunities are not ignored. This brings us back to the vision. Don't let routine get ahead of newly suggested efforts that can help improve delivery, expand scope (or audiences), increase support, etc. Take the time to work on the big picture so you don't stagnate.

6. Promotes cost-effectiveness. This is the time for leadership to closely examine how objectives are realized and propose a more integrated process. Even if no change occurs, the examination is worthwhile.

A last word of caution: If you are not serious about implementation, don't waste your valuable resources on planning. It is self-defeating. Planning isn't just about dreaming; it's about taking those all-important next steps.

September Recipe - Ribolitta

The end of summer/early fall is an excellent time to start eating great soups. This Ribollita is the perfect soup to span the seasons.

It's warm and hearty and uses up the last of our summer vegetables. It's also fantastic for using leftover vegetables. I like this combination, but experiment as you wish. Mangia!

1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. olive oil
1 or 2 small zucchini, chopped- not the giant ones
3 c. greens, shredded- I like arugula or spinach
1 can (19 oz.) white beans
1 can (19oz.) or 2cups tomatoes- if canned use Cento San Marzano
3 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes to taste- I like 'em.
Good coarse bread, large cubes
Sauté onion, garlic, celery and carrots in olive oil until soft.

Add everything else except beans, including stock. Stir, cover, and cook over low heat for about an hour.

Add beans and cook for about 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Add bread to thicken and for taste and texture. The longer it sits, the better it is.

Serve at room temperature. Drizzle with pesto and olive oil if you like.

Always add cheese!

I drink red wine with this to get in the mood for fall.

To learn more about strategic planning, contact Bonny Anderson at (302) 530-6806 or, or visit us at