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5 Signs Your Nonprofit Needs to Update Your Strategic Vision

"To be successful you must accept all challenges that come your way. You can't just accept the ones you like."
Mike Gafka

The past year was exceptionally challenging for nonprofit organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn as well as a focus on racial justice and equality led to organizations struggling to maintain a relevant message in a struggling climate (Kim & Mason, 2020). However, organizations that are able to realign their strategic vision and implement it are able to weather changes and thrive. To help you prepare for the future, our strategic planning company in Minneapolis is sharing the five signs your nonprofit needs to update your strategic vision.

Gaps in Your Organization’s Talent and Skill Set

Your organization’s number one resource is your people, and if you’re concerned that you don’t have the skills within your organization to succeed in the future, you’re not alone. A majority of nonprofit organizations struggle with skill gaps and not having the right people in place to meet the challenges they’re facing (Meehan III & Jonker, 2017). Having the right amount of people and the right talent and skillsets within your organization allow you to successfully implement your strategic vision. With your leadership team or board, take time to consider what you want the future of your organization to look like and ask hard questions.

  • Where does your organization have an opportunity for improvement and do you have the people in place to implement improvements?
  • Do you have the right people to help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you need to reduce your existing staff in order to gain talent that will take your organization where you want it to be in the future?

You may also find that if you’re relying solely on a traditional workforce. Hiring independent contractors and individuals to perform specific tasks on an as-needed basis will help you fill in those talent and skill gaps in a way that is economically feasible.

Lack of Diversity in Leadership

Studies show that a majority of nonprofit CEOs agree that it is “very” or “extremely important” for senior leadership within an organization to represent the population their organization serves (Buteau, 2018). We know that diversity within an organization offers the following benefits:

  • Improved messaging with donors
  • Improved awareness of external factors that affect the population they serve, such as cultural changes and changes to the law
  • Improved hiring and a wider range of talent and skill
  • Improved employee and volunteer retention

Despite these benefits, a majority of nonprofits lack representation in leadership positions. In 2015, only 8 percent of executive directors in nonprofit organizations were BIPOC (Medina, 2017). It’s important to consider bringing voices across a variety of populations to the table, while considering disability, ethnic and racial diversity, gender, generation, and so forth.

Lack of Succession Plan

COVID-19 caused many organizations to struggle both directly, such as through fundraising struggles and event cancellations. However, it also strained operations because people within the organization, particularly in leadership, had to take extended absences to care for family members or due to illness. This left key roles unfulfilled because many organizations don’t have a succession plan in place to quickly fill vacancies and allow people to step into new roles.

A lack of diversity is often caused by a lack of a succession plan. Organizations tend to appoint board members or bring in executives from their own networks when they need new people, rather than strategically building networks and reaching out to different groups to gain diverse talent.

Instead consider “building your bench,” meaning you’ll have people within your organization who are prepared and ready to step into a leadership role in the event that someone leaves or retires from your organization. Having a strategy in place that is proactive when replacing people, specifically focusing on diversity, can ensure you always have a backup plan and your organization can continue running with minimal disruption.

Relying on Repeating Fundraising Strategies

If your nonprofit is still relying on the same fundraising strategies in 2021 as you did just a few years ago, you may be seeing a downturn in donations. While COVID-19 highlighted how quickly economic and societal changes can take place, the truth is, shifts in technology, economy, tax laws, and also societal trends are always occurring, and you need your organization to reflect and pivot quickly to adapt to these changes. Updating your strategies in how you communicate, carry out your mission, and raise funds all need to be considered in order to keep you moving in a forward trajectory.

Contact Woodland Strategies to Discuss Re-imagining Your Nonprofit’s Strategic Vision

At Woodland Strategies, we know that it can be a challenge to transform your entire strategic vision. We can help you focus on your goals moving forward, gain clarity in what you want your future to look like, and create a plan for realizing those goals. To set up a consultation, reach out to us today via our contact form.

Kim, Mirae, Dyana Mason. Are You Ready: Financial Management, Operating Reserves, and the Immediate Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits. Sage Journals. (October 23, 2020). Accessed online 7/2/2021. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0899764020964584 Meehan III, William F., Kim Starkey Jonker. Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector. Engine of Impact. (November, 2017). Accessed online 7/2/2021. http://www.engineofimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Stanford-Survey-v20.Final_.171101.pdf. Buteau, Ph.D., Ellie. Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations. Center for Effective Philanthropy. (2018). Accessed online 7/2/2021. http://cep.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/CEP_Nonprofit-Diversity-Efforts_2018.pdf Medina, S. State of Diversity in Nonprofit and Foundation Leadership. Battalia Winston. Accessed online 7/2/2021. https://www.battaliawinston.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/nonprofit_white_paper.pdf

This article or any other promotional material(s) from Woodland Strategies, Inc. is in no way intended to be a comprehensive plan.

Please note all markets, circumstances, and results vary. Any strategic plan or marketing initiatives must follow all State and Federal laws and regulations, accordingly.

Please contact us directly for a complete assessment and plan for your individual organizational needs.

Ten Steps to a Successful Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a significant undertaking. It requires energy, creativity, time and money. Your resources are important and limited. Get what you want! This is what we do at Woodland Strategies. Here are a few tips as you consider your upcoming planning project.

Choosing the Right Consultant

Consultants can provide valuable service and offer an objective perspective to assist organizations and team members in a variety of areas. Woodland Strategies, a business consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN, offers an assortment of consultancy services including Strategic Planning, Marketing Strategy, Development and Fundraising Strategy, and also Leadership Coaching.

How long does a typical strategic planning process take?

This is a question we are regularly asked at Woodland Strategies. Typically, a full strategic planning process can take up to six to eight months, depending on how in-depth the organizational planning team wants to take things.Your messaging – your values, mission and vision statements – can, and should, last between eight and twelve weeks. This is really the most fundamental part of your plan. It should never be rushed.

Succession Planning for Your Nonprofit Board

Leadership transitions within organizations can be anticipated or be quite sudden. Transitions may be due to a personal change for a board member or staff, or they may be the result of a thoughtful and long-term decision to make a change. If you are looking to keep your nonprofit sustainable, you will want to be sure that you have a written succession plan ready to go.