We live in a complex world where everything continuously and randomly changes. It is difficult for a nonprofit organization to build a sustainable and growing system without using effective management tools. An actionable strategic plan is the most powerful solution for nonprofits to find the right way to achieve their objectives without getting lost in this mass. Nonprofit leaders need to be aware of the pitfalls in strategic Planning
Not all nonprofit strategic plans have the same impact. In fact, most strategic plans have either no or even negative affect. It is important for nonprofit boards and leaders to understand the seven pitfalls in strategic planning.
1. Strategic plan is not actionable
Imagine a car navigation system that just shows the high-level map but doesn’t tell the directions. A strategic plan that can’t be operationalized is nothing more than a nice booklet on the shelf. An actionable strategic plan is not just a guideline for staff, board, and the executive director but also a framework for the operational plans.
2. Strategic plan is not realistic
I want to be the captain of the champion soccer team in the World Cup. Although this is a beautiful dream, unfortunately, it is impossible to come true. It’s not just that I’m older, but that I don’t have a soccer talent, no matter how much I love it. Nonprofits that develop unrealistic strategic plans that will not come true, like me, are doomed to be disappointed.
3. Strategic plan is generic
A ship without a specific route will possibly get lost in the ocean. Similarly, a nonprofit organization without specific strategic objectives will get lost in vicious board discussions and overwhelming operational burdens.
4. Strategic plan is not owned
A good strategic plan is not a document written just for the board and funders. It is a guideline that embraces all stakeholders including staff, beneficiaries, volunteers, and other community members who are directly or indirectly influenced by the services of the nonprofit. A strategic plan not owned by all stakeholders is like Nemo, lost in the ocean.
5. Strategic plan is overloaded
Just as a hungry person thinks they can eat everything; many nonprofits think they can do everything. But for both this is impossible. No matter how hungry you are, the amount you can eat is limited. The same is true for nonprofits. No matter how much they want the number of strategies they can realize is limited.
6. Strategic plan is not up to date
Unfortunately, I’ve gained some weight in the last few years. I would like to continue using my favourite clothes, but now that they are too small, this is not possible. Now it’s time for me to be realistic and renew my wardrobe. In a world that is changing at the speed of light, the nonprofits wanting to continue using their old strategic plans is funnier than my situation. New strategic plans are needed for the post-pandemic world.
7. Strategic plan is difficult to understand
One of the issues that I criticize the most as an academic is that scientific studies are too complex. It is as if many scientific articles were written specifically so that they cannot be understood. I admit there was some jealousy in this comment, but my goal is to defend strategic plans that everyone can read and understand.
As the founder of Vectors Institute and Vectors Group, my dream was to build a capacity to serve nonprofit organizations. With my team we served hundreds of nonprofit organizations. I’ve seen many of them fall into the pitfalls above and felt responsible to write this article to warn nonprofit leaders and boards.
Now is the right time for nonprofits to renew their strategic plans and focus on their future. Our communities and the world need nonprofits and charities more than ever. An actionable strategic plan can save a nonprofit, a nonprofit can save a city, a city can save a nation and a nation can save the world.