What is a Strategic Plan and Why You Need One

Do you spend a lot of time being reactive instead of proactive? Does your board or leadership have trouble communicating the goals of your organization? Do well-meaning supporters suggest programming that doesn’t fit, but rejecting their idea puts you in a sticky spot?

You need a strategic plan.

A strategic plan is the guiding document of an organization that communicates who you are, who you want to become, and how to get there. It determines the goals and values of your organization, aligns your programming to your vision, and informs your decisions on a regular basis.

A strategic plan is a decision making and resource allocation tool. The planning process will focus all key stakeholders on a unified vision. Without charting the course together, either hard-working board members will develop their own vision that may not fit with the mission, or they will become disengaged and complacent.

A vision for the future changes the way we think about allocating resources. As camps and retreat ministries, we all face limited time and money, and we make the best decisions we can with what we have. A strategic plan enables us make those decisions more strategically, keeping the goals and vision in mind.

Thinking about creating a strategic plan may sound daunting, but this work is meant to be done over time with the help of a board committee. I like to break the work into these three more manageable sections.

Who We Are

A strategic plan starts with a one-page organizational history statement or timeline, followed by vision statement, mission statement, core values, and a SWOT analysis.

A great vision statement is aspirational and future-oriented. In one or two sentences, it illustrates your organization’s picture of success. A mission statement reflects the day-to-day work your organization does that moves the world closer to achieving the vision. Once these two statements are written, determine three to five core values that serve as culture pillars for the organization and represent the characteristics needed to fulfill the vision and mission.

A SWOT analysis evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an organization. A great organization capitalizes on its strengths and opportunities and actively works to minimize weaknesses and threats.

Who We Want to Become

The second part uses this foundational work to set SMART goals, evaluate current programs, brainstorm future programs to consider, and create an organizational chart and succession plan.

Work together to set three to five SMART goals for the next five years. Which programs move your organization closer to achieving which goals? You may find that some activities do not align at all, and you may discover goals which no current programming supports. This exercise may present a need to retire programs no longer useful to the vision. For goals lacking program support, brainstorm additions or tweaks to existing activities that will move the organization closer to success. For each addition, determine the year you will begin work on that project. Agreeing on a timeline will increase the likelihood of achieving success.

With goals and potential program additions in mind, prepare an organizational chart and succession plan for leadership, so the vision can move forward even with unforeseen personnel changes. Think about any additional personnel needed to be successful.

How We Will Get There

A strategic plan often requires additional funding, updates to facilities, new equipment, and perhaps additional staff.

Conduct a facilities and equipment evaluation to determine major funding needs for the next five years. Estimate the cost of these needs, their priority, and the year the board will address them.

By the end of this planning process, your organization will have snapshots of the new programs, facility needs, equipment upgrades, and personnel changes for each of the next five years. This snapshot will show the approximate annual cost of bringing this vision to life that will enable a discussion on how to fund this plan.

The final part of the document is an evaluation plan. In order to ensure this work regularly informs decisions, this section determines who is responsible for progress updates and the frequency with which the board will revisit the strategic plan.

Putting it All Together

After doing the work to make the decisions lined out in these sections, it is time to present the strategic plan as one cohesive document to the board for approval!

Still overwhelmed?

Don’t worry! A new series that will break down these three sections in more detail is coming soon to the blog.

Facilitating a discussion about the future and leading the vision while participating in the process is complicated to do by yourself. If strategic planning is the next step to moving your organization forward, feel free to email me to chat about I can help bring your vision to life.

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