Arts and culture organizations both locally and nationally are recognizing the need for strategic planning. This briefing paper outlines some considerations a nonprofit should make before engaging in a strategic planning process.
Benefits of a strategic plan vary depending on the specific needs and opportunities of a particular organization. Most organizations expect that their strategic plans will:
There is no doubt that strategic planning is highly beneficial, however many nonprofits fail to consider that the process also requires a great deal of commitment. Your strategic planning process will likely require:
These sacrifices can sometimes be frustrating and participants in the process must remember that the benefits of a good strategic plan almost always outweigh its costs.
We highly recommend that arts and culture organizations hire a consultant to facilitate their strategic planning process. Staff and board members rarely have the time to oversee this process or the objectivity to make it worthwhile. If your organization is unable to pay for a professional planning consultant, you may want to research local programs that offer free or reduced-cost planning assistance instead.
Remember, no two consultants are alike. The ideal consultant for one arts and culture organization may be an inappropriate match for another. We recommend that staff and board members determine what they hope to gain, and what resources they are willing to dedicate to the process, before choosing a consultant. We also recommend issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) so you can compare various consultants and their strengths prior to selecting one. Depending on your organization’s needs, you may want to consider the following questions in reviewing potential consultants:
Remember that, the least expensive plan may not be the best deal. Investing in an inexpensive plan that fails to engage your stakeholders or advance your organization’s capabilities will ultimately cost you more than a solid process that addresses your particular organization’s needs.
For more information about hiring consultants, see our Guide to Hiring a Consultant
No strategic plan is exactly alike; for that reason your plan should reflect your organization’s unique mission and goals. It is important that your budget not be able to dictate which elements you pursue. If cost is an issue it is usually better for an organization to decrease the depth of its strategic plan rather than to decrease its breadth. We recommend you discuss with your consultant which of the following elements of a strategic plan will be most helpful in addressing your organization’s needs:
Nonprofits sometimes face opposition or reluctance from their stakeholders when engaging in a strategic planning process. A good strategic plan must be grounded in feedback from all stakeholder groups and must generate enthusiasm among an organization’s key players to advance the organization. Organizations can increase stakeholders’ involvement and investment in the process by:
Too many nonprofits complete a strategic planning process but fail to act on the information the final plan provides. Instead of letting your plan gather dust, capitalize on the document by:
Arts Cleveland provides free advice and assistance to Northeast Ohio arts and culture organizations. During our meetings, members of our staff will help you analyse your organization and provide you with objective, customized advice. We have provided hundreds of consultancies regarding a variety of business issues, including strategic planning. We are happy to assist you in developing an RFP for your strategic plan, identify high-quality consultants or outline strategies for maximizing the value of a completed plan!
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