Strategic planning is a lot like planning a big meal. First you need to decide who is coming, and then you need to purchase all the ingredients and supplies you will need to make the meal. Once that is all in place, it is imperative that you have a plan to complete your meal by the time your guests are ready to eat. Things might not always go as you plan, but without a plan, things are almost guaranteed to go wrong.
Hopefully, if you have planned well, the results will be more obvious than all the effort. Everyone will focus on the great meal and the fellowship
Strategic planning in the nonprofit environment
I like to think of strategic planning as not only vision casting for the future, but also setting up the building blocks for future success. It also gives Ciudad Nueva the opportunity to refine our mission, values, and goals so that we can ensure that we stay on track for the long haul.
Strategic planning doesn’t always seem like the most exciting or inspiring activity that must be accomplished in nonprofit work, but it is an essential task for building a strong future for our organization. As we are often stretched very thin in nonprofit work, it can also be a real challenge to make the commitment to completing a strategic plan.
However, Ciudad Nueva is close to 15 years old, and this year seemed like the right time to bring together a team of staff, board members, and key support people to evaluate where we have been, where we are now, and where we are headed. So earlier this year we pulled together our team and brought in an expert to help us make the most of the strategic planning process.
Get the right people together in the room
We were very fortunate to have Bill Jackson, the director of the local C12 advisory group, donate his time to lead our strategic planning process. The C12 Group is a national organization of businesspeople that facilitates networking, training, and business mentoring.
Bill has facilitated strategic planning processes for more than 100 companies but very few nonprofits so it was a new experience for him as well. He was a huge asset to making this process productive for our organization. We worked through and updated our mission, vision, core values, and strategies, as well as going through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to identify follow-up action items.
As an organization, Ciudad Nueva has only completed this process a couple of times. This time it was the most comprehensive analysis we have ever done, and having Bill’s input was key to keeping us on track. There were 15 participants total from our organization including six board members, six staff members, and three volunteers.
How does it work?
We went into the strategic planning process to refocus our efforts and clarify the who and why of our organization. The first step was to refine our mission statement and vision. This then set the stage for the rest of the planning process.
Bringing clarity and focus to the mission and vision
To renew our mission statement and vision, we took the time to contemplate each word, even changing the word order to make sure that it conveyed clearly what we do and why. This was a tedious process, but we found it very valuable for all the members of the group. It allowed us to internalize what we believe, do, and strive for. It also increased the sense of ownership and excitement for what we are doing. It was a way to refocus ourselves because it is easy to keep growing and reaching for new things, but we must be sure that the new things continue to fit our vision, mission, and values.
It was very encouraging that, after hours of thoughtful reflection, we basically reaffirmed the basic mission and vision for Ciudad Nueva. The process was very valuable to our entire organization.
Making plans for the future
This strategic planning process helped us look at what we have accomplished in the past and what we want to accomplish in the future. We also identified areas we need to work on within the organization — things that need attention but often get lost in the day-to-day operations.
This process allowed us to evaluate each area of the ministry and prioritize the things that need to grow or improve going into the future.
Some of the areas we identified for growth during this process include:
- Empowering Youth – This summer we started a youth soccer team, which was one of the goals that came out of our planning session. Starting this fall, we plan to meet with local school administrators so we can work more closely with the schools. We also plan to find more ways to tap participants who have graduated high school and continue to involve them in our youth programs.
- Supporting Families – This fall we will be opening our immigration legal aid clinic called Esperanza Nueva. Our goal is also to visit two families per week to check in with them. Our craft fair last year was a great success so we will be hosting the 2nd Annual Community Craft Fair this fall as well.
- Strengthening Community – We want to identify and catalogue various neighborhood assets in a database. This information will be gathered from small group meetings, community dinners, our legal center volunteers, community connectors, and at our food co-ops. We will nominate three community members for various neighborhood leadership roles.
- Equipping Leaders – We will identify key staff and volunteers to attend CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) training opportunities. We also plan to meet with churches in El Paso to help further understanding about community development and issues in our neighborhood
Maybe strategic planning really is inspiring after all!
There is extreme value and blessing in getting people on the same page, sharing dreams and ideas, and getting people on board together with the big purposes and vision for what we do. All of the participants in our strategic planning sessions left with renewed vision and energy and a renewed focus on the things that are most important for our organization.
Our time spent considering our mission and values also allowed us to see and reflect on things that we are doing right as well. It is a great encouragement to step back and look at what is going well because the list of things to improve is often long and easier to see. It was encouraging to all to see the many ways we are working in our community and the different impacts we are seeing and experiencing.