Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strategic Planning 101: Finding your Niche

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. 
                                                                                            ~Raymond Hull

Chasing the dollar...

While fundraising is critical to the success and longevity of an organization, it should not determine the path of the organization.  Once an organization has a clear mission statement, it should craft objectives and methods that will assist in meeting the mission.  These objectives and methods will later be expanded or combined in logical ways to create programs.  These are the building blocks that will help your organization in meeting its mission.  These are the programs for which you should seek funding.

Sample:  The mission of the Minus-Vincent foundation is to provide students enrolled in public high schools with the educational tools they need to succeed in a college or university environment.  In an effort to achieve the mission of the organization, the Foundation provides standardized test preparation, tutoring, and study skills courses.  Within their strategic plan, they have developed several objectives and methods around these three areas.

Two Requests for Proposals (RFP) are issued one for financial literacy and one for substance abuse intervention.  Which fits with the organization's mission and is most closely aligned with those items included in the Foundation's strategic plan?

If you stated financial literacy, you are correct.  Financial literacy can be tailored and customized to fit the needs of teens that are applying to colleges. A program could be developed that would prepare teens to be responsible with money once they arrive on a college campus.  Substance abuse intervention is not mission-appropriate for the Minus-Vincent Foundation, while it could be argued that substance abuse prevention would be an area of expansion, substance abuse intervention is a stretch.  Substance abuse prevention is not an educational service, it would require a significant change in staffing, and the population served by the Foundation does not significantly overlap with the population served by a substance abuse intervention program. 

A strategic plan should be dynamic.  Any organization that creates a plan and allows it to sit on a shelf collecting dust is doing a great disservice to their agency.  A strategic plan should be visited regularly.  Programs should be evaluated for effectiveness and adjusted as needed.  The organization SHOULD seek to expand when the opportunity presents itself, but they should expand via mission-appropriate activities.  Organizations that chase the dollar will not be concentrating on those things that they do really well and thus, will be watering down their services.  It is important that agencies find their niche and stick with it!

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