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9 thoughts on a planning process

by The NonProfit Times - May 6, 2013

How will you get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are going? The answer to that somewhat confusing question is you can’t. That’s why all nonprofits need to have strong planning processes in place.

One of the hardest things about this process, according to Thomas Wolf in “Managing a Nonprofit Organization,” is getting past the phase of generating ideas to the stage of making actual decisions. To get past this, Wolf listed nine thoughts to make the planning process smoother:

  • The simpler the planning process, the more likely it is to succeed.
  • There is no one right way to plan; the best processes are those custom designed to fit the needs of an organization and the working styles of board and staff.
  • The primary benefit of planning is often the process itself; planning is a structured way of involving a number of people in thinking about the future, and this is often is chief value.
  • Planning is not necessarily a synonym for growth.
  • Planning produces conflict and anxiety; no one can completely control the outcome of a planning process, and this can cause tensions among board and staff.
  • It’s important to hear everyone’s views, but it is not advantageous to incorporate every minority opinion into the plan.
  • To be successful, a planning process must have the strong support of top-level staff, key trustees, and others of influence in the organization.
  • Planning should not be left completely to professional planning consultants; staff and board must be involved so that the decisions reached are their own.
  • There must be a climate of enthusiasm within the organization toward planning; without it, a planning process has little chance of success.


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