The first phase in the development of any strategic plan is all about the gathering information and good intelligence. There are two key things that you need to think about as you design this first phase:
1. Who do you want to talk to and where are you going to get good intelligence?
2. How are you going to gather that intelligence?
The answer to the Who question is really about the nature of your nonprofit organization. Are you a brand new organization? Or are you a legacy organization that has been around for a long time? This is a key question because helps you think about the organizational stakeholders.
Every organization has stakeholders…the board and the staff, volunteers and donors, consumers and customers that benefit from the organization, community members and business, public agencies and other nonprofit organizations . As a young organization, this collective group is likely to be very small and homogeneous. As an older organization, this group could be very large and diverse. All of these individuals and groups have a stake in your organization and likely have opinions about what the mission and vision. They are likely to express their voice about the nature of the organization’s values and what areas of focus should be considered strategically as the organization moves forward.
The strategic plan development design should address The Who — Who do we talk to as part of the information and intelligence gathering process.
The second question focuses on The How. The How question is a methodological question. What methods are we going to use to collect the intelligence and how will these methods ensure that the information collected is good intelligence.
Let me offer several methods for your consideration:
- Individual and group interviews
- Focus groups
- Future search conferences
- Open space conversations
- Individual Questionnaires — mailed or emailed
- Telephone surveys
- SWOT analysis
- Town hall meetings
While list of methods can be quite long, your strategic plan development design should address how you want to collect information and how you can use that process to engage your stakeholders as you are gathering that information.
Remember….good strategy requires good intelligence. If you choose effective methods, you can engage your stakeholders. This engagement process not only helps you gather good intelligence, it also is the first step in eventual implementation of your new strategic plan.