Creating a strategic plan is the process of documenting and establishing a direction for your organization.
What is a strategic plan and why is it important to review chapter strategic plan annually?
Creating a strategic plan is the process of documenting and establishing a direction for your organization. Strategic plans give you a place to record your mission, vision, and values, as well as your long-term goals and the action plans you and your team will use to reach them. A well-written strategic plan can play a pivotal role in your organization’s growth and success because it tells your team how best to respond to opportunities and challenges.
The start of a new academic year gives chapters an opportunity for an organizational reset if chapter leaders decide that one is in order. An annual assessment of your chapter’s strategic plan should synthesize available performance indicators to inform your decision-making for the coming year. Your findings should inform your budget, program needs, and management decisions.
Strategic planning will help meet the needs of leadership in identifying opportunities for reform, executive action, and communication opportunities just to name a few. During the review process, you and your chapter leaders will need to synthesize broad evidence and information base (indicators, evaluations, partner contributions, internal and external factors, research, etc.) and prioritize findings for decision-making. Do not forget to make meaningful distinctions in performance, such as identifying areas of progress as well as significant challenges your chapter faces. Allow yourself to use this time to help develop a culture within your leadership team that is focused on learning and improving your chapter’s performance.
Click here to download the Strategic Plan Video transcript
When should I revise a strategic plan?
Below are a list of times when it will be beneficial to start revising a strategic plan if your chapter already has one in place. When you are starting a new organization.
- When you are starting a new organization.
- When your organization is starting a new initiative or large project or is going to begin work in a new direction.
- When your group is moving into a new phase of an ongoing effort.
- When you are trying to invigorate an older initiative that has lost its focus or momentum.
- When you are applying for new funding or to a new funder. It is important under these circumstances to clarify your vision and mission so that any funding you seek supports what your organization stands for. Otherwise, you can wind up with strings attached to the money that require you to take a direction not in keeping with your organization’s real purpose or philosophy.
How to understand your campus culture?
Anyone who wishes to build support for an organization to address a need must spend time first in learning more about the campus cultural context; how that culture shapes what people value and how they are likely to react to any change that might affect them. Although institutions of higher education have some elements in common, each campus also has its own distinctive ways of doing things and its own patterns of interacting. Significant change can stir up both interest and concern because, intentionally or not, the change effort challenges the assumptions that underlie everyday life on campus. There are many “unwritten rules” and subtle social cues in every campus community that are learned by observation and rarely spoken of out loud. As a starting point for creating space for change to unfold, it is helpful to try to identify and analyze these social cues.
Chapter Core Values: How they tie into the Strategic plan/mission and vision?
The core values of an organization are those values we hold which form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. In an ever-changing world, core values are constant. Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.
Before developing your strategic plan, it is also important to conduct a SWOT Analysis of your organization. SWOT Analysis is a technique that lets you examine your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a straightforward way to dig down deep into your operations to determine just how effectively your organization is working.
- Strengths are advantages that you have over your competition internally at your organization. Access to a large community of supporters, university buy in, or especially skilled staff is all internal strength.
- Weaknesses are shortcomings within your organization that may impact your ability to achieve your goals. Poor organizational structure, vacant key positions, and limited budgets are weaknesses.
- Opportunities are external situations of which your organization can take advantage. Being able to spot and exploit opportunities can make a massive difference to your organization’s growth.
- Threats are external situations that could negatively impact your organization. Changes in university administration, tuition increases, and even changes to social media platforms could be threats. Threats are often completely outside of your control.
Internal in Origin
External in Origin
Examples of Core Values
Follow along in the chapter strategic planning guide on page 5.
With your leadership team make a list of what your chapter’s core values are.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis of your chapter in the space provided in the chapter guide.
Strategic Planning: Mission/Vision
Click here to download the Mission/Vision Video transcript
Developing mission statements are the next step in the action planning process. The difference between a mission and vision statement is that the vision statement is your organization’s desired future. Whereas the mission statement is the definition of an organization’s state and objectives.
An organization’s mission statement describes what the group is going to do, and why it is going to do that. Some general guiding principles about mission statements are that they are:
- Concise: Although not as short a phrase as a vision statement, a mission statement should still get its point across in one sentence.
- Outcome-oriented: Mission statements explain the overarching outcomes your organization is working to achieve.
- Inclusive: While mission statements do make statements about your group’s overarching goals, it is very important that they do so very broadly. Good mission statements are not limiting in the strategies or sectors of the community that may become involved in the project.
A vision statement outlines what an organization would like to ultimately achieve and gives purpose to the existence of the organization. A well-written vision statement should be short, simple, specific to your organization, and should not be open to interpretation. It should also have some ambition.
Follow along in the chapter strategic planning guide on page 6.
Does your chapter have a mission statement? If not, use the space below to create one with your chapter leaders. If your chapter has one, does it need to be revised?
Write down what is your vision for your chapter below. Brainstorm your chapter’s vision with fellow chapter leaders and members.
Strategic Planning: Strategies
Click here to download the Strategies Video transcript
Strategies explain how your organization will reach its mission and vision by creating a plan (and method) used to achieve a desired future state for the organization. Generally, organizations will have a wide variety of strategies that include people from all the different parts, or sectors, of the community.
Developing strategies will employee the SWOT analysis you and your team created in order to stay realistic as you build your strategic plan.
It is important to consider the following when developing strategies in a strategic plan.
- Does this strategy give an overall direction? (That means does it point out a way to achieve your mission and vision without prescribing a particular method to reach it.)
- Does it fit the resources and opportunities your organization has?
- Do your strategies advance the mission and vision?
A strategy is a way of describing how you are going to get things done. It is less specific than an action plan (which tells the who-what-when); instead, it tries to broadly answer the question, “How do we get there from here?” (Do we want to take the train? Fly? Walk?)
A good strategy will consider existing barriers and resources (people, money, power, materials, etc.). It will also stay within the overall vision, mission, and objectives of the organization.
Developing strategies is a key step between figuring out your objectives and making changes to reach them. Strategies should always be formed in advance of acting on a plan, instead of deciding how to do something after you have done it. Without a clear idea of the how, your organization may waste time and effort and fail to take advantage of opportunities that arise. Strategies should also be updated periodically to meet the needs of a changing environment, including new opportunities and resistance to the group’s efforts.
When developing and reviewing strategies it is important to always go back and review your mission, vision, and objectives to ensure that they are all aligned with one another.
Strategic Planning: Objectives & Goals
Click here to download the Objectives and Goals Video transcript
Objectives refer to specific measurable results for the organization’s broad goals. An organization’s objectives generally lay out how much of what will be accomplished by when.
Below is an example objective:
By 2024 (when), Student Veterans of America wants to increase chapter engagement in regional summits (what) by 20% (how much).
A goal is a specific result that your organization desires.
Another way to distinguish between objectives and goals is thinking as goals as your desired outcome. Objectives are what your organization needs to achieve to reach that outcome.
Example: Your organization’s goal is to have 100 active members, but currently you only have 50.
An objective your organization will create to reach that goal will be to increase the number of active members by 100% before the end of the academic year.
Remember when stating objectives to state the: what, when, and how much?
Why should you create objectives?
There are many good reasons to develop objectives for your organization. They include:
- Having benchmarks to show progress.
- Completed objectives can serve as a marker to show members of your organization, funders, and the greater community what your initiative has accomplished.
- Creating objectives helps your organization keep focused on initiatives most likely to have an impact.
- Keeping members of the organization working toward the same long-term goals.
Your community organization should create objectives when:
- Your organization has developed (or revamped) its vision and mission statements and is ready to take the next step in the planning process.
- Your organization’s focus has changed or expanded.
Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.:
- Specific. That is, they tell how much (e.g., 10%) of what is to be achieved?
- Measurable. Information concerning the objective can be collected, detected, or obtained.
- Achievable. It is feasible to pull them off.
- Relevant to the mission. Your organization has a clear understanding of how these objectives fit in with the overall vision and mission of the group.
- Timed. Your organization has developed a timeline (a portion of which is made clear in the objectives) by which they will be achieved.
By having SMART objectives you and your team are ensuring that your organization can reach its full potential and lessen the chance of encountering pitfalls that can prevent your chapter from succeeding.
Strategic Planning: Tactics & Strategies
Click here to download the Tactics Video transcript
To review a strategy explains how your organization will reach its mission and vision by creating a plan (and method) used to achieve a desired future state for the organization. Generally, they are:
- A pathway to a goal
- A plan for allocating resources
- Something that is typically (although not always) long-term in nature
- The ‘thinking’ aspect, that precedes the ‘doing’
- The way in the plan will be delivered, in terms of specific actions
- Concrete actions that are usually short-term in nature, and which are found in resources, detailed plans and best practices.
- The ‘doing’ that follows the thinking.
There are three good ways to identifying whether something is a strategy or a tactic.
- Order of play: Strategy will always come first.
- ‘Changeability’: Strategies take time, research and careful planning to create because of their long-term vision. This means that they can be changed, but not lightly or easily. Tactics, on the other hand, can easily be adjusted to correct the course of action.
- Nature: Strategies are conceptual, but tactics are concrete.
Another way to put this is a tactic is a strategy that you use to achieve each objective or goal you create in your strategic tactical plan.
Example: Your goal is to raise $5,000 for your chapter in the coming semester to attend NatCon.
Tactics would include hosting fund raising events in your community. Another tactic might be developing a team to look for grants provided by school or an outside organization that will fund conference travel.
Tactics typically do not have deadlines but are simply there to support your ability to reach each goal. Tactics are also not considered steps but are more general actions that will be taken to reach the goal.
Key Performance Indicators
Once you establish your tactics you need to quantify how effectively you are meeting your objectives. A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a chapter is achieving key objectives. Organizations use KPIs at multiple levels to evaluate their success at reaching targets.
One of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of KPIs is that they are a form of communication. As such, they obey the same rules and best-practices as any other form of communication. Succinct, clear and relevant information is much more likely to be absorbed and acted upon.
In terms of developing a strategy for formulating KPIs, your team should start with the basics and understand what your organizational objectives are, how you plan on achieving them, and who can act on this information. This should be an iterative process that involves feedback from your team.
Defining key performance indicators can be tricky. The operative word in KPI is “key” because every KPI should related to a specific organizational outcome with a performance measure. Follow these steps when defining a KPI:
- What is our desired outcome?
- Why does this outcome matter?
- How are you going to measure progress?
- How can you influence the outcome?
- Who is responsible for outcomes?
- How will you know you’ve achieved your outcome?
- How often will you review progress towards the outcome?
Make sure to:
- Review the KPI on a regular basis
- Make sure the KPI is actionable
- Evolve your KPI to fit the changing needs of the organization
- Check to see that the KPI is attainable
- Check to see that the KPI is attainable
Follow along in the chapter strategic planning guide on page 7.
With your leadership team, identify at least one objective for your term as a chapter leader. Then brainstorm at least two goals and two tactics to help meet your objective.