Create a Plan, then Plan to Use It

 In Association Management

A strategic plan should serve as a road map for your association. The document can be in whatever format works best for your organization. Regardless of the format or length, it should establish direction and lead to future growth. Used correctly, it can be an invaluable resource.

There’s just one problem too many organizations face. They spend ages outlining, discussing, writing and refining the document. Then…they don’t do a thing with it. What good is the guidance contained in a strategic plan if you don’t use it?

Ideally, your association’s strategic plan steers your organization in the right direction. It keeps everyone focused on your association’s members, mission and values. To maintain that focus, you need to ensure a few things are in place.

Your people

Each stakeholder segment of your association offers a unique perspective of the organization. Make sure you include them all when creating a strategic plan. Invite key representatives from your board, membership, other customers (such as vendors) and staff to the table. Being inclusive provides a more complete picture of what your organization does and the mission it serves. Obviously, not everyone from every sector can participate. Seek out representatives from each sector that are “big picture” thinkers and are likely to actively participate. A group of about 10-12 ensures that all bases are covered, but allows time for everyone to participate.

Your document

What should your strategic plan include? Basically, components should aim toward one target: serving members and customers. But how it looks and your own recipe for success varies according to what each association needs. Here are the most common ingredients:

  • Vision statement–aspirational declaration of where you want your organization to head.
  • Mission statement–declaration of what you do and who you serve
  • Core values–characteristics most important to your group and its members
  • SWOT analysis–break down of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Long-term goals–strategies to achieve your vision
  • Short-term objectives–actionable, measurable steps you’ll take to achieve your goals.

Your follow-through

After you’ve created and fine-tuned your strategic plan, don’t let it collect dust. Lean on it as a resource to keep your association focused and united. Once finalized, translate your strategic plan into a dynamic work plan that establishes specific tasks, deadlines and who is responsible for executing each task. Encourage your team, especially leadership, to regularly review and modify it as necessary. This is the guiding light you can and should use for all of your board meetings to ensure you keep focused on your strategic goals.

Even in the most tight-knit association teams, people come and go. While the names on the staff or leadership list may change, your organization’s mission should remain top of mind. A strategic plan supports that focus. Use it wisely and it can chart your association’s success for decades to come. Contact Frontline if you need advice.

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