Develop a Plan

Transitions are a time of uncertainty and new direction but they are also an important time to raise resources. The key to raising resources is developing and articulating the organization’s future path. Developing that path requires a keen sense of the intersection between community need and the organization’s mission.

Organization’s making a leadership transition should begin developing their strategic plan before identifying a new leader. After all, how does the board know the skills and experiences the organization’s staff leader needs, if there is not a plan outlining where the organization is headed.

Nonprofits hope to put themselves out of business by solving the community need identified in their mission. Organization’s without a well defined mission risk following the money or whatever needy people come through their door.   Therefore, the strategic plan begins with the mission. How is the organization trying to change the world? What is the need to be eradicated? How will the community look when the mission is accomplished?

The next step is to explore where the organization is now. This is articulated through a “SWOT” analysis. Board members reach out to the community to help identify the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

To recognize it strengths, leaders should ask: what resources, programs, and expertise can the organization build from? What services does the community depend on the organization to provide?

Weaknesses are harder for leaders to identify. Instead ask long standing funders and partners. Inviting feedback from current and former clients is also essential. Requesting this type of feedback requires humility.  Often a consultant or other outsider is brought in to encourage dialogue.

Developing the organization’s opportunities, often requires an exploration of the market and the community serviced. Are there gaps in services? New funding prospects? Collaboration or partnership opportunities? Is this the organization to fulfill these needs? These questions will lead to the organization’s goals. Articulating these measurable goals will lead to a method of evaluating the organization’s impact.

Finally, leadership should explore the organization’s threats. Honestly examine the organization’s ability to raise diverse resources, expertise it is lacking, location, and its competition. Developing these threats will provide direction and identify the expertise and experiences the organization’s board should look for in its new leader.

The importance of launching the organization’s new leader is often overlooked. We will explore strategies and pitfalls in upcoming posts.

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