This is the tenth segment of our strategic planning blog series, and in this final segment, we will discuss overcoming the most common objections to strategic planning.
Objection #1: No one does strategic planning anymore.
Whenever I hear this objection, I ask the person to share the name of one nonprofit that enjoyed sustained growth and impact without a strategic plan. Surely, if no organizations are using strategic planning anymore, then it must certainly be easy to find many examples.
I also note that a lot of organizations have responded to a rapidly changing environment by developing “tactical plans” that are just 12-24 months long. But these tactical plans move the organization toward a strategic direction and are, in fact, an important component of a strategic plan.
Objection #2: We didn’t use the last strategic plan.
The only way to overcome this legitimate objection is to jointly identify the reasons the last plan wasn’t used. After documenting these reasons, work together to develop a plan for addressing the issues. As an example, you may determine that the most recent plan was not implemented due to a lack of tactical accountability. You and the board may then agree that any new plan would have to assign goals and tactical objectives to a specific position within the organization.
Objection #3: We don’t have the time.
Setting an organization’s strategic direction is a core governance function and as important as hiring the executive director or ensuring financial accountability. Just as a board must make time to review the executive director and ensure financial procedures are followed, it must also find the time to establish the organization’s strategic direction.
Objection #4: We can’t afford a consultant to help with strategic planning.
This is a prime opportunity to brainstorm your fundraising options for raising additional funds for strategic planning. Perhaps your most steadfast foundation supporters or major donors can contribute to your planning process. Get the board brainstorming about fundraising opportunities, then ask for their help in executing those opportunities.
Objection #5: We have more important priorities.
Explore the other priorities to determine if they really are more important than strategic planning. If the organization is experiencing a leadership transition or a major crisis, it may be better to postpone the strategic planning for six months. If the “more important priorities” involve a gala in six months, however, then use the response to Objection #3: We don’t have the time.
When you start the conversation about strategic planning, you want to be prepared for objections. While this is not a complete list of all possible objections, it probably represents the majority of objections you will hear from board members and senior staff.