Non-Profits: The Importance Of Strategic PlanningNon-Profits: The Importance Of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is vital to not only the operations of non profit organisations, but also to their continued viability as most don't successfully access grants. A Strategic Plan provides vision to an organisation. If developed properly - the business plan will clearly show the goals and objectives over the next three to five years and how the organisation plans to deliver on these goals and objectives. The operational plan will demonstrate clearly that their services are well thought out - meet a need in the community and will demonstrate that this is a well run professional organisation giving fund managers and Australian Government agencies confidence in supporting projects with funding.

From our work with non profit organisations across Australia - the vast majority of small to medium non profits don't have any Project Plans to support their projects let alone business plans. The larger non profits will probably have a Strategic Plan of some description in place - but really, in all honesty - how many of these operational plans actually reflect the organisation's current goals and vision? Organisations over a matter of a month or two can have seismic shifts in focus and their operations yet forget all about the strategic direction in which they were headed and completely forget about their business plan. It never gets updated - it is a book shelf document unfortunately and little else. Organisations need to regularly review their Strategic Plan and use them as a management tool reporting on progress of initiatives at each Committee meeting and challenging any proposed changes in direction.

Organisations that have Strategic Plans in place which hopefully are supported by detailed Project Plans generally are way more successful in winning grants. Strategic planning can take many forms but it is increasingly becoming the real key to receiving funding. So much so that both Government and Philanthropic agencies will financially support an organisation/project - where a well detailed plan supports the initiative and the grant application over an organisation that has not clearly thought through their project and does not have a documented plan in place.

An organisation with well crafted Strategic and Project Plans in place also makes the grant writing process so much easier. Grant writing really is a specialised field although many organisations try desperately to hire young, inexperienced staff or try to convert one of their existing staff to become a grant writer. IF organisations had a robust business plan in place which was supported by comprehensive Project Plans the vast majority if not all of the information required to complete a grant application, respond to questions or address selection criteria would be included in these Plans. Inexperienced or converted staff would then have some reasonable hope of preparing a successful grant application. The sad reality is that most organisations do not have a planning framework in place then compound the problem by trying to prepare their own submissions to funding programs.

Companies such as Red Tape Busters assist clients in developing creative strategic and project plans which are used to complete grant applications. Given that they prepare such comprehensive documents, the time required to complete an application is cut down significantly given the plans have all the information needed. Companies like this also use the strategic and/or project plan as an attachment to grant applications - providing the fund manager with more comprehensive information about the organisation/project than what is allowed in the grant application. Most applications are word or page limited so attaching the Plans is the easy way of providing more information while still complying with the limiting requirements.
by Nick Ideabank
References and Bibliography
Red Tape Busters is based in Queensland Australia and provides services in: Government and Private Sector Lobbying; Government Funding & Grant Writing Service; Job Application Writing Service; Business and Strategic Planning; Tender Writing Service and Business Support Services.
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