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Chapter 3: Strategic Planning and Annual Retreat

Purpose
The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how to establish strategic plans to make your Student Association at your college or university effective.

Introduction
Strategic planning is a process that brings forth the mission and vision of your Alliance Student Association. In other words, it becomes the foundation of your Student Association within your college or university. Developing a well-crafted strategic plan considers both internal and external factors. Stakeholders are then made aware of the Associations strengths and weaknesses through evaluation. The Strategic Plan appraises the full potential of the association and links defined objectives to actions and resources required to achieve them. The over-arching reason for such planning described in this chapter lies on the premise that your current Student Association will grow. As your association grows and becomes more complex the need for strategic planning will become greater to ensure everyone knows the intended direction and mission of the Association. Those who consistently develop and refine established plans will be better prepared to evolve and adapt to changes within the environment of your college or university and community. This is all accomplished as a result of improved communication between stakeholders in your Association. Strategic planning facilitates effective decision-making, better selection of priority goals and objectives and leads to higher probability of achieving those desired priorities. By communicating and collaborating as one group, all parties will be able to visualize the purpose of your Student Association to create social change in the most effective manner possible. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all plan. However, there are principles and required steps that can assist you in this process. The following steps have been taken from Forbes to illustrate the basic structure of a well-established strategic planning process. Determine where you are. Identify whats important. Define what you must achieve. Determine who is accountable. Review, review, review. (Forbes, 2011)

By incorporating or gaining inspiration from these examples of strategic planning, our hope is that you will be able to effectively establish bylaws or a constitution for your current or future association to promote considerable growth through organization.

Competencies Addressed in this Chapter


While implementing this chapter, your activities will most likely address the following competencies: Communication, Marketing & Public Relations The role of organizational and personal communication within a nonprofit organization Foundations & Management of the Nonprofit Sector The role of mission orientation for nonprofit organizations Governance, Leadership & Advocacy Essential function of strategic planning for effective operation and sustainability Legal & Ethical Decision Making Basic laws and regulations under which nonprofits incorporate and operate Concepts and practices associated with facility and operational risk management Program Development Mission-driven program design and outcomes Inclusive program strategies Program logistics Program evaluation strategies

Where to Start

Determine where you are and What Regulations you must follow

This initial step of determining where you are can be best described as building a foundation. The first step to formulating a strategic plan is understanding the environment. You will assess all potential strengths and weaknesses of an Alliance Student Association at your college or university. In many cases, campuses require all clubs and associations to be registered at an institutional level or within a school. You will need to research school rules to see if your Association is required to do so. Registration can be useful to your Association because often, registered clubs can be publicized by the campus. This may drive in more students! As part of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance all associations should be conducted professionally and comply with university guidelines. In many cases, your bylaws or constitution and possibly your strategic plan will be already be predetermined as a result of school requirements. Additionally, it may be prudent to further investigate the possibility of affiliating with a school

(i.e. School of Business, Management, Recreation, etc.). Partnering with these entities often provide resources and benefits not received by non-affiliated members. However, not all Alliance Student Associations may have access to these benefits. Remember, requirements of your college or university are important to integrate into your bylaws, constitution or strategic plan. Moreover, the mission statement and bylaws of the Alliance National Student Association are vital. This chapter aims to help you bridge the gap between the two and formulate your best practices. Identify whats Important Once the foundation for your future student association is made, then comes the planning phase. In order to produce a plan, you will need to develop a mission statement. The mission statement should guide all actions conducted by your student association in a concise, clear manner. The more your mission statement differentiates from other resembling organizations at your college or university, the more students will recognize your presence. Like anything with lasting value, developing a mission statement requires time, thought, and planning. The mission statement should reflect the purpose of the establishment of the student association. To generate a statement encompassing the major purposes of the association, the right questions need answering. These questions include but are not limited to: How does my Association meet the Mission Statement of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and the Purpose of the Alliance National Student Association? Why is the association important? Who is your target population? What is the nature of services you plan to provide? What services do you plan to provide? How do you differ from your competitors? As part of your partnership with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, most of these proposed questions will be already determined. Nonprofit organizations and leaders have helped develop the curriculum for the CNP certification to ensure all who receive this certification will be both prepared and skilled to create a profound impact within the social sector. With this cornerstone set in place, all strategic plans and activities should be centered in fulfilling this goal established by the Alliance. How does my Association meet the Mission of the Alliance and the Purpose of the Student Association? As a part of the Alliance network, your Student Association is a valuable part of the programming that leads to the CNP. As such, you must ensure that

Mission of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Strengthen the Social Sector with a talented, prepared workforce

your mission is aligned with the mission of the Alliance and the purpose of the Student Association. You may have some variation based on your campus and student population, but make sure that the mission and purpose guide your discussion. Why is the association important? Developing this section of your strategic plan should follow this statement made by the Alliance and, in most cases, should be copied into your bylaws or constitution. Purpose of the Student Association The Alliance Student Association is a professional student group, driven by student leaders under the guidance of the Campus Director, which focuses on the development of nonprofit management and leadership skills through the practical application of the CNP competencies within the community and campus community

Who is your target population? Your target population is whomever your college or university allows involvement in student associations. In most cases, these include but are not limited to: undergraduate and graduate students, including nontraditional students. Some Alliance Associations have extended their work to local high schools to entice interested students to Alliance campus programs and their schools alumni to develop a community based program.

What is the nature of services you plan to provide? By establishing a student association under the Alliance it is vital that professionalism be maintained throughout all activities to guarantee the success of your students as future CNPs. Also, remember that through these activities, you may also be benefiting members of your campus and local community (through service projects, etc.). What services do you plan to provide? Activities should vary with some professionally focused, some service focused and some socially focused. Like in life, a good balance is needed. Although there are different kinds of Alliance activities, all should be conducted in a professional manner. This should not overshadow the importance of informal and interactive social gatherings for future members. There is not one dominant process for drawing strategy in this area. There are defined processes or steps one must take to make your activities worthwhile. We want you to enjoy your experience with the Alliance, as well as encourage others to create social change. Therefore, keep the end goal in mind and enjoy the journey.

How do you differ from competitors? One acronym can answer this question: CNP. Facilitating a part of the process for students to become Certified Nonprofit Professionals, you, as an association, are enabling students to change the world. Alliance associations exceed in comparison to similar associations because their purpose of existence gives students the ability to stand out. In most cases, no other student association at your college or university is capable of such a task. Answering the above questions will help in the development of your mission statement. Most associations and organizations creating mission statements realize the process itself to be as or more beneficial than the actual statement. This process of crafting a statement will help solidify the reason for what you are doing and clarify your intentions of your current or future association.

Best Practices
Define what you Must Achieve In this section, you will learn how to write clear goals and objectives. To guarantee your mission statement is not only defined but also accomplished, a distinction between outcome and process objectives will be clarified. Outcome objectives state the quantifiable result of the project; in other words the what of an objective. Process objectives qualify your method. Now that your mission statement has been established, the next necessary is to develop goals and objectives to give a clear picture of the results of implementing your association at your college or university. A goal is a broad-based statement of the ultimate result of the change being undertaken. In regards to associations which are and are not yet established, program goals are often written for the association as part of a long-term planning process. In most cases these are already developed for you as a result from the process of defining the mission statement. Developed aspects of your long-term goals need to include the Learning Outcome Rubric for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Competencies. These rubrics are included in the general appendix of this handbook and explained in the Introduction chapter, and in the case of writing goals and objectives the Alliances goal for every association is to reach the Apply or Psychomotor section of each learning topic. Objectives are used to define achievable outcomes of goals. Unlike a goal, an objective is more narrow and specific. To prepare an effective objective the following should be kept in mind: Objectives should state their target population. Objectives should be quantifiable. This means that objectives should be stated in terms of outcomes, not methods.

Objectives should be realistic of being accomplished within the time frame indicated.

For Instance: If you have decided to focus your associations programming on the Personal and Professional Development competency for a semester, your goals might align with the outcomes in the Apply section of the rubrics (see Introduction chapter for explanation of rubrics). For Instance, one of your goal/outcome statements might look like this: Goal: Our members each create a professional network by developing relationships with contacts and mentors and incorporating continued outreach through networking Outcome 1: Ensure that the top 5 roadblocks to developing a network are addressed in this semesters professional programming (survey students to determine what roadblocks they perceive in networking). Outcome 2: Increase the number of local nonprofit organizations participating in networking events by 50%. Outcome 3: Require ach student to attend at least 2 networking events and participate in at least one site visit. Outcome 4: Ensure that at least 80% of student members have a career mentor (outside of faculty members or campus advisors). Determine Accountability Your Campus Director works directly with the national Alliance office and ensures quality of coursework and the Alliance program. The role of the Campus Director varies from campus to campus. He or she can be seen as the President of the organization, or the President of the board. He or she oversees the work of the Student Association, particularly ensuring the legal, ethical, and financial viability of the organization. The Student Association should be studentdriven, but you must ensure that you are in alignment with the leadership and oversight of your Campus Director. To follow an organized form of accountability, your Alliance executive board should meet often with the campus director to ensure responsibilities are clearly assigned between the two. Usually, the President of the Student Association will meet weekly with the Campus Director. If appropriate student leadership cannot be established, you may find the Campus Director is more involved in the day-to-day tasks of the Student Association, until the students are able to create enough structure and accountability to assume greater leadership.

The Workforce Coalition under the Alliance is a coalition built to aide student leaders in achieving greater excellence. Composed of nonprofit and/or community leaders, this coalition will be able to invest their knowledge into your student association. This coalition may also serve as an advisory board that may grow to take the role of a Board of Directors for the Student Association. This coalition should be expected to provide support and advise your association in regards to operation, budget and vision. In some cases, some Alliance student associations have been able to receive donations from coalition members to support actions that match the Student Associations organization vision. To implement such a coalition, working with your campus director to determine if your association is ready will be necessary. Each campus director is given the tools to understand where your association must go and thus will know if this will hinder or facilitate growth. Please see the Community Partnerships chapter for more information. Review, Review, Review Despite a widespread adoption of strategic planning in organizations across the country, many continue to make fatal flaws that undermine the hours spent in defining their proposed direction. This section of strategic planning will address several flaws to avoid. This will not only keep you running as an association, but will also improve how you function and how your members perceive you. Upon establishing your direction (i.e. your mission statement, goals and objectives) utilizing numerous tools of strategic evaluation will be important. These tools will help you gain a greater understanding of how the environment is changing, how your activities are promoting your mission and where your associations strengths lie. The Alliance continues to diligently work with nonprofit leaders to guarantee every students experience will be gainful in the social sector. The most direct way to maintain a consistent focus on an effective strategic plan is evaluation. The most beneficial way to address an evaluation is to schedule and hold regular evaluation meetings. To construct a productive meeting, the leadership team should develop a standing agenda it can follow consistently each time the meeting is held. In addition, forms for evaluation of all association activities should be created and completed for these evaluation meetings. Annual goals and objectives, as well as general goals and objectives should be continually reviewed to confirm if such statements are aligned with the Alliance Mission Statement and Purpose of the Alliance National Student Association. Furthermore, effective evaluation

strategies should be flexible and adaptable to your own student association culture. To establish these strategies, the Campus Director and Association Executive Board should discuss successful evaluation strategies each has seen and implement ones that seem to fit your Student Association culture. The most direct method to deal with this crucial process is to break down and focus on one key issue at a time. Each key issue can be assigned to an issue team comprised of your association leaders, should you want further delegation. A common indicator of lacking strategy is when your association encounters key issues semester after semester despite putting time and energy into the planning process. In using this Guidebook many common issues will be avoided through best practices being observed and building the associations across the country. In addition, many chapters have strategy execution in a checklist; its more about creating a culture. In this section, you have been given tools to build a culture of strategy execution. If you are starting or are an existing association, we request the following: please do not go back to the drawing board and roll out a new program. Do go back and implement these disciplines of evaluation and execution in your leadership team. The Alliance has and will continue to provide tools to help you reach your potential of creating social change. Strategic planning is not the final step in generating success in your existing or future association; it is merely the fundamental step every association must take.

Checklist for Strategic Planning Research For Clubs and/or Associations with Similar Mission Statements Investigate College or University Requirements Regarding the Establishment of a Student Association Create a Mission and Vision Statement Determine Target Population Establish Goals Assign Objectives Find a Faculty Administrator Create an Executive Board Create an Advisory Board Determine Evaluation Plans Establish an Annual Retreat

Introduction to Annual Retreat As part of your affiliation with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, every student association should hold an annual retreat to create a greater impact in the Social Sector. Discussed in this section will be several reasons to conduct an annual retreat, as well as considerations to contemplate when planning an annual retreat. Further investigation is encouraged so your retreat can be effective to your campus environment and executive board culture. Among the various reasons for having an annual retreat, one overarching reason is to fulfill your mission at a higher level. The reason your association exists is to fill a gap in the social sector. Your Student Association is an instrumental group dedicated to changing the world; therefore, designated time at the start of the academic year to reconnect and recharge is vital. In some cases, having a nonprofit leader speak, read a letter from a grateful recipient of your work or showing motivational videos may be necessary. This will serve as a mission moment to reignite the passion for your associations mission to your members. Your annual retreat is used to review your strategic plan and discuss possible updates. At some point during your retreat, you may want to break into subcommittees to establish goals and plans. The annual retreat will help your Student Association build passion for the work and, as a result, may generate ideas for the upcoming year. Retreats should be used for this reason. Preparing and planning for the upcoming year is vital to ensure every member of your organization is on the same page. The final reason for conducting an annual retreat in Alliance associations is to network and socialize. Working with strangers is difficult. Going to meetings where you are amongst friends and colleagues is more fun. If you want an Alliance Student Association to work well together, plan activities that break the ice to make them feel comfortable with each other. In providing this time, you will notice changes in your culture; thus, improving work ethic and the ability to collaborate on ideas. In other words, an annual retreat should be an enjoyable time to interact with each other so that the upcoming year will be enjoyable and successful. Measures to Consider Upon Planning an Annual Retreat In planning for the retreat, you can create an agenda and designate who will be responsible for preparing, presenting and/or facilitating each part of that agenda. This plan ensures a shared responsibility for the retreat's preparation, success and follow-through. Your executive board may be the same or may be newly appointed, however in both circumstances your members need to know about the previous years performance. As stated previously, the purpose of this retreat is coming to a common understanding. In presenting past

accomplishments, your board may collectively be proud or seek improvement. Instilling these important lessons, whether good or bad, will help you decide on what activities should or should not occur in the upcoming year. Strengths and weaknesses are in every association. In relation to these strengths and weaknesses opportunities and threats may arise that inhibit desired progress. The ultimate goal of this conversation is to plan and work to leverage your associations strengths and opportunities, as well as foreseen challenges and threats. Only when this information is well shared and understood can your association make good decisions about its future direction and priorities. This discussion is about collectively deciding, based on understanding your associations past and present, the most important opportunities, operational goals and management priorities for the next one or more years. Ensuring long-term and current missions are in sync with proposed activities should also be addressed. In some cases, your vision and mission statement may need to be reviewed so that your board does not pursue initiatives that do not fit the desired direction. By getting people to work in appropriate subgroups and to agree on the most important business initiatives at the retreat, solid progress can be made through effectively utilizing everyone's ideas, perspectives and involvement. Mentioned previously, one of the main purposes of the retreat is to encourage and reignite your passion for the upcoming year. Effective communication, coordination and collaboration skills are generally not taught in most schools. Your association needs to fill the gap by giving your officers greater abilities in these areas. Therefore, good retreat design sprinkles in a variety of contrived, participatory exercises that get people to talk to each other more effectively, and to commit to important changes and improvements, both individually and collectively. With new relationship and problem-solving skills, attendees can also better engage in conversations about the organizations past, present and future. The more you are able to get your retreat participants engaged in these four related aspects, the more powerful and practical your retreats will become. Make this coming year your associations best year yet.

FAQs for Common Problems


1. Should I take the time to make a strategic plan? Strategic planning is a process that brings forth the mission and vision of your Alliance Student Association. In other words, it becomes the foundation of your Association within your college or university. In developing a well-crafted strategic plan, both internal and external considerations are evaluated and communicated to all stakeholders. It finally considers the full potential of the association and links defined objectives to actions and resources required to achieve them. 2. How often do I have to do strategic planning? Strategic planning is a continual process. It never ends. You should always be looking at it and revising it as needed. Most organizations will create a 3 year plan; however, they will review and possibly revise that plan every year. 3. Who are your stakeholders? Ultimately you are accountable to those you serve; therefore, making the general membership, campus administration, faculty, and Campus Director your stakeholders. However, one of the most important stakeholders in your association is your local nonprofit community. 4. I have done a strategic plan, now what? Now that your mission statement has been established, developing goals and objectives to give a clear picture of the results of implementing your association at your college or university will be necessary. One question that should be considered while composing these statements is: How would the situation look if it were changed? 5. Who can I ask for help? The Alliance is here to help. Included in this Guidebook is contact information and ways to contact other leaders from colleges and universities across the country. We encourage you to contact these leaders to help you avoid some of the mistakes they have made in the past and be able to network with colleges or universities like yours. 6. What if I have an idea I want to share with other campuses? Great! We would love to hear it. Send your idea to melissa.hill@nonprofitleadershipalliance.org, and it will be put in the next version of the Guidebook.