Category Archives: Strategic Planning

4 Steps of Strategic Planning

From the wise words in the childhood book and movie of Alice in Wonderland, we learned that if we don’t Alice & Wonderland Quote
know where we are going, any road could take us there.  However, it may not be the most effective or efficient path and the outcome could be different than we hoped.  Developing a strategic plan provides that road map for all organizations – nonprofits, businesses, schools and government agencies – to have clear focus of our goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. 

We have the privilege of working with a few organizations every year to help them create their “road map” or strategic plan for the next 3-5 years.  In the course of completing these strategic plans, we have developed a formula that guides the process following four key steps.

4 Steps of Strategic Planning


Our process graphic1. Collaborate

Good strategic plans are not created in isolation in a board room.  We work with you to identify all of the key stakeholders that we need to engage to inform the strategic planning process.  This will vary depending on your organization, but typically involves some of the following key stakeholders:

  • Staff at different levels of the organization
  • Board of Directors
  • Volunteers
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Key community partners/ stakeholders in the community
  • Clients
  • Public

When we worked with HSE S.P.O.R.T.S. on their strategic plan, we wanted to get feedback from a broad group of stakeholders.  We surveyed the public to gauge their understanding and perception of the organization and received a large response rate.  We also met with some of their key community partners for strategic feedback and met with their staff.  Through these efforts, we received rich feedback to inform the strategic planning team and started to create some buy-in and ownership from the community.

2. Assess

This step of the strategic planning process is so important as it provides the necessary context of understanding your organization and environment.  During this phase, it is important to complete an internal and an external assessment.  The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and/or completing a needs assessment of your community or targeted audience.

When we worked with Early Learning Indiana on completing their strategic plan, they wanted their strategic planning team to have a good understanding of the environment in which they operate.  There was a significant amount of change in policies, programming and priorities in the early learning industry that had implications for their work in the future.  Therefore, it was important to understand that context in planning for the future.

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).  

There are a variety of group activities that can be used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

3. Create

Now that a clear plan for the future has been reached, it is our job to make sense of all of the information and to package it in a meaningful way for the organization to implement.  We don’t believe in creating long strategic plan reports that sit on shelves.  We want our clients to use and review their strategic plan on a regular basis.  We recommend creating three strategic plan tools:

  1. “Pretty version” strategic plan – this is a one-page overview of your goals and top strategies.  This is a tool that can be shared externally with partners, funders and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.  It can live on your website and be part of your communication tools.
  2. Strategic plan report – this explains the full process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information collected (pre-read packet) and more detailed strategic plan report.  This is an internal document for staff use to reflect on the process and have access to all of the comprehensive information collected.
  3. Implementation plan – this tool helps unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board.  It can sometimes be difficult for organizations to take what is written in the strategic plan and put it into action, often resulting in no action or change.  By creating this more detailed implementation plan there is a road map for how the organization will accomplish the goals identified over the next 3-5 years.

Completing a strategic plan can be a daunting or exhilarating process for some organizations.  We love to partner with organizations to help you think about the future and create a plan that will get you there.  You can find out more about our strategic planning services here.

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NAEYC’s New Strategic Direction


NAEYCEvery year, businesses make the dash to evaluate their strategic plans and refine goals. Nonprofits are no exception. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is leading the charge in creating a completely new and innovative Strategic Direction. These new changes were formed through utilizing the opinions of NAEYC members, leaders, staff and volunteers that were asked about NAEYC’s previous mission, vision, and goals.

The new Strategic Direction includes a new mission statement, a new vision statement, and a commitment to the core values. With five strategic priorities set (or strategic goals) the NAEYC is hoping to accomplish the following in 2015:

  • Children ages birth through eight have access to high-quality learning.
  • Early childhood education profession demonstrates excellence.
  • NAEYC is recognized as a highly credible, visible and valuable organization.
  • NAEYC is excellent in organizational health and vitality.
  • NAEYC cultivates leadership and demonstrates innovative strategies.

The new Strategic Direction will reinforce NAEYC’s commitment to their core beliefs and core values. By reinforcing commitment to their core beliefs and values, the NAEYC will reaffirm their vision that “all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.” A more in-detail look can be found by reading the Strategic Direction document and taking a look at the organization’s website.

Transform Consulting Group has helped many organizations refocus their strategic direction. As NAYEC is developing a new strategic plan, we can your organization do the same.



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Reconnecting Youth To Education And Employment Through Collective Impact


Aspen InstituteAccording to the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions, there are 6.7 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market. These “opportunity youth” have enormous potential to contribute to the national economy. However, the Forum acknowledges lack of youth engagement is complex social challenge that requires community collaboration to address.

In July of 2012, the Aspen Institute launched the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions which recently held its second annual meeting for the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. Grantees, strategic partners, funders, and guests gathered to share lessons and strategies on how to reconnect opportunity youth to education and employment through collective impact. Steve Patrick, The Forum’s Executive Director, spoke. “We are learning about the emerging strategies that work in reconnecting opportunity youth, and we are also working in partnership with many others across the field to create an adaptable playbook for other communities to look to for planning and inspiration.”

Since 2012, the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund has provided awards to 21 communities in support of reconnecting opportunity youth through community collaboration. Collaborators include K-12 systems, community colleges and other postsecondary providers, municipal and state governments, national and local philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and private sector leaders. Over the five-year course of the Fund, $13 million in grants will be awarded. The goal of the fund is two-fold:

  • To build strong evidence of success for utilizing a collective impact community collaboration strategy to achieve better outcomes in education and employment for opportunity youth.
  • To advocate for a collective impact and community collaboration strategy as an effective model for community change.

By investing in opportunity youth, the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions recognizes the ripple effect it will have on future generations. Through community collaboration, the Forum hopes to effectively remove any barriers and build education and employment pathways. The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund is the first funding collaborative being developed and led by The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.

Considering the development of a strategic plan for your organization? Transform Consulting Group can work with you to identify organizational goals and specific strategies to support the accomplishment of your mission. Contact us today for a free consultation!



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Strategic Planning Tips from Alice in Wonderland

alice in wonderlandIf you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Do you remember the conversation that Alice in Wonderland had with the Cheshire Cat? Alice didn’t have a clear idea of where she was going or wanted to do. Alice asked the cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?” The cat responded, “You’re sure to get somewhere if you walk long enough.” In an odd way the cat was giving wise counsel not only for Alice but for organizations and businesses. To have an impact and make a difference, you have to know where you are going. Then you have to follow a path that will take you where you want to go.

Here are three tips that Transform Consulting Group has to help you find your path and reach your destination:

1. Understand the Need – what is the need in your community that your organization is working to address? Is there a specific health problem or education issue?

2. Identify Your Commitment – what is the impact (or change) that your organization plans to make to address this need? Make sure to include a timeline with an end date (1 year, 3 years or 5 years).

3. Develop Your Path – what strategies or services will your organization implement to address the need and accomplish your goals?

4. Reevaluate – check in on your progress. Are you still on the path? Have you gotten closer to accomplishing your goals? Do you need to make any changes? Have the needs in your community changed?

Transform Consulting Group can help your organization identify trends and make recommendations to maximize the impact of your work. Contact us today and we’ll help you get there.

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Client Spotlight: United Way of Grant County Receives Strategic Planning Grant


United Way Grant County Logo

The United Way of Grant County in Marion, Indiana has been chosen to receive an Organizational Effectiveness Grant from the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) and the Ball Brothers Foundation. The grant includes free strategic planning guidance, consulting, training and professional development services. The IYI Logo Consulting Partner 2011United Way impacts and improves lives through partnerships with 14 funded agencies that serve children, family and community in Grant County. The partnerships support 33 programs and initiatives to provide services across the county focused on health, education and financial stability. “I am honored that the United Way of Grant County has been chosen for this grant,” said Alicia Hazelwood, executive director of the agency. “It will help our local board move forward on implementation of our recent strategic plan. We hope that not only will this work make the United Way of Grant County stronger, but it will also help the efficiency and effectiveness of all our partners.”

The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being. As part of the award, Transform Consulting Group was chosen by IYI to provide professional consulting on leadership, program and fund development to increase the effectiveness of the Grant County United Way’s programming. Transform Consulting Group will help United Way of Grant County develop metrics to evaluate its impact in the community, build the capacity of its board and create a resource development plan that focuses on diversification and increased revenue.

Transform Consulting Group can provide similar “one stop shop” services to other organizations looking to improve their effectiveness. Contact us today for a free consultation!



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