How involved should your Board be with your strategic planning process?
On one end of the spectrum, some people view strategy-making as the responsibility of the staff. The Board should be generally informed – and certainly consulted if anything “wild” is being considered – but their main role is to ask good questions, and then approve “management’s” strategy. And they should definitely stay out of reviewing annual operating plans.
On the other side, there are those who believe that the entire Board needs to be intimately involved with the entire strategy process – including a careful review of a detailed implementation plan. Granted, some of these tend to be more of our smaller nonprofits – but this philosophy exists even in larger organizations.
Which is right and how do you decide what is best for your organization?
In my view, it is essential to involve every Board in three different aspects of the strategy process:
*Mission Affirmation: What impact do we want to make and for whom/what?
*Mission Metrics: What metrics will we use to track progress?
*Visioning: What would the world look like if we were accomplishing our mission 100%? What would our organization look like, ideally, so we have the opportunity to accomplish our mission as effectively as possible?
Beyond that, the next question I encourage clients to ask themselves is “How instrumental will the Board be in the successful implementation of this strategy?” The more important they are to successful implementation – and that includes giving and raising money – the more involved they should be. You can include the Board – or at least Board representatives – in the setting of Strategic Goals, SWOTs (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), and Strategy Themes.
As an example, a few years ago I was consulting with a group and a core of their Board was very involved with the strategy process. They came up with an exciting vision and participated in creating some really big, bold goals. At the end of the process, the Board members were fired up! And this Board is experiencing a lot of success in accomplishing those goals – including raising a lot of money. I seriously doubt that would have had the passion they now have, had they not been so involved.
Engage your Board properly with strategy and make even more of a Mission Impact!