A Case for Strategic Planning: The Journey Begins at Sunset Community

The prior blog post in this series described a strategic planning approach that any nonprofit leader can adopt for his or her organization. The next several articles will apply this approach to a fictional nonprofit, which we will call Sunset Community (Sunset for short). As we unpack strategic planning in a real-world setting, please feel free to post questions or feedback in the comment section below the articles, to help spur discussion among readers about the practical application of this process.

The case for strategy at Sunset
Sunset is a small assisted living community for the elderly population in a suburban Northern Virginia town. Its 100 employees serve 500 individuals, with oversight provided by a 10-member Board of Directors. The company recently hired a new—and very smart—Organization Development Director, Sue Jones, who set out to create and enact a strategic plan, the first in the organization’s 25-year history.

Step One: Laying the groundwork
Sue’s first order of business was to gather a strategic planning team. She identified the various stakeholders invested in Sunset’s current and future success, ensuring all internal and external roles were represented. The 16-person group was comprised of:
• four internal employees (each representing a different job level and/or function)
• three senior leaders
• two Board members
• two individuals who live at Sunset
• two family members
• one member of a funding organization
• one employee of a local government regulatory body
• one volunteer

At the team’s first meeting, Sue shared a tentative schedule, with meetings planned twice monthly for a duration of six months (12 meetings total). The team reviewed and agreed upon the terms of the schedule—dates, times, location, and agenda—and each member signed an agreement committing to attend the meetings. From the start, Sue ensured she established team consensus, ownership, and commitment.
Next, the team identified desired outcomes from the strategic planning process. Sue asked the team, “Where are we now?” and “Where do we want to be?” to guide their discussion. She recorded details about the organization’s history, stakeholders, and program and service performance.

Step Two: Building the pillars of planning
The team then worked to identify the organization’s mission, vision, and values (MVV) through the following process:
• Sue asked a handful of team members to conduct a series of interviews with key stakeholders, posing questions about the MVV, and sharing their responses as a foundation for group discussion.
• Each team member completed a survey or wrote a personal belief statement, and circulated the results to capture a wide range of ideas.
• Together the group explored themes; discussed proposed solutions; and chose succinct mission, vision, and values statements.

As a result of this step in the strategic planning process, Sunset established the below MVV statements:
• Mission: Sunset Community provides an environment of physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being for its residents.
• Vision: to create a community of comfortable, safe, and happy individuals living their lives to the fullest
• Values: humanity, integrity, respect, compassion, service

The next blog article will detail steps three and four in Sunset’s strategic planning journey. Stay tuned!

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