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Navigate the Winding Road: Letting the Strategic Plan Drive You

By Jen Hurst, M.A.
Oxygen masks may drop down for emergencies on planes, but post-it notes flutter down on the driver's seat when I'm lost. Each note includes directions for a route I frequently take. It's not the first strategy I've employed to find my way. My favorite is the “Light Game,” in which you turn right on reds, left on greens, and stay the course on yellows. This might be an amusing navigation tactic for driving, but strategic plans make grant writing easier and they define the organization's route.

Playing the Light Game
The administrators, of a school I was working with, asked me to write a grant that would bring fresh food to the school. I loved the idea due to the concrete outcomes, the ample research available on the impact of nutrition on students, and the fact that it would benefit my son.
I knew enough about the school to get by in most cases, but this grant forced me to think about how the program would help the school reach goals that I hadn't familiarized myself with. The challenge was that my repeated inquiries about the school's strategic plan and goals went unanswered. Despite this, my first draft got the thumbs up. Once the administrators created the required video the following morning, we could submit the request.
Four days later, the video was still just an idea, none of my emails or phone calls had been returned, and the deadline had passed. Despite the stated desire to have this grant-funded program implemented in the school, other things came up that pushed it aside. Rather than seeing it as something that could provide the fuel necessary to drive the organization toward its vision, this grant was viewed as a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive, which could be skipped if the stoplight turned green and the “Light Game” indicated that the car should turn left instead of staying the course.
Using Google Maps
A strategic plan is the Google Maps for your work. Elements of the plan inform where the organization is going, how much fuel is needed, and the route's terrain. It provides direction in the midst of busyness, distraction, and other “good” but not “great” things. The plan is a unique, board-approved “voice” that can give you insight into the thoughts behind the words that describe your organization. Following are some things to look for in the strategic plan, and how you can integrate them into your planning process.
  • Values – What funding is your organization willing to accept? How will the organization go about achieving its goals? Who might be good partners for a grant?
  • Vision– Where is the organization going? What is the future that the organization is trying to achieve?
  • Mission– What drives the organization?
  • Strategic Plan Goals– What projects might need to be funded to achieve these goals? What are the intended goals and outcomes?
  • Programs and Services- What current relationships does the organization have? How is the organization serving its constituents?  What programs are effective?
  • Action Plans– What will need to be done in the near- and long-term in order to meet your mission?
  • Updates to the Strategic Plan– How often will this plan change? Who do you request updates from? How will you communicate those changes to funders?  How will you measure success?
Planning for grants can sometimes seem like gridlock, but by using a strategic planning process you can identify the right needs to be met, the right project, and the right time to seek resources. As you align your strategic plan with the needs of your organization, others will get on board with the plan. Freeways are much more enjoyable in the carpool lane.


By: Arthur Davis
On: 02/01/2016 20:46:13
I've been using the La Piana model for strategic planning. It helps you choose strategies both use and reinforce your competitive advantages. The strategy screen is really helpful for getting everyone on board as to what grant applications (and programs) make sense for the organization.

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