Managing Your Board’s Expectations and Your Staff’s Workload During Strategic Planning

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Everyday there are many nonprofits in the world moving through the beginnings of a strategic plan. In every one of these sessions, nonprofit boards are creating the roadmap for their organizations, which is exciting. But, there are many executive directors that are dreading the possibility of overloading their staff with too many initiatives. How can an executive director effectively manage expectations during the strategic planning session without putting a damper on the board’s enthusiasm?

An overworked staff of a nonprofit is staff that does not have the ability to focus on the strategic areas of the organization effectively. It does not benefit the board, the members or staff to engage in a plan that requires more time than staff or other resources are available. Unfortunately, this happens quite a bit and there is one simple “fix” that can be applied without putting a damper on the enthusiasm that takes place when a nonprofit plots its future path. That “fix” is to ensure that both staff and the board understand the people resources available to help execute the strategic plan of the organization in order to make it a success. Tracking time, understanding return on investment of staff time (ROI), developing an effective work plan and budgeting are critical elements in managing expectations and achieving high levels of results.

  1. Track Time– In order to understand if you have enough time to execute on the organization’s strategic plan, you need to know where resources are being spent currently. Tracking your time will easily allow you to not only understand where resources are being expended but where they can also be allocated to programs, benefits and services. There are many online options to track your time and create effective reports by program areas. A simple online search will yield many.
  • ROI – Allocating time to programs, benefits and services, in addition to just expenses, paints a better picture for the organization around its true return on investment. For example, a small meeting that nets your organization $10,000 is seen as a profit maker on the surface but if you allocate staff resources, it loses $10,000 or more. When your board reviews its programs, benefits and services with staff allocations, it has the ability to see very clearly which ones are not profitable that may need to be eliminated or repurposed.
  •  Work Plan–After your strategic planning session, it is the responsibility of staff to determine the who, what, where, when and how of the plan. The best way to do this is to put together a plan of work for the next 12 months of the year to start work on execution. One of the most important elements in realistic execution of each goal is to allocate staff time to the work plan.
  • Budget–Tying the budget to the plan is a critical and very important piece of the planning process. But, when we think of budget, we think of dollars.  Since we have been talking about managing a realistic plan, putting together a human resource budget is just as important.  Budgeting human resources then allows you to see if there is either a surplus or deficit of your human capital. This will help the board make decisions around whether or not to add resources or to push certain priorities to a future year. Don’t forget that human resources also include your nonprofit organization’s volunteers as they account for a large percentage of your workforce.

Setting expectations and providing your board with a complete picture of where resources are allocated helps to ensure progress on your strategic plan and continue on an exciting path while providing better results and overall satisfaction for your team. The American Psychological Associationnotes that 69% of employees report that work is a significant source of stress and turnover. In fact, an article on Workforce.comnotes that 40 percent of employees participating in their study cited stressas the primary reason for resigning from a job. You can still have an exciting planning session that yields excellent goals and strategies, but ones that are in line with staff and volunteer resources. Keep your team and board happy by giving them the tools to set an organizationalcourse that continues to soar and not crash and burn.