When you have a task on your to-do list, I am sure you focus on the need to complete the final product. Getting the project done and having the final product is the goal, and we often focus all our time and energy on achieving that goal. But, how much time do you put into considering the process that gets you to that final product?
There are many times when the process is actually more important than the product. By involving others in the process, nonprofit organizations have the opportunity to engage others in their mission. It is the perfect opportunity to cultivate donors, engage volunteers, build collaborations with other organizations, and engage the community with your organization. If you are overlooking the process and merely focusing on the product, chances are you are missing out on some great opportunities.
Strategic planning is one example of when the process can be as important as the product. Last year, our organization decided it was time to update our strategic plan. One strategy I could have used to develop the plan would have been to close my office door and write the plan. I am guessing that I could have sat alone in my office and written the plan in a few days, and voilà – my organization would have a strategic plan.
However, that was not the process we elected to use. Instead, we engaged in a six-month process of developing the strategic plan and engaged over 75 individuals in the process. The process included a taskforce, focus groups, feedback sessions and a capacity assessment. Each of the steps in the process created opportunities for various stakeholder groups to share their insights, and be a part of the strategic planning process.
Whether I wrote the strategic plan in my office with the door closed, or whether we engaged over 75 individuals in the six-month process of strategic planning, either way the end product would have been a strategic plan for the organization. But, through the path we chose, which engaged stakeholders in the process, our organization was able to achieve much more than merely developing a strategic plan.
The process enabled our organization to reconnect with donors, volunteers, corporate partners, clients and community leaders. As a result of the process, our organization has had doors opened for new collaborations and realized new successes with fundraising opportunities. Individuals involved in the process have become advocates for the goals outlined in the strategic plan and are contributing their time, talent and treasures to ensure our organization’s success in reaching those collectively determined goals. And because we engaged the community in the process, our organization gained information on how we can better deliver our services to meet the needs of our community. The process of strategic planning was just as valuable (or more valuable) than the actual plan we developed as our final product.
So next time you take on a project at your organization, pay attention to the process you use to complete the project. Because sometimes, the process can be more important than the product.MyHabitat for a recorded training, led by Sarah W Mackey, on engaging the community throughout the strategic planning process. Additional tools and resources that can be used to implement these strategies at your Habitat affiliate are available in the training resources on MyHabitat.