When It is Time to Look Inside: Strategic Planning for Small Nonprofits
I'm sure most of you have heard the saying, "You must love yourself before you love another." I looked it up to make sure I got the words right, it seems there are a variety of versions, one attributed to Buddha, another to RuPaul. Anyway, this turned out to be the theme coming out of the board retreat The Spark Mill recently facilitated for Virginia Pride.
Initially formed over twenty years ago by a group of friends, Virginia Pride has seen great growth and change throughout that time. When the executive committee reached out to The Spark Mill they were looking toward the future with excitement and...uncertainty. They had an energetic board with many new faces, and a lot of zeal - which sounds like a great "problem" to have - if they had a focused plan for the future. The Spark Mill founder, Sarah Milston, spent some time chatting with Maureen Scott, from the Virginia Pride Board, getting a sense of what they wanted, needed, and how best to get them there. Sarah emerged with a bunch of ideas and sat down with Maureen, The Spark Mill facilitator Sara Tandy, and Virginia Pride Board President James Millner to draft a plan for the retreat.
Pause & Evaluate
Sometimes, when you don't know what the next step is, it is wise to pause, take a deep breath, and evaluate your situation. Virginia Pride came in to the retreat with ideas about changes they would like to effect on their organization and how it lives and works in the larger community. During the retreat, they did the difficult, but necessary, work of evaluating their strengths, weaknesses, and capacity for change. They looked at their mission and vision statements, reworked them to better align with what they're best at and what they're super passionate about - better capturing who they are as an organization.
While we won’t divulge all of their personal secrets, Virginia Pride is excited about a future that includes outreach, collaboration, and sustainability. As they began creating these larger goals they recognized that one of their top priorities had to be reinvestment in their board. If they had a goal essential to their new mission focus, but no capacity to complete it, what good is the goal? Is the mission even achievable? Is the mission right for them? Taking the time to pause and evaluate really helped Virginia Pride identify the areas in need of investment as they move forward and what direction "forward" lies. Oftentimes, the most important action a nonprofit can take is to focus inward on strengthening itself, ultimately empowering the organization to achieve their larger outward facing goals.