A branding iron stamped the words “Own It” on a surface.

Your center is required to have a three year financial and program plan*, and you report on that in your annual Program Performance Report. It isn’t called a strategic plan in the requirements, and you have a lot of flexibility in how you develop and implement your plan. Let’s talk about some key aspects of YOUR organizational plan.

Your plan should be realistic. Your stakeholders — the board, staff, consumers, funders — want to know what you WILL do, not just what you think you might want to do someday. Decide on concrete actions you can take. Write them down, committing to a time line and who is responsible for the work. Then report at board and staff meetings what is actually happening, flowing from the plan.

Your planning process should fit the size and scope of the plan itself. There was a time when non-profits put big money into hiring a facilitator to help develop a written plan. Anyone remember retreats, at fancy conference hotels or rustic camps? These are seldom done any more, for reasons of cost, time, and the pandemic. You may plan over several ZOOM sessions, but they don’t all have to be over a weekend. You may want committees to start the work. There isn’t just one format for putting your ideas into a written plan. Do the work you need to do to focus on each goal.

The board’s role in planning may be different than you think. Sometimes the board of a non-profit is called a “planning board” or a “policy board” or is otherwise defined. The true bottom line, though, is that it is made up of individuals and each comes to the table with their own ideas, especially when it comes to planning. Give those individuals a chance to work on the goal that most resonates with them, especially if you are producing drafts by small groups before the whole thing come together.

Independent Living Philosophy must be prominent and dominant. Many written strategic plans start with a vision statement and a mission before the goals are identified. These are good — but you don’t have to re-write them year after year. The purpose of a center is clear in the Rehabilitation Act, and Independent Philosophy is woven into the very fabric of a center for independent living. This focus should not change, so your mission and vision may not change that much year to year.**

Planning and problem solving are two different processes. If problems become apparent while you are planning, the problem solving will need to happen in a different context. If the area of concern is a key one the planning may have to be suspended while the problem is solved, but you don’t necessarily want the planning team to “fix” the issue, especially if it involves personnel performance or financial support for the issue. The usual management structures should address those issues.

Remember this is a financial and program plan. Is financial sustainability a key part of your planning? A budget that “puts your money where you mouth is” must be in place for the program plan to be successful.

Focus on consumers — who are your consumers and what do they need your organization to do right now? Focus on the people and their real lives will keep your plan real.

*Title VII, Section 725 of the Rehabilitation Act, Assurances, states: 4) the applicant will establish clear priorities through an­ nual and 3-year program and financial planning objectives for the center, including overall goals or a mission for the center, a work plan for achieving the goals or mission, specific objec­tives, service priorities, and types of services to be provided, and a description that shall demonstrate how the proposed ac­tivities of the applicant are consistent with the most recent 3-year State plan…

**Sec. 725 REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 184
(1) PHILOSOPHY.—The center shall promote and practice the independent living philosophy of—
(A) consumer control of the center regarding decision-making, service delivery, management, and establishment of the policy and direction of the center;
(B) self-help and self-advocacy;
(C) development of peer relationships and peer role models; and
(D) equal access for individuals with significant dis­abilities, within their communities, to all services, pro­grams, activities, resources, and facilities, whether public
or private and regardless of the funding source.

Strategic planning: own your process, own your future

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