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Identify Your Project’s Strategic Plan

Being awarded a grant takes more than an idea and a funding source. It takes an organization that is well managed, that understands its purpose, and that uses its staff and board efficiently. A successful grant program requires the organization to identify its long- and short-term goals, the priorities of the proposed project, and the strengths and limitations of its staff and their procedures. This section will help you understand the importance of a strategic plan and provide a model for you to follow as you create your own strategic plan.

What Is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning helps you develop a direction for the future and details how to get there—how to solve a problem, how to implement a program or project, etc.

Strategic planning can be broken down into two components: strategy and tactics. Strategy determines the overall direction of a plan and establishes its principle goals or mission; tactics concern the detailed plans, choices, and decisions made to reach the primary goal. In summary, a strategy helps people choose and implement tactics.

To achieve lasting improvements, you must consider not only immediate concerns or crises, but also issues that can appear tangential, such as community values, leadership styles, and the degree to which implementation disrupts routine. Above all, avoid implementing plans that achieve your goals but inflict significant hardships on organizations and communities. A plan that might work well for a large government contractor, for example, may very well run into problems if implemented by a small American Indian tribe—or vice versa.

Elements of Strategic Planning
Developing a comprehensive strategic plan involves (1) thinking through and detailing plan elements, (2) developing the logic underlying the choice of elements, and (3) clearly documenting the plan. The logic model helps ensure that the plan will work, and that the elements (goals, objectives, tasks, and action steps) will lead to the desired results. The documentation helps preserve the connections. This information is critical for the evaluation phase. If the work is not done upfront when the project is being planned, the evaluator will have to reconstruct the logic and data needed for evaluation. At this stage, sometimes the necessary data has not been collected and is not available.

A strategy specifies how a vision will be achieved. A strategic plan begins with an assessment—both external to the organization and within it. This is similar to identifying and analyzing problems. The resulting strategic plan is made up of these elements:

  • Vision.
  • Mission.
  • Goals and objectives: major steps to accomplishing a goal; specific, measurable, and achievable in a defined period of time.
  • Tasks: more specific activities designed to accomplish objectives.
  • Action steps: timeline, activities, persons responsible, sequential chain of events.
  • Results measurement.

Goal-based strategic planning is the preferred process in community-based planning. Here is a guide to getting that done:

  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These can exist both within and outside of your organization.
  • Identify and prioritize major problems and goals. Go through the list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and identify your goals and the problems that might prevent your program from reaching those goals.
  • Design major strategies (or programs) to address problems and goals.
  • Design or update your mission statement (some organizations may do this step first).
  • Establish action plans (e.g., objectives, resource needs, roles, responsibilities for implementation).
  • Compile your strategic plan. A strategic plan contains all the documentation assembled so far and records problems, goals, strategies, an updated mission statement, action plans, and any identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.