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The 3 S's of Planning - Chart the Course for Your Organization

When undertaking planning for your school or organization, there are several key aspects to consider. To translate the mission of the organization into a vision for the future, you must chart a course with planning that is characterized by being strategic, sustainable, and considering of the succession of leadership for future transition and growth.


Strategic planning is vital to the organization in providing direction, setting goals for the future, and providing strategies in the form of measurable objectives, which then serve as the guideposts to goal attainment. When beginning strategic planning, the stakeholders must look at the mission of the organization, the vision for the future, and envision what the important goals are for the organization, based on both current needs and perceived needs and dreams for the future.

Prior to charting the goals for the organization, a situational analysis should be conducted to ascertain strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities, and possible threats to organizational success. A S.W.O.T. analysis, as it is often called, gives a broad look at 4 key areas that will be useful in determining key goals for the strategic plan.

These goals are the broad based desired outcomes, and a good strategic plan often contains goals that are both short and long term, such as 1,3 and 5 year goals, depending on the nature of the organization. These goals should be both realistic and visionary in planning what the organization can become.

Each goal will then have key objectives that will help move the organization towards the attainment of the goal. The gap between where the organization currently is, and where you want it to be, must be considered when forming the objectives. The acronym I like in forming good objectives, is that they should be S.M.A.R.T. The objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. The objectives are like the stair steps up to reaching the goal.


Sustainability in organizational planning refers to the capacity of the organization to have the necessary resources to advance the organizational mission, now and into and into the foreseeable future. When considering sustainability, especially in a non-profit organization or private school, there are two main factors to consider, financial resources and human resources.

Financial Resources

It is vitally important to have a good understanding of exactly what it costs to provide the organization’s services or programming. Low-balling the cost, especially to the board or donors, can begin a vicious cycle that will slowly starve the organization of vital funding. To plan for organizational sustainability the real cost projections, for providing quality services or programming, need to be assessed in conjunction with the costs of attaining future goals. In order to adequately determine how much money the organization needs, it is important to set a realistic budget. Only then can a determination be made as to how the necessary resources to achieve goal attainment for the organization will be funded. Additionally, it becomes important to consider what money is brought in through program charges, what donors may be available, any grant funding, or other development efforts that will be consistent with the mission of the organization and instrumental in providing for sustainability.

Human Resources

The human resources of the organization are as vitally important as the financial ones. In sustainability planning, it is important to consider the value each member of the staff brings to the organization, and celebrate the successes of the individual as well as the team. Utilizing the individual talent available among staff is key to mission advancement. In doing so, the group must plan for the role, as well as the individual, and ensure that programming and services offered are not person specific and therefore unsustainable without that particular employee. This is especially critical for smaller businesses or groups.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is tightly linked to sustainability planning and groups that are serious about sustainability planning will not overlook this key aspect. While one of the most important tasks of a board is to hire, and support the organizational director, the plan for the future is often overlooked. In fact, according to, only about a third of non-profit groups even consider succession plans for their organization. There are a few key areas that the board should oversee, even if transition is not considered likely. The board should be aware of potential challenges or threats the director may encounter, there should be an outline of an emergency plan in case of an unexpected departure, and some key employees should be knowledgeable and able to fill in other roles should transition occur. These items are just the basic steps to a more detailed succession plan.

Charting the course for your organization’s success is made easy by good planning. Knowing where you are and where you want to be, along with the plan of how to get there, provides the basic framework to advance the mission of your organization, today and chart a course for a successful and sustainable future.

#strategicplanning #vision #mission #leadership