Strategic Planning for Non-Profits

I spent the morning helping to facilitate a strategic planning meeting for PATCA. I was asked by Walt Maclay, the current PATCA president, to assist him and the board of directors (and any PATCA members how wanted to take part) in charting a course for 2009.

PATCA is a Silicon Valley institution, a non-profit founded in 1975 specifically to help connect businesses with independent consultants. It’s older, for example, than the Software Development Forum (SDForum started out as the Software Entrepreneur Forum in 1983) and the Silicon Valley Association of Software Entrepreneurs (SVASE) which was founded in 1995. An unlike either of those organizations it’s entirely member supported, it doesn’t rely on corporate sponsorships to fund any of its programs or activities.

A number of experienced and articulate consultants attended and contributed.

Strategic planning covers a multitude of sins, my contribution was to suggest the group review a couple of key questions:

  • Analyzing the budget for the organization, do the priorities implied by where you are spending your money match the priorities of the organization and it’s mission.
  • Is the organization encouraging, fully utilizing, and recognizing the volunteer energy that makes any non-profit successful.
  • What are the key metrics for assessing how well the organization is fulfilling its mission? If this were a business, they would be what Jack Stack might call “the critical numbers.”

I came away impressed with everyone who contributed and in particular how well the finances were managed. Having some exposure to non-profit finances over the years, it’s one area where hard choices can often be postponed to the detriment of an organization’s long term viability.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

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