Your February Strategic Planning Checklist


Strategic planning isn’t a 3-week sprint before your budget is due. Done right, it’s a year-long cycle of self-evaluation and adaptation. If your organization’s new fiscal year begins in July, here are your strategic planning priorities this month:

1. Finish data collection for your State of the Donor File evaluation and start analyzing. You’ve given yourself a full month (January) to collect the raw data for your annual file analysis. Now take February to really study it and get a clear picture of what’s going on with your donors. Are fewer donors giving more to your organization or vice versa? Is your ratio of direct mail to online giving changing? What are the trends among your monthly donors? To what degree are donors lapsing and how successful are your reinstatement efforts?

Write down everything you see in the data. Next month you’ll decide what your observations all mean relative to your overall vision for membership and plan strategies accordingly for the new fiscal year.

2. Evaluate vendor partnerships and contracts. Sit down with your internal team and review your key vendor partnerships (agencies, analytics resources, freelancers, printers, etc.). Take a close look at how well your vendors are performing relative to your goals, and how well the relationships are working. Are you meeting timelines, budgets and goals? Are your communications and workflow processes running smoothly?

If there are any problem areas, explore possible causes, including the role you may be playing, and how improvements may be made. Just as importantly, examine what’s working well in your partnerships so that you can be sure to keep doing it.

If your review process points to a less-than-ideal vendor partnership, you will need to discuss the issues constructively with your vendor partner, and possibly even explore alternate partnerships. But we’ll talk about that in a future post, because ideally, you’ll find your partnerships on solid footing, in which case the main focus of your internal vendor review should be the relationship for the new fiscal year. Are there budget constraints you need the vendor to help you address? New services you want to explore? Modifications to existing processes you’d like to make? Special challenges you want the vendor to help you meet?

Once you have completed your internal reviews and have a clear vision for your vendor partnerships in the new fiscal year, schedule meetings with your key vendors to begin working on plans and budgets.

3. Forecast your year end results and plan course corrections if necessary. With all this looking ahead to the new fiscal year, don’t forget your current one. Are you going to meet goal? With year end gifts fully entered and reconciled, by now you should be able to answer this question. If it appears that the answer is no, the good news is you have 5 months to fix it.


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