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Board Member Responsibility #6: Ensuring Effective Organizational Planning

April 12, 2021

In part six of our Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards Series, we dive into the organizational planning responsibilities of nonprofit boards.

*Editor's Note: This blog has been updated as of April 12, 2021 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Our board responsibilities series continues with a deep dive into the organizational planning responsibilities of nonprofit boards. It is the responsibility of the board to make sure the organization operates according to plan. Here’s what you should know.

Planning Process

As a board member, you will be participating in the planning process, through aiding with the creation and maintenance of a plan. Through this process, the board and its staff will convert the organization’s mission and vision into objectives and goals. These objectives and goals will then be used to focus the organization’s resources and energy to help further the organization’s mission. These goals, which often require new resources, also become benchmarks for assessing the organization’s progress over time.

Defining goals= chief executive’s responsibility

It is the responsibility of the board to make sure that the organization operates according to the plan, but it is chief executive’s responsibility to define the goals for the organization’s future direction and determining the programs and resources to achieve its mission. To meet the goals, managers may develop plans such as an operational plan or a marketing plan. Within the plan, management and the board may identify certain goals or targets, which include both long-range and short-range items.

Four Important Questions

During the planning process, you are trying to identify what the organization wants to do by using the following four questions: “Where are we today in terms of our business or strategy?”; “Where are we heading?”; “Where do we want to go?”; and ”How are we going to get there?”

Some benefits of planning in an organization include:

  • increasing the efficiency of an organization
  • reducing the risks involved in modern business activities
  • It facilitates proper coordination within an organization
  • It aids in organizing all available resources
  • It assures that the organization is moving in the right direction
  • It is important to maintain a good control
  • It helps to achieve objectives of the organization
  • It motivates the personnel of an organization
  • It encourages managers’ creativity and innovation
  • It also helps in decision making

How are planning decisions approved?

Although it is the chief executive’s responsibility for designing and conducting a process that provides, in effect, the organization’s business plan, the board is responsible for actively participating in and approving decisions that set and guide the organization’s strategic direction.

The board’s responsibility in this area is to:

  • Insist that comprehensive organizational planning occurs
  • Participate in the strategic planning process
  • Assess the merits of the planning process and its results
  • Formally approve agreed-upon outcomes
  • Use the goals as a guide for budgeting and other priorities
  • Track the plan’s implementation and the organization’s progress, largely based on stated goals and objectives.

Remember that the process of planning is as important as its outcomes. Getting the process right adds value and thus justifies the time and expense involved. What is most important is that planning be done and that it be tailored to the organization’s culture, staff competence and the experience and wishes of the chief executive.

\As a board member, your participation should be based on your experience, professional talent, and objectivity. Make sure you ask good questions and demonstrate that planning is important and is taken seriously. The board should focus on the big picture and leave the details for management and its staff. The board should be defining the overall guidelines and policies and ensuring that they are followed.

Most planning efforts will include some combination of the following elements:

  • Reaffirmation or revision of the mission and purpose statements.
  • Statistics, trends, and other research data about the environment in which the organization operates.
  • Needs to strengthen current programs and services
  • Staff needs
  • Board of directors (size, method of selection, performance assessment, meetings, by law provisions, etc.)
  • Financial projections
  • Fundraising goals and strategies
  • Public education and relations strategies (how do we get our story out?)

Read our entire blog series here: Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards Series. Questions? Contact us.

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