As a complement to our California nonprofit audit services, we help companies with strategic planning. This term makes most people think of long-term planning, but there’s another approach to consider as well. Real-Time Strategic Planning (RTSP) allows your nonprofit more flexibility when looking to the future. Opportunities and challenges can present themselves at any time, and nonprofits need to consider these when performing their missions. Let’s take a look at why your nonprofit might benefit from this approach..
What is RTSP, anyway?
Real-time strategic planning is a newer approach to corporate planning. As David La Piana states, RTSP is “a coordinated set of actions designed to create and sustain a competitive advantage in achieving a nonprofit’s mission.” For nonprofit organizations to be successful, they must strategize on three levels. Organizational, programmatic and operational strategy uses three building blocks for success::
1. Know who you are.. Nonprofits need to ask themselves why they exist, and what impact they hope to have. From this, they define programs and services, geographic service area, and their constituency or consumer base. Lastly, funding sources are critical to the mission.
2. Know how you stand out. Every organization has competition, so how does yours show itself to be different? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why do clients or funding sources choose you instead of competitors? Knowing the answers requires a careful analysis of other local organizations with similar programs offered to the same subset of people and funded the same way.
3. Define your decision making. One way is to use a “strategy screen” that lists the factors you’ll consider when making decisions. For example, you might consider the extent to which options work towards your mission and increase competitive advantage. Other considerations can include the ability of your organization to implement and pay for a given option.
4. Define strategic considerations. Any time there’s an opportunity, there are plenty of questions that must be asked. However, not all are of a strategic nature. It’s best to know which questions need an immediate answer, and then distinguish between operational and strategic questions.
Are you thinking about competitive advantage?
RTSP is designed to think about competitive advantage, because it can change quickly. Generally speaking, competitive advantage includes abilities to perform better by 1) leveraging assets and strengths that nobody else has, or 2) being better at executing your programs and services than the competition. Nonprofit competitive advantages are something valuable to clients and funding sources.
a) Property that’s easy to reach, or that is specially equipped to enhance delivery of programs,
b) Funding that’s diversified instead of dependent on one source,
c) Excellent reputation in the community or a high level of name recognition, and
d) Great strategic partnerships along with board members who are well-connected.
Of course, making comparisons between your company and its competitors requires understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. “Competitor” doesn’t necessarily mean hostile, here. That’s because a competitor could be another company that you work together with. However, keep in mind that you probably do compete with them for donations, media exposure, leadership, talent, or clientele.