Q&A with James Dismond on Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations

An interview with James Dismond, CEO of Hospice Care of the Lowcountry.

What are the top 3 key components of your strategic planning process?

I believe often times too many organizations jump directly into the strategic planning process, almost as if it is just a long business meeting.  So to ensure success and an efficient process the very first thing I like to do with my team is to begin prepare for the strategic planning process overall.  Prep your team on what to expect, the process from start to finish and what important information will be needed.

Next, I like to reset the stage by reviewing the organization’s mission and vision, along with its core values. These are the foundation, and all decisions should be made with these items front of mind. Tie all things back to these core foundational items.

Third, conduct a thorough SWAT analysis. The key here is to involve not just your senior team but your entire staff.  Expanding to the entire staff will give you a better understanding and also give great insight of key areas of interest.  Not to mention studies show by providing outlets for your team to have a voice influences positive culture and moral. 

How do you engage and align all your stakeholders with the organization’s strategic goals?

Engaging and aligning all stakeholders with an organization’s strategic goals is pivotal for success. It is crucial to communicate to key stakeholders with excitement and energy about your strategic goals. Clear and consistent communication ensures that stakeholders understand the vision, goals, and their specific roles in achieving them. Involving stakeholders through collaborative sessions and tailored messaging can generate buy-in and commitment to the strategic objectives while considering their diverse backgrounds and interests. Regular monitoring and evaluation of progress towards the goals helps ensure ongoing engagement and alignment, allowing for adjustments as needed. By fostering a culture of collaboration, open dialogue, and enthusiastic communication, the organization can achieve greater synergy and shared commitment to its strategic objectives. All in all communicate to your stakeholders in the best way they receive information, tailor the information to the specific strategic goals that will best improve their engagement and commitment.

How do you measure the success and impact of your programs and initiatives?

Measuring the success and impact of programs and initiatives begins with data collection efforts. It is essential to collect relevant and high-quality data through surveys, interviews, and assessments. This data serves as a foundation for evaluating the effectiveness of programs and initiatives. To ensure transparency and alignment, team dashboards can be utilized to track KPIs and monitor progress in real-time. These dashboards provide a consolidated view of data and allow teams to identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions. Additionally, sharing high-quality data outcomes publicly is crucial. Transparency in reporting the impact of programs and initiatives builds trust with stakeholders and demonstrates accountability. It also provides an opportunity for external parties, such as donors and partners, to gauge the effectiveness of the organization’s efforts. By prioritizing data collection, leveraging team dashboards, and sharing quality data outcomes publicly, an organization can effectively measure and communicate the success and impact of its programs and initiatives.

What is your biggest piece of advice for other nonprofits on how to approach building an effective strategy?

It is most important to understand your industry to the fullest of your ability as well as knowing your market specifically your local competitive landscape (this means you too nonprofits).  Maintain an understanding of your competitors, try not to mimic them instead use them to learn how to do things better, think innovation, disruption and higher quality or more efficient.  While its important to know about your competitors you never want to be following – always take risks to create change and better your mission and vision.  In the end those who have taken risk in the past have been the largest disrupters in all markets.

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