Monday, February 09, 2009

What to do now, Part III

Last time, in What To Do Now Part II, we looked at strategic questions to financial (or other) crisis, and in this post, we'll look at some strategic responses. In Part IV, we'll deal with tactics.

To refresh our discussion--you have to start with strategy in any crisis. Stop, breath, think. Then, and only then, do. And in doing, start with the big issues, the big questions. I know you want to get down in the weeds and fix stuff....but strategy first. Here are some actions to begin with:

1. Review your mission and organizational values. What do these core guiding documents have to tell you about your path from here? Going back to mission, reminding everyone of what the point is, that's the place to start.

2. Review your strategic plan. What does it say about priorities, SWOT, etc.? Use the tools you've already developed. It will help you avoid knee-jerk responses.

3. Review your marketing plan. Who are your priority service recipients, your most important funders, your key donors? Again, this tool should tell you.

4. Talk to peer organizations. Are there group responses to your cuts that are appropriate or useful at this point? And, what are other groups doing to cope?

5. Talk to your state trade association or association of nonprofits if you have one. Again, what are other organizations trying to weather this storm.

6. Big question once those are answered: Given what you know, and what you predict, is there a need for long-term, strategic restructuring? This might mean casting off services (hopefully to another organization), or partnerships, or sub-contracting certain functions (payroll, HR) out, or even partial or full merger. Now is the time to start thinking about this, or to revisit it if you've considered it before. A crisis motivates boards and staff to do things that have been put on hold in the past.

Remember, mission, mission, mission. The point of any actions to take has to be to do as much high quality mission for as many people for as long as you can.

In Part IV, we'll talk tactics, and then in Part V look at a leadership checklist.

Hang in there.

1 comment:

Tidy Sum said...

Sage advice, but weren't we supposed to be doing this stuff before it all hit the fan?

And I wouldn't call it weathering the storm. This is not a storm. This is a fundamental economic dislocation. A game-changer. Let's act like it.

As you have seen from your road trips, too many of us are in denial and have unrealistic expectations that a grant here, a cutback there, and an angel donor will bring us back to the good old days.

Our state nonprofit associations are still stunned and scrambling to figure out how to respond.

And that strategic plan we just finished in 2008? It was based on old data, old assumptions, and an old board of directors who would not know Twitter from Twiggy.

I question the utility of most strategic plans in the sector, anyway. They seem to be outdated as soon as the printer ink dries.