Life is so busy. Why should a group of professionals, already volunteering their time as board members, dedicate an entire day to strategic planning? A block of time is needed for big-picture, roll-up-your-sleeves brainstorming that allows everyone to see the forest and what is happening to, around, and within it. This is the time for honest reflection and asking hard questions.

Strategic planning helps organizations to align priorities with changing conditions and new potentials, from sheer growth to changing demographics. The strategic “fit” between the mission and organizational strengths as well as external opportunities changes based on a SWOT analysis. Without such analysis, programs perpetuate on auto-pilot and stakeholders tend to become disillusioned.

Still need convincing? Here are some ways that strategic planning boosts board members’ effectiveness, thereby driving performance and mission accomplishment:

  • Clarifying the vision (to re-energize longer-serving board members and ensure new ones are on the same page);
  • Identifying new goals based on a SWOT analysis and building consensus;
  • Developing realistic strategies with an eye to unintended consequences;
  • Aligning goals and activities/programs;
  • Understanding the WHY behind programs, which emboldens fundraising;
  • Identifying capacity issues (and ways to turn a weakness into a strength);
  • Identifying cultural shifts (both internal and external) and how to pivot;
  • Fully understanding each board member’s relative areas of expertise (AND preferred areas to help—not necessarily the same).

Great governance does not happen by accident. Exceptional boards are thoughtful, self-aware, proactive, engaged and exhibit passion for the organization’s cause. An effective strategic planning session leverages data, collective knowledge, and synergy to most effectively deploy board members in accomplishing the mission. Done correctly, the return on investment is enormous.