Community Organisations: Why a Strategic Plan is Essential

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Community organisations are the lifeblood of regional and rural Australia. From sports clubs, hobby groups, recreational pursuits to service clubs and religious groups, these organisations make a positive difference to the communities in which they serve.

As with any group of people, be it in the community or be it in business, leadership of people and understanding motivations are critical to successful organisations. In community organisations, this extends to such things as excellent communication, business planning, well run meetings and effective committees and the recognition of members and their volunteer hours and contributions.

In this edition of “Community Groups”, we are looking at the importance of having a strategic plan. In brief, a strategic plan is all about setting a direction, an intent about where the organisation is headed and articulation of key elements that will help you arrive at your desired state. A strategic plan lays out a program for positive change over a period of time (usually three to five years).

A strategic plan is not a business plan. Business plans deal with more operational considerations, and usually run for a 12-month period.

A strategic plan should be driven by the leadership team. All board/committee members should be part of the debate about what goes into the strategic plan. You will most probably benefit from having a strategic planning consultant/facilitator run a session with the leadership team about what should be in your strategic plan. An outside facilitator will bring independence, challenge accepted norms and ask the difficult questions.

Once a draft strategic plan is assembled. The next step is to invite commentary on the plan from all your members, and to seek comment from key stakeholders. Once the consultation phase has ended, the plan should be revised in light of feedback, and then published so that all members can access it.

Your strategic plan will inform all major decisions. It should be reviewed regularly and progress reported to members.

A strategic plan helps with grant applications as it demonstrates good management practices. A strategic plan helps create a sense of cohesion through consistency of direction and helps diffuse issues with personalities in the leadership team. It also is a great marketing tool that helps you to attract new members and build relationships with other organisations.

Two of the best community group resources that we have come across are:

1. “The GMA Green Book: The Essential Guide to Strategic Planning for Golf Clubs (2nd edition)” by Tony Sernack

2. “Building Community Organisations: Ideas & Strategies for Building Dynamic Community Organisations” by Ric Raftis.

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