CONTACT Pittsburg, an iCarol client, uses strategic planning to keep in line with company mission
“I have found the strategic plan to be an incredibly useful tool to not only help me with my leadership of the organization, but also to keep the staff, volunteers and Board of Directors engaged in the organizations direction.”
- Christy Stuber, LCSW, Executive Director, CONTACT Pittsburgh
CONTACT Pittsburgh is a non profit organization that offers immediate emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services through its volunteer hotline, outreach and educational programs. The institution went through a six-month strategic planning process with the help of a consultant in the fall of 2007.
Executive Director, Christy Stuber recommends the strategic planning process in order to keep everyone involved, focused on company objectives and as a means of revitalizing those in leadership positions. She has shared CONTACT Pittsburgh’s experience below.
Why is strategic planning important?
- Self-assessment of mission and goals, clear-minded decisions and above all, action.
- Ensure that non-profit organizations are working efficiently and benefiting the lives of people in the community in a responsible manner.
- Demonstrate the commitment and competence of the service being provided in an extremely demanding environment, to stakeholders (including funders, volunteers and callers).
What did the process involve?
- Identifying, analyzing and reviewing progress: The first step involved identifying, analyzing and reviewing our internal strengths and weaknesses. This included:
- An overview of revenue and expense for the last 3 years and projecting 2 years.
- Reviewing volunteer commitment on the hotline including monthly average number of volunteers and shifts worked, volunteer retention and turnover.
- Examining external opportunities and threats, as well as funding sources and partnerships opportunities.
All our findings along with the history of CONTACT Pittsburgh since we began in 1971 were presented to the Board of Directors during a strategic planning retreat.
- Realigning goals: Strategic planning gives you an opportunity to revisit your goals and make a blueprint for achieving them. We used a simple 3-step process:
- The Executive Director and Consultant revisited CONTACT Pittsburgh’s mission and set goals for 3 years out (2011).
- Board Members analyzed what success looked like for CONTACT Pittsburgh, barriers to achieving this vision and what opportunities should be capitalized upon.
- Defined realistic and manageable targets for each goal on the basis of all discussions.
- Encouraging staff involvement: Securing the team’s buy-in is key to the success of any strategic planning and we made our personnel part of the process.
- Getting staff feedback on whether the targets listed were reasonable is very important as they are ultimately responsible for reaching many of the objectives.
- The plan was also presented to the volunteer Crisis Line Specialists to make sure they agreed with an shared the vision of the organization.
- Driving implementation: Implementation is the most important part of the strategic planning process. Too often strategic plans are created and then put on a shelf, never to be reviewed until time to be updated in 3-5 years. CONTACT Pittsburgh uses our strategic plan as a reference guide for all the decisions we make and to keep us on track with our mission.
How do we use it?
- To outline weekly staff meeting with everyone providing updates within each of the 5 categories, i.e. Partnerships, Awareness/Outreach, Hotline, Volunteers and Infrastructure.
- Communicate plan aspects in our monthly volunteer and community newsletter.
- As a template for monthly reports to the Board of Directors.
- Sharing metrics (which include progress towards targets) quarterly at Board meetings.
- Yearly review of plan objectives and making updates based on previous year’s performance.
- To achieve transparency in our work process by letting our partners and funders see our goals and objectives for the next few years.
Executive Director, Christy Stuber feels that strategic planning is a guide to achieving your objectives. She says, “At CONTACT Pittsburgh we use it like a road map to help us with direction toward our ultimate goal. When reviewed each year, we view progress towards the outcomes as information. If we didn’t reach an outcome, we will question what may have occurred to cause this, but we don’t view it as a failure. We take that information and make changes as needed to the targets, goal or vision. In addition, if we meet or exceed our targets, then we may revise the ultimate goal to reflect this.”
iCarol is committed to promoting best practices both within its own organization as well as among our clients and everyone we reach out to.
Sound bytes from an iCarol user at CONTACT Pittsburgh:
“I’m not a great computer person but iCarol is a DREAM to work on.”
- Judy C, Volunteer Coordinator