Every statewide election is sure to bring change: new legislators, possible leadership turnover at the department level, revised or new priorities, shifts in funding, and plenty of opportunities and challenges. You can wait on the sidelines for things to settle-out, or you can bring your board and staff together to ask the “what if?” questions you may have been holding for a while. It may be the right time to reexamine your vision for the future, to reconsider those programs that once seemed out-of-reach, or to reassess your strategy in the current context.
In workshops, I advise executive directors and their board chairs: “If you can’t identify a key strategic question to pose to your board at its next meeting, then don’t meet.” Well, here’s the question to pose:
“What opportunities and threats do the results of the election pose for our nonprofit?”
Put this question on a flip-chart. Dispense with reports. Don’t debrief on how people voted or let yourselves get bogged down in the details of the process or the “who said what.” Clear the decks and spend time talking about your future and what it could be.
Here are some prompts to help with that discussion:
- What is likely to change, and what will probably remain the same?
- Be sure to consider a likely shift in priorities, new funding opportunities, and changes in key departmental roles.
- How will those anticipated changes impact our organization and our clients?
- While it will be natural to consider what anticipated changes may mean for your nonprofit, be sure to ask: “How will the results of this election impact the people we serve?”
- What are the potential opportunities and the possible threats?
- Create two lists and then ask whether there is anything on either list that needs to be addressed now…or very soon.
- How do the identified opportunities and threats impact the goals/priorities within our strategic plan? Ask:
- What do we want to accomplish before the next election?
- What might we consider that seemed impossible just weeks ago?
- Is it time to take a new look at our mission, vision, and strategic goals?
- What opportunities do we see in the upcoming legislative session?
- Consider the kinds of legislation or “good bills” you’d like to see enacted.
- Think about the relationships to build now to help advance your goals.
Be sure to capture the answers to these questions on a flip-chart. These notes will give you a running head-start if a strategic planning process is in your future or, at the very least, serve as a “to do” list to guide your work in the coming weeks and months.
It may be tempting to take a “wait and see” approach following the election, but experience has shown us that the organizations that thrive, no matter who is in office, don’t wait for opportunity to come knocking. They may have to play defense part of the time and respond to the political realities of the moment, but they are always on offense when it comes to pursuing their own vision, shaping their own future, and advancing their own mission.
Is this the moment for you to do the same?
This blog post was authored by Jeff Wahlstrom and is an example of the kind of advice we offer our clients. If you are interested in learning more, visit our website at www.starboardleadership.com or get started by reaching out to us now.