Planning in Mission-Focused Environment

The decision to start your planning project marks the first of many throughout the process that will shape the future of your organization.

Holistic Approach: Seeing The Big Picture

The “business” challenges of a ministry, religious community, or other mission-focused organization are often complex and interwoven. Unlike a commercial business, issues can’t be compartmentalized and analyzed in isolation, as decisions can impact every facet of the organization.

The first step is to determine all of the areas that need to be included in the planning process. Finances may need to be examined and funding needs may have to be considered. Property may be a consideration, new facilities may be required, and buildings that no longer serve a useful purpose may have to be sold, renovated, and/or repurposed. Staffing and other internal factors may also come into play, as unresolved personnel and operational issues can put a real strain on an organization.

Last, but not least, an assessment of your fundraising/fund development programs may be necessary: Is there a funding gap? Will that gap grow over time? Where will revenue come from in the future? Is your fundraising/fund development program capable of closing the gap and sustaining the organization going forward?

Nowhere can the interconnections be seen more clearly than in a religious community, where decisions about finances, property, facilities, ministries, etc. can have a profound impact on the community and its mission. Retirement decisions affect elder care and community life. Property changes involve ministries and members’ living situations. Resource strategies impact fund development, mission, lifestyle, and so on. Because each area touches the others in a very real way, problem solving must be approached in a holistic and synergistic manner.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Mission-focused organizations are made up of everyday people, individuals with a shared vision and common goals who come together to make an impact. When a ministry, religious community, or other organization with a call to mission launches a planning project, the “people” side of the equation has to be a primary consideration, as human dynamics are key to the success of the project.

Time needs to be allotted for group interaction and reflection. Leadership, members, staff, board, and other key constituents need to be appropriately involved in conversations, prayer services, liturgies, meal gatherings, and other activities that nurture open expression and thoughtful acceptance of a broad spectrum of viewpoints and positions. These invaluable exchanges not only lead to honest examinations of attitudes and views, but help to continually refocus the team on core values and priorities throughout the planning process.

The Right Leadership

Choosing project leaders experienced in guiding the planning process is the critical first step. Thanks to today’s technologies – email, chat, Skype, text, etc. – geographical boundaries have blurred and organizations are free to choose the best partner regardless of location.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the consulting team provide the requisite skills and competencies – financial, planning, property/facility, fundraising, etc. – to address all of our connecting issues?
  • Does everyone on the team work together under the same organizational umbrella?
  • Will the consulting team hit the ground running with a basic understanding of what makes a mission-driven organization tick?
  • Do the consultants genuinely appreciate our mission, ministry, and values? Will they work within the unique dynamics of our organization and guide us with sensitivity and an understanding of our culture?
  • Do the consultants understand the importance of allocating time for reflection, discernment, and open exchanges?
  • Will the consultants proactively lead us in an examination and exploration of ways to expand and enhance our mission? Will they continually help us to reinforce our core values, priorities, and mission throughout the planning process?

Though the prospect of starting a long-range planning effort may be daunting, with a well-planned process, the right skill set, and a sensitivity to your organizational dynamics and culture, the process can result in an integrated plan that revitalizes the mission and breathes new life into your organization.