Get Stakeholder Input When Planning for Your Nonprofit

Unless you have a very small nonprofit organization, you probably can’t include every single person in the planning process. You do need to include all stakeholder groups, however. A stakeholder is someone who has a reason for wanting the organization to succeed.

Paid employees and, presumably, members of the board certainly qualify. But these two groups, who are the most closely connected to the nonprofit, are by no means the only people who have a stake in the organization’s success.

In our view, you should include a representative from the following groups in planning:

  • Board of directors

  • Community leaders

  • Donors

  • Staff

  • Users of services

  • Volunteers

One purpose of organizational planning is to bring stakeholders together in pursuit of a common goal. People work harder to achieve the goals when they’re asked to help set the goals.

Guard against bias. Sometimes people get so close to the situation they’re evaluating that they can’t see the true picture with an objective eye. Include outside people who gain no personal benefit from the outcome.

Also, don’t assume that all your stakeholders know what they’re talking about in every instance. For example, if someone says that getting a grant to pay the costs of a program start-up is a piece of cake, check with potential funders before you agree that it’s an easy task.

Yes, honesty can create conflict. Be prepared for it. Set some rules when going into planning meetings. Make sure that all the participants have a chance to state their cases. Arguments can be productive if they exchange ideas about what is best for the organization and don’t disintegrate into shouting matches.

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