Soon many nonprofits and associations will be approaching that time of year devoted to mapping out plans for the upcoming fiscal year. Those well documented plans, often the result of a staff (or staff and board) retreat, include: a) lofty goals, b) quantifiable objectives that address those goals, c) action plans (strategies) that outline how those objectives will be met, and d) a master calendar for the year that details who does what when regarding every aspect of your operational plan.
Your operational plan document should be the outgrowth of a carefully orchestrated retreat that engages participants (e.g. staff, board, key volunteers), and walks them through a planning process that, in the end, everyone fully owns.
Outside facilitation can greatly increase the success of a planning retreat, but many consultants are prohibitively expensive. If you are trying to trim your retreat’s budget, consider seeking a facilitator at local universities instead. Many educational institutions will have a professor or two who specialize in areas like consensus-building, mediation, collective decision making or group problem solving. These professionals might offer their skills at a greatly reduced rate, if not completely free of charge.