RETIRED ADMIRAL BRUCE CLINGAN is a highly decorated Navy admiral who joined the Youth for Christ USA team recently as the Senior Advisor. He will be leading Executive Leader Track discussions on the topic of strategic planning at five of our regional conferences.

Q.  What is the role of the Board of Directors in a Chapter’s strategic planning process?

A.  The role of the Board in the strategic planning process is threefold.  The Board’s first contribution is to provide initial guidance to the Executive Director in order to shape the planning effort.  Considering the Executive Director’s Annual Progress Report and initial intentions for the coming 5 years, the Board should provide their thoughts on both the initial intentions and any additional potential objectives that they discern might have merit.  These thoughts should be ‘non-binding,’ in that the Executive Director should not be required to include them in the recommended strategic plan he submits for the Board’s approval.  That said, the Executive Director must provide the rationale for excluding an objective or critical task suggested by the Board when he submits the plan. 

The second contribution of the Board is to rigorously assess the recommended strategic plan submitted by the Executive Director at the conclusion of his planning process.   The recommended strategic plan should be provided to the Board members for their individual review ahead of the Board meeting at which the Executive Director will present an overview of the plan.  Informed by their individual review and the Executive Director’s overview brief, the Board members should collaboratively assess the plan to ensure that the objectives are aligned with the mission of YFC/USA; that the related critical tasks are comprehensive and can be resourced; that the plan makes sustainable progress toward the Chapter’s vision for reaching lost youth in its geographic area; and most importantly, through prayer, that it reflects God’s will for the Chapter. 

Lastly, following incorporation of any adjustments to the recommended plan resulting from the Board’s assessment, Board members should vote to approve the final strategic plan which they have materially shaped through their guidance and assessment.

While this is different than the practice currently employed by many Chapters, the methodology above respects and reinforces the complementary management responsibilities of the Executive Director and governance responsibilities of the Board.  By being one step removed from the detailed ‘creation’ actions in the strategic planning process, the Board’s governance of the Chapter’s mission alignment, vision definition, and achievement of the vision through an executable progression of well defined and resourced objectives is not only protected – it is enhanced.

Q.  What can a Board member expect from a good strategic plan?

A.  The benefits of a good strategic plan are numerous.  First and foremost, a strategic plan that is actually used to direct the decisions and actions of the Board, the Executive Director, staff members, and even the Chapter’s volunteers promotes effective and efficient execution of the Chapter’s mission.   Said another way, a good strategic plan results in more and better leaders in authentic Christ-sharing relationships with unsaved youth, and, top-notch support of those leaders - who ultimately accomplish our mission. 

A good strategic plan also creates singleness of purpose within the Chapter and promotes good morale by making clear how each individual’s actions contribute meaningful progress toward the achievement of the Chapter’s vision. 

A good strategic plan will also provide an effective hedge against mission drift.  When opportunities arise, they can be rigorously assessed and compared to the objectives resident in the plan.  Then, the opportunity can be formally incorporated into the plan as a new objective using resources reserved for just such an occasion; or the new objective can replace a planned objective based on merit; or the opportunity can be delayed or outright rejected.   If the strategic plan was rigorously developed and God breathed in the first place, the likelihood that a new opportunity will have more merit than the objectives resident in the plan will be small, reducing the number of changes and false starts that seem to plague some Chapters today.

Importantly, a strategic plan defines a Chapter’s resource requirements and should drive the Chapter’s budget.  There is constant tension between two philosophies - ‘think big and God will provide’ and ‘be good stewards of the resources God provides’.  A strategic plan that reflects high probability revenue projections, vice year-over-year dependence on miraculous intervention, is the best approach based on a survey of Chapter health across the Movement.  Thus a strategic plan supported by a balanced budget – developed in concert with each other - sets conditions for sustainable growth.

Finally, a good strategic plan can inform our conversations with donors.  Donors today increasingly want to know what return on their investment they can expect in specific terms.  While it is unlikely that we would provide the strategic plan itself to any donor, the objectives in the strategic plan should be the basis for such a discussion, and the accomplishment of relevant critical tasks can illuminate expected progress when accomplishing an objective will take more than a year.  Coupled with powerful stories of young people who experience God’s grace and redemption through Jesus Christ – the singular purpose of our strategic plan - we can inspire donors to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to them - in partnership with us!

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