The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), a nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization, wanted to create an actionable 3-5 year strategic plan. It had been ten years since their last strategic plan and this time around they were focused on maximizing impact, centering diversity, equity, and inclusion, and diversifying their revenue sources. They sought our help not only on the strategic plan, but also on an implementation plan.
How we did it.
Our process was participatory, collaborative, and rooted in research. We started with comprehensive qualitative research, interviewing stakeholders including current and former employees of the organization and key people in the field. We also did a landscape analysis and competitor analysis, seeking to understand where the organization currently stood, the status of its finances, and how it compared to similar organizations. Throughout our research, we focused on IHEP’s reputation, its strengths and areas for growth, and its culture, commitment to equity, and funding model.
From there, we ran a series of workshops with staff and board members that used the research findings to drive our brainstorming. Together we defined IHEP’s focus areas, refined its vision and mission, articulated the organization’s values, and generated goals, strategies, tactics, and KPIs that informed one another.
But throughout this work, there was one area IHEP wanted particular support with: revisiting their business model. IHEP has had a reputation of being dependent on a small set of funders. This dependence had created a belief in some circles that their research and policy agenda was being dictated by those funders. It also created a precarious financial situation for IHEP. Together, we explored possible funding streams in the shape of other services, arenas, and research areas that IHEP could pursue.
IHEP didn’t just want a strategic plan. They also wanted to ensure that everything we worked to design together would actually be put to use. That’s why we went beyond the confines of typical strat planning work. Sure, they came away with all the tenets of a strategic plan, but we also ensured that the goals and KPIs were strategy-aligned and highly tactical, and we developed a corresponding implementation plan to outline their path forward.
Acknowledging the small size and limited bandwidth of their team, we worked together to prioritize which tactics to pursue first to increase their chances of success. We also articulated ways to measure impact, so they would be able to easily track whether what they were doing had the intended effect.
Finally, we spent considerable time working on their business model, coming up with ways to diversify their funding streams and ensure that they would see dividends from their efforts.