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Strategic Review

If loss of funding means that you’re no longer able to continue as before, then you may need to consider a different approach: either by adopting different goals or by adopting a different way of doing business.

Third sector organisations don’t have quite the same room to manoeuvre as private-sector firms. An engineering firm may switch from tanks to tractors in order to remain profitable in changing times, but an organisation set up for public or community benefit normally needs to stay within the boundaries of its objects, as set out in its governing document. To stray beyond that without the approval of any regulatory body would probably be a breach of trust.

Even when your objects are broadly worded, it is good to be wary of “mission drift” – losing sight of your overarching purpose as you chase elusive funding opportunities.

A simple strategic review might consist of these key elements:

1. Remind yourselves of your objects

2. Permission to dream. Be clear about your purpose. You can define this in a concise and abstract way, through a mission statement, or you can describe what success would look like in concrete terms through a vision statement. It may help to start with visioning before moving onto mission

3. Reality check. Analyse the key external trends that are impacting on your plans (e.g. electoral change, new policies, spending power, population changes, technical innovation, social expectations and patterns of behaviour). What are the really significant opportunities and threats that you are facing? Be brutally honest about your own organisational strengths and weaknesses. There is no point in fooling yourselves. If an external threat impacts on an area of internal weakness, you will get flattened anyway. Look for opportunities that you could align with your internal strengths

4. Consider change. Can you change your range of activities? Or your geographical coverage? Or your method of delivery? Do you need to fashion a collaborative approach with other agencies? Or do you need to prepare for closure?

5. Set your business strategy. Be clear what approach you are adopting, and what your key objectives are for at least the next year

It usually helps to conduct a strategic review at an Away Day for Board and (senior) staff, using an external facilitator. Don’t try to conduct it on your own site – any distractions could derail the whole day.