I recently had the pleasure of presenting our Conquering CHAOS; A 5-Step Planning and Performance System to a group of Association Exec Directors in September and to a group of Charity Exec Directors in November.

Today I sent out the 1st of the 6-Step reminders of the components of a quality NFP business plan to the attendees of each presentation.

You too can learn from this as I will post all 6 Steps right here.  Here is Step #1; The Vision Statement.



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I recently had a very interesting conversation with an Executive Director of a Canadian international charity.  I was interviewing him about his planning process.   It wasn’t perfect but I discovered an interesting approach.  He had been ED for only 3 years and had to undertake a major overhaul of operations.  He also had a relatively under-performing Board.  When I asked about his planning process he said he came from a business background, knew he needed a business plan and so created one for his operational purposes and presented his plan to Board.  They were prepared to rubber stamp the business plan.  He had to reveal that many of his ideas might be contrary to their thinking and that a rubber stamp was inadvisable.

In the end the plan was approved and he opened the door for changes including… Board Governance.

James Burgess, Focus31, Board roomWith that, I now realize there are 5 business models for Executive Directors of Charities, Associations, and other Not-For-Profits relative to the adoption of a business plan system:

  1. 1.  Board and ED jointly have no business plan
  2. 2.  Board has a “5-Year Strategic Plan” that offers no guidance to the Executive Director
  3. Executive Director has an Operational Business Plan in the absence of a Board “5-Year Strategic” Plan
  4. The Board and the Executive Director are aligned around a best practice business plan methodology.
  5. The Board, the Director and department heads (and even Committees) are all aligned and participating in best practice business planning.

We hope you are enjoying this blog article “Associations/Charities/Not-For-Profits Stop Your 5 Year Strategic Planning”. To start to build your Business Plan NOW for FREE join our FOCUS Yourself; A 7-Module Business Planning Program.

I think, you’ll agree 1) is worse case, 2) is pointless 3) is workable and your Association will survive and even thrive but you’ll always feel uncomfortable and 4) is best case and 5) is absolute utopia.

So with your permission over the coming weeks I will reconnect you with the learning from our session because Business Planning is IMPORTANT, it’s been BROKEN, it’s EASY, FAST and SUSTAINABLE.

Today I’ll review Step 1 of 6  enhancing your understanding of …the Vision statement!

The Vision statement answers the question, What Are We Building?

It can be simply generated by asking; How Much, By When, Doing What, For Whom, in What Geographical Location (Where)?


  • How Much = A measurable outcome preferably Revenue/Contribution/Donation/Funding to be earned in the 3rd year of 0perations.  As a minimum it should reflect the size of the membership or clients served by the end of the 3rd year.  While you may wish to define your Vision in altruistic terms, altruism doesn’t pay for the programs you will deliver…cash does. Without cash, without contribution or revenue nothing in your Association/NFP/Charity  can happen.   As such, I strongly prefer the “How Much” be defined in dollar terns.   My local Chamber of Commerce for example while presently defining its Vision in terms of # of members, is readying to move to an understanding of how Revenue is a better measure.   It is a learning process that begins with “get it down, then get it right!
  • By When = 3 years not 5.
  • Doing What = The Products and Services you will offer not now, but 3 years from now.  This gives you time to consider how you might change/shift your portfolio of services/products evaluating what would interest your membership prompting them to engage more or buy more often.
  • For Whom = Your Best/Perfect Customer.  Here is a link FOCUS Perfect Customer Worksheet to an exercise for you to consider using. Does it fit best with business owners…yes it does. But that does not limit its relevance to you as an ED of an Association/NFP/Charity. Your marketing dollars are limited. To apply them to where they will “have the biggest bang” requires that you understand who your best customer is.  For example, if your Association is an industry association are all industry participants your “best customer”?  No of course not because some will never join or when they join will quit shortly thereafter or will join and never participate.  How much time and energy do you waste nurturing this member?  Are you not better off to direct your energy to understanding who will participate, get value, learn and grow and encourage others to participate?  I’m not suggesting you won’t serve all your clients but your Vision Statement is intended to direct your marketing activity towards your best customer to again get the “biggest bang” for your organization.  Finally the For Whom is your best client 3 years from now.
  • Geographical Location = The marketplace you will serve again not now but 3 years from now. The options are; local, regional, provincial, national, North American, global or international.

Here are a few real life examples of Association/NFP/Charity Vision Statements:

“By year end 2008 the Burlingame Library Foundation will provide the Burlingame Library with a reliable income stream of $250k per year through fund raising activities, events and endowment programs. These funds will be dedicated to the Burlingame Library for the purpose of supporting programs, infrastructure, and other activities that would not otherwise be funded or supported via the annual library budget.”

“Within the next three years, grow the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame into an international art institution with annual funding of $1.3 million, providing preservation, education and performance of jazz to music lovers.”

“Within 5 years we see ourselves as the premier Family Service Agency and the charity of choice among local, regional, state and national stakeholders. They have a clear understanding of who we are and what we do. We see a growing funding base to include a $500,000 endowment and an operating reserve of 3-6 months supported by entrepreneurial revenue generating programs to yield a more diversified and flexible funding base. We will be recognized as the “The Can Do Will Do” organization.”

Note, being real, none of these Vision Statements comply exactly with the direction I have provided above.  In the end, it is better to generate a Vision Statement that resonates with your Association/Charity/NFP than to try for perfect compliance with my thinking.   “Get it down, then get it right!”

If you are ready to progress your Organization’s business plan with or without Board involvement or simply want to practice generating a business plan in accordance with our program readying yourself to bring the Board in to the process, go Option #2 of the “WHAT’S THE NEXT STEPS?” below


James Burgess, Focus31, CHAOS- FREE Business Planning1. You can find out more about what a Business Plan is and its importance with the international best-selling book CHAOS; How Business Leaders Can Master the Power of Focus. Get your FREE copy HERE

2. Use our FREE Business Planning Course, FOCUS Yourself; A 7 Module Business Plan Course. This is not a business plan template, it is a full Business Plan Course that provides Best Practice Business Planning insights PLUS enables you to create your Best Practice Business Plan on your own dedicated, password protected Workspace. Start your Business Plan NOW

3. Join our Business Planning Masterclass, How To Create An Annual Business Plan In JUST…28.7. Register for this Business Planning Masterclass HERE

4. Not sure why you need a Business Plan? Then REGISTER for a FREE Business Vision Quest. Call where you will talk business, your business, with international best-selling author James Burgess. Book that call right HERE