Strategic Planning

To make good judgements about where and how to invest, philanthropic leaders must understand their community’s conditions, the strategies that will effect change, and their own organizational health.

Types and Tiers of Considerations

What’s similar: Planning for a funder can bear a strong resemblance to planning for any nonprofit. Vision, mission, values, goals, strategies, actions, key performance indicators, and timelines are all essential elements. Funders must also attend to their own entities as surely as any other organization. This includes planning for needed competencies, climate and culture, the design of physical space, communication with stakeholders, and policies and procedures to guide employee actions. We have deep experience in supporting these conversations and framing strategic actions to address such issues.

What’s different: Funders must also decide how to allocate resources to achieve positive outcomes in their target community and, sometimes, to choose who the target community should be. Funders have tiers of decisions to make about investing in the community, the target population, the needs to be addressed, the methods to address those needs, the grantee partners to carry out the work, how much to invest with each grantee, and how the various grants can be mutually supportive. This array of complex considerations can make funder planning challenging.

Fio Partners can help by designing and creating an information base to guide each type and tier of decision-making. And we can facilitate key Board and staff discussions that move leadership toward a confident conclusion.

What It Looks Like

A small private foundation asked Fio Partners to profile its target community with all available public data. We have partnered with them every 2-3 years to update this information. The resulting document is shared with grantees and potential grantees so that all are working from a shared understanding of community conditions as they plan.

A United Way was considering adopting a community impact approach to grant-making and strategic funding partnerships. Fio conducted interviews with other funders who had already made the transition and gathered information on their challenges. We helped construct a critical path for managing this change that was used to educate Board, staff, and grantees, before the decision to proceed was made. The ability to “see” the likely road ahead helped many stakeholders to set aside their fear and concern and support the change.

A community foundation received a very large bequest that was designated to fund environmental issues and animal welfare—areas in which they had no previous experience. Fio created a community assets map of efforts already in place, gathered a team of experts to serve as the Foundation’s think tank, and provided support to the think tank’s deliberations. As a result, the Foundation was able to set clear priorities that were enthusiastically adopted by the Board.

Finally, sunsetting funding for a long-standing grantee or community issue can be difficult decision. A retrospective evaluation of impact can help create clarity. Interviews with key stakeholders and analysis of grantmaking and results can provide leadership with a long view of what their historical giving has accomplished. These projects answer the question: What is different as a result of these efforts?