The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 16

Strategic Planning for Nonprofits in the Post-Covid Digital Age with Joseph Barretto

In this Episode:

Strategic Planning Consultant Joseph Barretto joins Boris to discuss how nonprofits can create and maintain a strategic plan that keeps the organization on-mission during good times, tough times, and black swan events like pandemics.

They discuss issues and answer questions including: What should nonprofits be thinking about as they plan for their futures, today? What are the questions they need to be asking themselves and their stakeholders regularly? And, with the accelerated shift to life online, how can nonprofit organizations incorporate technology in serving their communities and their staff?

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:17.790] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:20.140] – Boris
Hi everybody, welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Today, I’m very excited to have a consultant on the show. His name is Joseph Barretto. He is a strategic planning consultant. I knew that. He’s actually a management strategist with 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and the head of Barretto Consulting. His expertise includes strategic planning, fundraising, strategy and leadership and board development with the goal of strengthening organizations, ensuring their sustainability and maximizing impact. Joe describes his nonprofit superpower as empathy, finding the right path for organizations by listening more than talking.

[00:00:58.030] – Boris
So without any further ado, let’s welcome Joe to the show to tell us what he does. Hey, Joseph, I’m sorry I called you Joe without even asking if you’re OK with “Joe.”

[00:01:08.880] – Joseph Barretto
I’m OK with it.

[00:01:10.620] – Boris
Excellent. That makes it easier. So, Joseph, welcome. And tell us a little bit about you. What’s your story?

[00:01:17.430] – Joseph Barretto
Sure. No, absolutely. And thank you for that introduction. As you said, I’m a nonprofit strategy consultant. I work on strategic plans, facilitate retreats, workshops, webinars, worked in the nonprofit sector all my career. So that’s over 20 years. I don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. And what I love about it is working with mission-focused leaders and helping them build stronger, more sustainable organizations to maximize their impact and working with different types of organizations from social justice organizations, anti-violence, youth development.

[00:01:54.210] – Joseph Barretto
I’m really enjoying working with different missions and working with passionate people.

[00:02:00.390] – Boris
That sounds pretty awesome.

[00:02:02.010] – Joseph Barretto

[00:02:02.010] – Boris
So for those of us like me who don’t necessarily know all the ins and outs, since I don’t come from most of my life has not been spent in nonprofits, the last 10 years kind of has, but I don’t necessarily know all the terms and inside language. What is a strategic plan when it comes to nonprofits?

[00:02:22.180] – Joseph Barretto
Sure, sure. So what I work with, with nonprofit organizations is strategic planning, but that can be broadly defined, like people think about the strategic planning process as this very formal process of a six-month-long thing where the nonprofits go through everything from beginning to end. And I certainly do that with organizations. But that can be intimidating to many nonprofit organizations who don’t want to spend or cannot spend the time to do it. So I try to simplify it.

[00:02:57.450] – Joseph Barretto
You know, strategy is really about making choices and making decisions for the organization based on your mission and your purpose as an organization and also based on your capabilities as an organization and what the environment looks like. So I try to liken it to, remember when you were a kid, you had the decoder things like you get it from a, I don’t know, maybe it’s a cereal box or whatever, and you look at something and it’s all these dots and you can’t really figure out what it’s saying.

[00:03:31.170] – Joseph Barretto
And then you use a, it’s usually a red filter and suddenly, like the message comes out. Strategy to me is almost, is like that. Where all those dots and all those different things are the decisions that organizations have to make or the options that organizations have in front of them. And the filters are and, you know, there are multiple.

[00:03:55.770] – Joseph Barretto
One of the filters is your mission, like what is your purpose as an organization? Another filter that you put on is what are you what are your capabilities? What’s your secret sauce? What are your strengths as an organization? What makes you different? And another filter is what what the environment looks like and what are the needs of the community that you’re serving. And as you put all those filters on, then the message comes out and your options become clear.

[00:04:29.100] – Joseph Barretto
So that’s usually what I do. I try to guide organizations through that process and figuring out what is that path and how do you make sure that message comes through in terms of what is it, what it is that you should be focusing on?

[00:04:44.820] – Boris
So is a strategic plan something that a nonprofit needs to make very early on in its lifecycle? Or hopefully it’s a very long life, but or is it something that they need to be doing on a regular basis? How often should they be creating one?

[00:05:02.760] – Joseph Barretto
The best practice is, organizations should always be working off of the strategic plan, right. They should have a plan currently that they’re working on so that they know what it is they should be focusing on.

[00:05:12.510] – Joseph Barretto
It is a map, a roadmap for you to figure out what you should be doing and what you should be working, working towards. These days, you know, it used to be that a strategic plan every five years was the standard. Now, really three years is what you would like to do, because so much just happens. So much can happen in three years. And you really need to revisit that. I have some clients who come to me and really want a five year plan. And I urge them to try to look at it the three year or if they insist on five years, I call it the three-plus-two plan where let’s look at three years and let’s look at look at five years.

[00:06:02.220] – Joseph Barretto
But commit to really looking at it after the after the three years to reassess and see if you can renew it for another two years. But really making a conscious effort of reviewing because so much can change in a little bit of time. But yeah. So I think, you know, a lot of organizations, as I said, are intimidated by that process. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be that long, six-month long process.

[00:06:31.180] – Joseph Barretto
If you don’t have the time or the resources to devote that you can you can do sort of mini strategic planning meetings, visioning, that can give you at least the direction that will be helpful for your organization. And working off of that until we can do our full planning effort, I think is fine. So having something currently to help you with direction is important.

[00:07:04.960] – Boris
It sounds to me a lot like when I work with clients on digital strategy or even more specifically, a website. You know, I think there was this expectation earlier on in the life of the World Wide Web that, oh, you build the website and that’s it. It’s out there. It’s your calling card, it’s your Yellow Pages entry online. And that was the thing. And I think the cycle of a website’s usefulness and utility without being regularly updated, let’s say, has gotten shorter and shorter and shorter with time. We are now responding to things quicker and the world is frankly moving quicker.

[00:07:45.680] – Boris
It always is, I suppose, but it certainly feels more accelerated lately. And I like to quote Robert Burns “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You could have as much planning as you want for your website. And I go through a very similar process in a strategic digital strategy plan of what is it that you want to look at in the future? What kind of people are you serving now? Who your avatars how does this fit with your mission?

[00:08:14.390] – Boris
What kind of programs are you offering and and where might you grow? But then a little thing comes along like a Black Swan event, like, say, I don’t know, Covid. And it feels like those actually happen every 10 to 20 years. Right. Where those of us who were in New York especially, but all of the US, I suppose 9/11 changed our world view, changed so many things. It’s like a major quake and there are plenty of minor quakes in between.

[00:08:41.120] – Boris
So can a nonprofit even plan for something like that, or should they just assume that one of those events will come along and we’re going to have to throw everything out basically, or suspend it all for a while to do something different?

[00:08:58.910] – Joseph Barretto
No, absolutely. And you know, to tell you the story in March of you remember when things happened March 2020, right? In March of 2020, I was getting ready to do about half a dozen strategic plans. Raring to go.

[00:09:15.860] – Joseph Barretto
And then of course, the pandemic happened. And not surprisingly, all of them got stopped, got dropped. And because how can you plan for the next three years when you don’t know what the next three days are going to be like?

[00:09:28.040] – Joseph Barretto
There was just too much uncertainty. And of course, organizations had to focus on the emergent needs. It was about scenario planning rather than strategic planning. But then something happened as 2021 turned and started. And now I’m doing more strategic plans than ever. I think organizations are realizing that strategy is more important now than ever because of events like the pandemic and people having to pivot. And it seemed like 2020 was a year of change for many organizations, not just because of the pandemic, because of the Black Lives movement, because of the election.

[00:10:14.540] – Joseph Barretto
All of this happening at once. Organizations are realizing that they are presented with too many options, like those dots that I’m talking about. There’s just too many of them. And that strategy is actually useful in helping them focus. Right? And you talked about your digital strategy like in revisiting these things. You always have to think or what, or who is your audience? What are you trying to do? What are you, you know, and for the organization as a whole, that’s also really important as organizations were pivoting.

[00:10:48.260] – Joseph Barretto
Well, pivoting to what? Like now that we’re having to do different things, what’s the impact we want to have? Is this thing that this new thing that we’re now doing because we’ve had to be reactive. Still getting to the thing, the impact that we want to have as an organization is it making the change that we want to have in the communities or are we addressing a different need? And maybe that’s that’s fine. And maybe that is an important issue to keep in mind.

[00:11:18.440] – Joseph Barretto
And in which case, how do we, how do we fold that into the DNA of the organization? How do we take into consideration all this new information and all this new reality that we’re in? And that to me is what makes strategic planning different from an operational plan. Right? Like this is different from taking what you did last year and adding 10 percent or 20 percent. It really is about taking into consideration, like well, why are we here, what difference we want to make and also what’s changed? Like what’s changed with the world outside, what’s changed with our world inside? And how do we still have that North Star, our mission in mind? And how do we fulfill it?

[00:12:01.370] – Joseph Barretto
Because for organizations, we’re nonprofit organizations, you know, the bottom line is the mission. Right? It’s not making money is not you know, it’s not a for profit organization. It’s that mission. And so really going back to that and using that as a guide is important.

[00:12:23.990] – Boris
Yeah, absolutely. It’s sticking to the core of “What’s your purpose in the world?”, how are you trying to make the world a better place? So that I saw a lot of organizations scrambling over the last year trying to figure out what programs they can offer or should offer their community says they need something. Well, is that is that your place to fill or could you find a partner organization maybe to fill that? Will your supporters respond to your desire to go into this new direction?

[00:12:56.110] – Boris
For profit companies, startups especially, are known for pivoting, right? Market changes, we pivot because we’re responding to what the customer wants. But at some point you might become a completely different company and you might alienate the people who have been your customers—or for a nonprofit, it could be clients and supporters—all along. How do you make that decision?

[00:13:17.080] – Joseph Barretto
Yeah, yeah. And that’s actually really a really critical point for strategic planning.

[00:13:22.180] – Joseph Barretto
I always ask this question, which is like, “what are you in the best position to do?” Because it’s one thing to you know, it’s one thing to identify all the needs in the community because you can identify a million needs in the community and you can’t address all of it. But what are you most in the best position to address and I talk to organizations all the time. You know.

[00:13:50.380] – Joseph Barretto
The urge is to be generalists, to be everything to everyone. But that’s impossible given the limited resources that organizations are often operating under. It’s really important to be specialists rather than generalist. Like what… what’s the core of the community that you’re working at? What’s their specific need that you are best able to address? And for the other things, and if you are identifying other needs within those communities, as you mentioned, is it in you partner with other organizations?

[00:14:28.540] – Joseph Barretto
Is it that you try to see how else you can connect them to other resources? Or if there’s no one else, then you have to prepare for it. Like how are—you can’t just say we’re going to just do that because that’s an identified need. How do you how do you strengthen different muscles so that you can address a need that you’ve identified? And that’s part of planning too. What’s your core now and what’s going to be what could be your core down the line? And how do you build that up for an organization?

[00:15:03.670] – Joseph Barretto
And an example I see all the time in organizations is particularly with social service organizations, is that their core and their strength is the service. Right? Like they provide the service to organizations, but they’re realizing that advocacy is a big need within communities. But they want to do it right away. But it’s something that you have to build. If you don’t have the skills within staff, you don’t know how best to start it.

[00:15:36.460] – Joseph Barretto
It’s something that is something that you have to build up as an organization and planning for that is an important thing to do. Maybe partnering with organizations that do it really well, starting with some training or some workshops and looking to the community to help you with those things and planning for.

[00:16:06.510] – Boris
Change, I feel like, is hard for any person and certainly for an organization. The nonprofit world often leads the way when it comes to certain types of change, like accepting new social justice issues and norms, but also often lags behind when it comes to responding to change and new technology.

[00:16:30.510] – Boris
As I was telling you earlier, some nonprofits are born digital, some adapt to digital, and some have digital thrust upon them. Which over the last year, certainly I think most nonprofits in one way or another have had digital thrust upon them, had to quickly sink or swim, whether it’s their gala or actually for service organizations, it was really hard. How much of your services can you adapt to digital if you feed the homeless? Right.

[00:16:56.360] – Boris
What can you do online? It makes it very difficult. How can they incorporate that into strategy? How much have they been trying to incorporate that into strategy as you’re working with them? Is that the biggest push right now or is it? Well, how do we move past digital and back to where we want to go?

[00:17:17.070] – Joseph Barretto
Yeah, no, I mean, that’s something that organizations are facing right now. I have a client who in their current strategic plan, which is about to end, which they did about three years ago, they had in the plan to pilot working remotely with five employees.

[00:17:44.010] – Boris
Forward thinking of them.

[00:17:44.340] – Joseph Barretto
Forward thinking of them at that time, saying like, oh, we should pilot it and see what it looks like. Let’s try it with five, see what sort of like needs, what technology we will need and then see what happens. And of course, 2020 happened.

[00:17:55.680] – Joseph Barretto
And it went from five to two hundred. And so that is, it was thrust upon them because of of what happened. And luckily for them, they, because they were thinking of piloting it, they had the steps that they had to make. They had to scale it right away. And so they had to look for partners to help them with the funding for it and making it happen. And they were able to do it.

[00:18:29.820] – Joseph Barretto
And that was really helpful. And now they’re thinking about, well, what does the hybrid look like now that, you know, are we coming back and what do we now have to look for? And and I think that’s going to be the thing that organizations are looking to and figuring out at the moment.

[00:18:49.890] – Joseph Barretto
And it’s much easier, I think, to do that now that you’ve invested in the technology and invested in the procedures. But there are some things that you have to keep in mind about how that has changed the organizational culture, for example, of working remotely. And what does a hybrid organization look like for that?

[00:19:13.830] – Joseph Barretto
I think for technology, it is a tool and necessary tool for organizations to use. But how does that affect, both the delivery of the services and the impact you have in the communities that you serve? But also with internally, like just organizations and how they work with each other and perhaps even the need for additional technology to make things work better. That it’s not just the things that you’re used to using.

[00:19:53.820] – Joseph Barretto
Some of the organizations are going to Slack, for example, just as an example because it’s just much easier to do that and sort of like a way to simulate some of the more informal conversations that you have when you are in person. And so exploring like what those things could look like, like what’s the what’s the water cooler talk and how does that happen for organizations? And how can you use technology to help that and to allow that to happen?

[00:20:27.900] – Boris
There are actually some really cool tools that just came to mind that you can simulate a virtual office because everybody can be in a spatial setting in your web browser and you could move yourself over closer to someone else and start hearing what they’re talking about. So if there are a couple of people talking, the closer you move to them, the more you hear them, the louder they become. And then you can get involved in the conversation. You could share apps so you can share a Google doc with a bunch of people sitting around a virtual table, all within your browser that really I think there’s it’s been an incredible evolution, rapid evolution over the last year where we’re going from, everything’s in person, to everything’s on Zoom, to now, hey, we could kind of have that water cooler, we could sit together and have a lunch and learn. We could still have some of that camaraderie and effect, play games together, watch movies together if we want to. Right? Which we do on a personal level for a while now, every streaming app now has it. Now, there’s tools to really let teams do that as well to build that rapport.

[00:21:35.010] – Joseph Barretto
And that’s exciting, right? Like, what’s, you know, how can we use them again if it’s a tool. Right? But how can we use that to have better organizations and have better relationships with your co-workers so that you can have, so that you can improve the organization. What’s, it’s exciting to figure out like what could be next. Right? Can you imagine like virtual like goggles and everything. Right?

[00:22:01.290] – Boris
Yeah. I don’t know if we’re going to go full VR.

[00:22:05.010] – Joseph Barretto
Why not?

[00:22:05.010] – Boris
But it’s out there. It’s definitely possible. It’s just I think we still have an attachment to the actual world, that not a lot of people will want to sit in goggles for an extended period of time.

[00:22:17.130] – Boris
But I think it’s, you know, technology when used well, can really minimize costs in a lot of ways and produce greater results in other ways. I’ve been reading a lot about how some companies are requiring people to come back to the office at a certain point soon.

[00:22:35.760] – Boris
And I’ve been reading even more about how people are quitting at just the sound of that. “Oh, you want me to come in for a meeting? Bye. I quit.” And certainly nonprofits, part of the appeal of working for a nonprofit is that it’s mission oriented, but also the human resources aspect of it has on average, I don’t know every nonprofit, been greater. Where the paid leave, the access to certain medical benefits is usually a priority for nonprofit organizations who maybe don’t pay oftentimes as well as their for-profit mirrors.

[00:23:11.430] – Boris
So I think it’s really interesting and I’m wondering if you’ve already seen any of this. If we abandon the large office space, let’s say we have an office space for ten in our nonprofit or a hundred in our nonprofit, and we abandon that space and shrink it down to one quarter of that size. We have less overhead in that regard. The digital version of that costs probably one tenth of it, for a tool, like the ones I was just talking about.

[00:23:41.580] – Boris
Do we now have more resources to funnel into? Our bandwidth has now increased when it comes to finances to funnel into our programing that will balance it out.

[00:23:53.440] – Joseph Barretto
Right. No, I have seen that with many organizations and precisely for the reasons that you laid out, because it’s an opportunity to save and use that money for other things, for the services that we want to provide. But I think organizations are also realizing that it comes with a cost. Right? And it could be that connection and figuring out what, how do you minimize those costs of like, what are you losing in going with a hybrid model and how do you try to minimize that?

[00:24:29.190] – Joseph Barretto
And so how do you provide the support for the folks that are staying at home? And even if you do the quarter thing, when you do rotations, well, how do you make sure that some people… it’s not the same people that you see and that you actually are connected to other organizations. Or if you’re having a staff meeting and half the people are on the screen and the other half is live, how do you make sure that you’re engaging everyone equally?

[00:24:57.960] – Joseph Barretto
These are the skills that we sort of have to start learning and and figure out what are what are ways about to make sure that we’re not we’re not losing people.

[00:25:10.620] – Boris
For that last one. I think I’d talk to teachers because I know certainly in our area, teachers are teaching to Zoom while the kids are in the classroom trying to keep everybody engaged. I don’t know how they’re doing it. I’m not sure that I could. But maybe there’s somebody to bring in as a consultant to ask how do that.

[00:25:29.400] – Joseph Barretto
Absolutely. Because it’s I mean, if you’re live, it’s easy to ignore or forget the people that are on the screen. And for the people who are on the screen, it’s easier to multitask and not really be paying attention. So what are some engagement strategies that make sure that happens?

[00:25:50.040] – Boris
There’s actually this reverse phenomena from what you were just saying. From my days in theater, I can tell you, if you ever put a video on stage, no one will look at the live actors. There’s something about that flicker. There’s something about that moving light that all eyeballs go straight to it and all of a sudden everybody on stage could be dancing around naked. It doesn’t matter because everyone’s focused on the video.

[00:26:14.130] – Joseph Barretto
Yes. No. Absolutely. I’ve seen that used in concerts. Right. Like when someone has to change costume, like they put a video on and just like, ok. Yeah.

[00:26:22.530] – Boris
Yup, instant distraction. So effective.

[00:26:25.230] – Boris
So let’s come back, I guess, to strategy, whether we’re adopting new digital platforms, which everybody is, if it’s being built into the strategy, how and where does strategy turn into action?

[00:26:41.960] – Joseph Barretto
It should be part of the strategy. No, I have this pet peeve that it’s not a strategy until you have an implementation plan, because you can you can identify the best goals, right? And that’s where you start with. You start with, you know, what are your three to four big goals that you want to have and then maybe these wonderful things and you know, but you don’t create an implementation plan and that’s, you know, and then you realize, oh, we can’t we can’t implement this because we need X, Y and Z.

[00:27:17.060] – Joseph Barretto
And so it’s not you can have the best goals. But it’ll be useless if you don’t have the implementation plan. And for me, implementation planning is is more than just figuring out what the steps are. And certainly that’s important. Like what are the steps to do the thing that you want to do and who is going to do it? But also how much is it going to cost. Right? What what are the resource requirements?

[00:27:41.060] – Joseph Barretto
And it doesn’t have to be money and all those have lot of that has money. Like what technology do you have to buy? What equipment do you have to buy, but also human resources. What staff do you have to add on? Or if you don’t have to add on staff, if you have the current staff, well, if they have to focus on this new thing, what’s the cost of that? What other things can, don’t they now have time to to focus on?

[00:28:07.010] – Joseph Barretto
And many organizations don’t think of it that way and think that human resources is constantly renewable, which is not I mean, it’s it’s finite. Right? And so that’s really important for organizations to remember. It’s not just asking more and more of staff. And as nonprofits are often used to asking so much of their staff, making sure to realize that that’s part of the strategic planning is making decisions on what you have to focus on rather than something else.

[00:28:46.280] – Joseph Barretto
And so that’s really important. And laying that out and in a strategic plan is really important. Being able to be clear about the steps in the implementation, how much is it going to cost? Who’s going to do it and what are the human resource requirements?

[00:29:04.250] – Boris
That’s a great summary of it. And I actually think that if you have something new that you want to do and you don’t currently have the resources for it, whether it’s people power or financial, it could create a great campaign, assuming that’s in line with your mission and something that your current donors or a whole new group of donors might respond to, then it’s an opportunity to grow because it’s a need. You’re filling a need and you see a great way forward that other people will hopefully resonate with.

[00:29:36.770] – Joseph Barretto
Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:29:38.780] – Boris
So once you have your plan and you have your hopefully implementation as part of it, your steps, your resource allocations, how do you know if your plan is working? Because it’s great to have this document. It’s beautiful and we all hug and oh my God, that was a great three month exercise in building it, three years later…

[00:30:04.190] – Joseph Barretto
It goes in a drawer and no one looks at it and everyone forgets about it. I have I have a client right now where, when we were starting actually even before we started the project, when they were interviewing me as a as a potential consultant, the board chair asked, “Oh, how often should we be looking at this plan? Should we be doing it every every year?” I said, “every day.”

[00:30:36.440] – Joseph Barretto
You should be, a plan should be embedded into the DNA of the organization and that every decision that you make, every action that you take, you know, you sort of just ask how does this fit into the strategic plan?

[00:30:52.520] – Joseph Barretto
And so monitoring and evaluation is really another critical part of the strategic planning process. And building that into a plan is really important. What are the things that you’re going to be looking at on a monthly basis, on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis? And I usually do that with clients, because if you’ve done this successfully, you have an implementation plan, you have all these steps. Obviously, the people who are doing it should know what those steps are.

[00:31:21.560] – Joseph Barretto
And that usually is done on a department level. Right? On a department level, you can look at those things on a monthly basis and say, like, OK, didn’t we do what we said we would be doing? And then on a quarterly basis, the strategic plans are under the purview of the board’s governance. Like, they set the direction. And so the board should really be reviewing it on a minimum, on a quarterly basis and saying, oh, “How are those things going?”

[00:31:49.640] – Joseph Barretto
We set up these, you should have these smart objectives on what you want to, what are the things that you want to hit in the implementation of your strategic plan. And are we are we on target for those things? And looking at that on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis, looking at the plan as a whole. Like are we still going in the right direction? Should we be making any pivots because we have this new information or something has happened? Or did we, this happen sometimes—did we underestimate our powers? Did we overshoot our targets? And maybe we need to be more, you know, more ambitious in terms of our targets. And that happens too. And really looking at that on an annual basis. And that’s when you when you look at the sort of action planning for the next year. So, really looking at things all the time, is my answer.

[00:32:53.570] – Boris
So do you set up when an organization does a strategic plan, should they have what I call and in marketing in many areas we call KPIs, key performance indicators? Where it’s like, OK, by six months out, we want to hit this number. Which means that by three months out, we want to hit this number. By one month we need this number.

[00:33:13.670] – Joseph Barretto
Absolutely. And so you know, in strategic planning. You said, OK, what are your goals and what are your objectives, right? And so your goals are sort of like usually the nice, beautiful language of like what you want to achieve. And the objectives are those like very specific things, as you said, like, OK, this is a three year plan. By the end of three years, what is it going to look like? What are the what are the specific shifts that we want to make?

[00:33:42.620] – Joseph Barretto
Is it more, better or whatever it may be, and by how much? And based on that, you can figure out, well, what does year one look like and what does year two look like so that you know that you’re working towards that three year goal. And based on that, then you have those those KPIs in addition to actually fulfilling those steps. Right? The implementation. And if you have that action plan the you know, ok, these are the steps that we want to take.

[00:34:07.640] – Joseph Barretto
And so those two things are the things that you’re monitoring. And usually with, when I do, the strategic planning with organizations is setting up what that dashboard can look like, that they can that they can be reviewing on a regular basis and saying, “OK, well, are we in the green, yellow or red?” And making sure that you’re clear on what it is that you’re going to be monitoring is important.

[00:34:35.300] – Boris
So I want to be kind of respectful of time and I want people to hear every word, every important thing that you’ve got to say. Tell me, if nonprofits haven’t looked at their strategic plan or they don’t even have one at all, if they haven’t looked at in a while, what’s the first thing they should do? What should they do today, when they’re done listening to this episode?

[00:34:58.670] – Joseph Barretto
Well, they should think about it. Start thinking about, what are we ready for, like what can we do? And like I said, organizations think of strategic planning as this big thing that and if you are ready for that, then go for it, because I think it’s really a process that can result in something transformative for the organization that can lead you to a specific direction, that’ll get you closer to fulfilling your mission. But if you are not ready for that, there are still some things that you can do and that can start with something like scheduling a visioning meeting with your board, for example, and trying to look at those things that I mentioned, which is like what’s our purpose?

[00:35:48.640] – Joseph Barretto
And making sure that we’re clear on that. What does the environment look like and what are our strengths as an organization? And are we doing what we’re doing and what should we be focusing on? And in the meantime and then in the next three years. And so there are some small things that you can do as an organization. But for me, it’s about being intentional about that and then being intentional about looking at your mission and your capabilities into determining what your actions should be. And not just taking what you did last year and adding 10 percent and calling that a plan.

[00:36:30.010] – Boris
So it sounds like there’s a lot of work that organizations could do on their own at any time, basically. I’m sure at some point, though, they’ll want to bring in a consultant. What stage should an organization bring someone like yourself into help them out with this?

[00:36:46.450] – Joseph Barretto
It doesn’t hurt to just have a conversation. And I do that all the time with organizations and say, like, oh, what… where are you now and what does it look like? And I’m very honest with organizations about like what little things I can do now to help prepare for a longer, larger process, if that’s what they’re looking for. But it’s really like being not being in crisis is very important. Not, sort of—being able to set aside time to look at things and say, OK, we’re not, now, we’re ready now we can sort of focus on on strategic planning.

[00:37:31.090] – Joseph Barretto
And that’s when you should reach out to somebody.

[00:37:35.350] – Boris
Is there any tool or resource that you recommend nonprofits check out?

[00:37:40.840] – Joseph Barretto
You mean like what they should have and really start with? Well, one of the things that has been really important for organizations, particularly now, is having a clear theory of change. Many organizations will have one probably because because a funder forced them to have one, because the funder asked for it and then they put it in a drawer somewhere. B

[00:38:04.360] – Joseph Barretto
ut if you don’t have one, you should really do one. And just briefly, a theory of change is something that connects what you do to the impact that you want to have as an organization. But being clear about the logic of that and is it actually happening?

[00:38:17.770] – Joseph Barretto
And I think that is what you ask, “What little thing can organizations do?” They can review their theory of change to they have one, and update it. Or if they don’t have one, start one. And that’s just a way to sort of clarify where you are as an organization and use it as a decision making tool.

[00:38:36.790] – Boris
You mentioned earlier something about the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

[00:38:41.110] – Joseph Barretto
Yes, it’s a great resource for nonprofit organizations. They always have great articles and it’s always just good to know what other nonprofit professionals are thinking and doing and and what are innovations out there that you can employ in your own organizations.

[00:39:03.160] – Boris
Cool we’ll be sure to share that and everything that you’ve talked about in the show notes, if people want to follow up with you, what would you like them to do? What’s the best way to get in touch or get on your radar?

[00:39:13.540] – Joseph Barretto
Well, they can always get in touch with with me through my website, or better yet, LinkedIn. I always love getting linked with nonprofit professionals and doing it that way.

[00:39:28.570] – Boris
Awesome. Well, thank you very much for your time today, Joseph, I really appreciate it. I think there’s a lot of helpful things for people to start thinking about and actually action steps that they should take in getting prepared for whatever’s next, whatever’s coming down the pike. But I really appreciate your time today. Thank you. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Hope to see you again next week when we have another episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory.

[00:39:53.410] – Boris
Bye bye.

[00:39:54.430] – Joseph Barretto
Thank you.

[00:40:15.280] – Intro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think, by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • 02:57 — Strategy is about making choices and decisions for the organization based on your mission, purpose and capabilities as an organization.
  • 05:12 — Strategic Planning is creating a roadmap to achieving your nonprofit’s goals.
  • 10:54 — During the pandemic, nonprofits had to be reactive. As an organization, we have to know if we are still having the impact we want to have or we need to address a different need.
  • 13:17 — Whether operating under normal circumstances or responding to crisis, strategic planning starts with the question, “what are you in the best position to do?”
  • 16:30 — Some nonprofits are born digital, some adapt to digital, and some have digital thrust upon them.
  • 18:48 — What to consider in shifting back from pandemic mode, now that you have invested in technology and procedures for remote work and services.
  • 22:17 — The advantages and challenges of adopting technology.
  • 26:41 — How a strategy turns into action.
  • 30:36 — A plan should be embedded into the DNA of the organization. Every decision and action you make, you ask, “Does this fit into the strategic plan?”
  • 34:58 — How to get started with planning on any scale. Organizations think of strategic planning as a “big” thing, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

    Review, update or to start your strategic plan

    Start by thinking about what you are ready and have the bandwidth for. If you are ready, go for it. If not, start something like scheduling a visioning meeting with your board. Plan for something transformative that can lead your organization in a specific direction that can get you closer to fulfilling your mission.

    Consider whether you’re ready for a planning consultant

    It doesn’t hurt to just have a conversation. Know where you are now and what your organization looks like now. There’s a lot you can do on your own, but if you are ready to focus on your strategic plan and have the resources, that’s when you should reach out to a consultant

    Develop a clear Theory of Change

    Theory of Change is what connects what you do to the impact that you want to have as an organization, being clear about the logic and evaluation of whether it’s actually happening. What are the results your organization must achieve to consider a program successful, and how you believe you’ll achieve them?

About this week’s guest

Joseph Barretto

Joseph Barretto

Consultant of Barretto Consulting

Joseph J. Barretto is a management strategist with 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. His expertise includes strategic planning, fundraising strategy, and leadership and board development, with the goal of strengthening organizations, ensuring their sustainability, and maximizing impact.

Visit to learn more about Joseph’s practice, or connect with him on LinkedIn:

Connect with Joseph Barretto