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Framework for writing a strategic plan for a charity or social enterprise

Here is a framework to help charities, nonprofit organisations and social enterprises to write their strategic plans. It focuses on ‘writing’ the plan rather than the strategic planning process which consists of workshops, conversations, strategic exercises and desktop research.

There is no correct format for a strategic plan. This framework sets out my thoughts on strategic plans and my preferred method of writing them. These insights stem from decades of working with such plans.

You must choose a format that works for you and your organisation. Some organisations will pick the bits that enable them to write a concise plan of under 10 pages, whereas larger and more complex organisations might choose to respond to all the prompts, and write a more comprehensive plan of 20 pages.

Treat this article like a menu and use whatever parts of this framework make sense to you. Adapt or discard the remainder. This framework is detailed so that it can offer you an array of choices.

Year-end reflection for 2022

The year is coming to an end as I write this reflection in early December 2022. It has been a year of adaptation as I worked hard to gain traction in Scotland after moving here from South Africa in 2021. I have learned many things in a short period, as one might expect when moving countries.

This year has been as turbulent as the previous and I have spent too much time following global geopolitics. I am grateful to write this reflection from within an open and healthy democracy.

There is value in sharing after-action reviews. These reviews help me to orient and reflect on how I must do things differently in the future. Although they are reflections on my own journey, you might find something useful in them.

I am satisfied with my move to Scotland. I made the right decision in coming here.

‘Heroes’ versus ‘programmers’: two common archetypes of entrepreneurs

There tend to be two types of entrepreneurs that I encounter in my consulting work. There are those that strive to be in the middle of the action and build their organisations around them. Then there are those who strive to build their organisations to be separate from themselves like a piece of software.

Nowadays I think of these dichotomous archetypes as ‘heroes’ versus ‘programmers’. Framing them in a positive light makes this model more useful and easier to communicate.

This article explores these archetypes, considers when they are an asset or liability, and reflects on what we might learn from them.

Seven insights into volunteering in Scotland and designing an effective volunteer programme

There are over a million volunteers in Scotland and this is evident around me.

Over the past year, I have tried to understand this phenomenon as I have worked with several charities and social enterprises that use volunteers.

Fortunately, some of my Scottish colleagues are very experienced in designing and managing volunteer programmes. They have taught me many of the basics and improved my thinking about this topic.

Here are seven things that I have learned so far about volunteering in Scotland.

The likely impact of the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom on charities and social enterprises and what they can do about it

The ‘cost of living crisis’ refers to the rapid inflation of core essential goods and services that constitute a sizable proportion of household budgets in the UK. Its impact will be especially severe among low-income households who tend to rely on social grants. These households are likely to experience greater debt and poverty. The government is scrambling to limit the fallout. The cost of living crisis has afflicted the UK since late 2021 but has recently gained more media attention as its consequences become evident.

This article focuses on the likely consequences of this crisis for charities and social enterprises. It also suggests six sets of tactics that organisations might use to survive this crisis, become more resilient and increase their impact.

Nine-month reflection on living and working in Scotland after almost five decades in South Africa

Here are some reflections that I wrote at a local coffee shop while contemplating the differences between Scotland and South Africa.

I moved from Cape Town in South Africa to Paisley in Scotland in November 2021. Paisley is a large town near Glasgow.

I am management consultant who helps charities (non-profit organisations) and social enterprises to improve their strategies. This is the perspective that I adopt in this article.

Strategy & social enterprise glossary

We’ve designed this glossary to help social enterprises and non-profit organizations in South Africa think clearly about their strategies and business models.

Strategic clarity involves clear thinking, and clear thinking requires clarity of language. Many of us also rely too much on jargon, which clutters our minds and encourages lazy and fuzzy thinking.

Here is some of the terminology that I regularly use in my consulting practice and lectures, and my short descriptions of what each term means in simple English.

Year end reflection for 2021

The year is coming to an end as I write this reflection in early December. It has been another exhausting year with many changes.

The Covid pandemic still rages around the globe. The new Omicron variant has recently been identified by South African scientists. While vaccines, lockdowns and other measures have managed to stabilise the pandemic, the socio-economic impacts have been especially severe for poorer countries.

This article contains my end-of-year reflection for 2021. I believe in the value of openly sharing my after-action reviews.

I write these reviews to help orient myself and reflect on how I must do things differently in the future.

This has been a year of massive change for me, and I moved countries in early November.

The OODA loop can help your organization to become more adaptable

The OODA loop is a mental model that can help organizations to adapt to changes in our environment. It explains how we observe our surroundings, orient ourselves, make appropriate decisions and act accordingly.

This model is especially useful for leaders who want their organizations to thrive in our interconnected world where unforeseen events appear rapidly on the horizon. Recent events, including the Covid pandemic and riots, have caused devastation in South Africa. These events impacted our organizations and our lives. The future is unpredictable and has more surprises in store for us.

I have closely observed which organizations have been able to adapt to shifts in their environment versus those that have floundered. Those that successfully adapted were able to cycle effectively through their OODA loops.

This article explains the OODA loop and shares tactics that organizations can use to become better at defending against threats and unlocking opportunities that emerge through changes and shifts in our environment.

This article is a long read of approximately one hour for the average reader. I wrote it intermittently over the span of a year and a half during South Africa’s ‘lockdown’ due to the pandemic. The examples I cite will reflect my work in the field of socio-economic development, as well as my interest in history and military science, which is where I came upon the OODA loop. Nevertheless, the insights will also apply to leaders of all organizations.

Tool for mapping the business model of your non-profit organization or social enterprise

A business model is the unique recipe that an organization uses to earn income and serve its customers and beneficiaries (or participants in the case of a non-profit organization or social enterprise). A business model typically describes what an organization is offering its customers and beneficiaries, as well as its inputs, processes and method of earning income and profits.

Business models design is about configuring the building blocks of an organization so that it is feasible (can work) and viable (can sustain itself).

It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to play around with different configurations for their organizations until such time as they find one that works.

When unpacking complex and multi-dimensional business models, I prefer to adopt a relationship-orientated approach where I examine all the different parties that are involved in an organization and how they will work together. Only then do I dive into its inner technical workings such as its activities, financial model and legal structures.

Here is a tool that closely resembles the types of questions that I ask social businesses and non-profit organizations when I start to unpack their complex business models. I hope this tool will assist you to interrogate your own business models.

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