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Sacred or Strategic: Critically Reviewing What Your Organization Offers

How do you approach an event, program or service that your organization has always done and may no longer need? Every organization has programs/services that have outlived their purpose or usefulness – the so-called “sacred cows.” As a board member, you must think and act strategically to best serve your organization. This is a critical part of any board’s responsibility and difficult to put into action at times. Here are a few tips to determine if your your offerings are sacred or strategic.

Evaluate Objectively

First, gather information to outline the situation as objectively as possible. Start behind the scenes with the staff team. They often know what needs to change long before volunteer leaders realize or agree with this perspective. Are you expending more to deliver this member event/program/service than it is worth? Determine what data is easily and readily available to determine the ROI of the offering. Be sure to include the expense of staff and volunteer time needed to support the activity. If it is not furthering the mission or making a profit, why does your organization continue to do it?

Involve Members

You have the data – now find out the history, if the need has changed and if there is another way to meet the need that drove its creation. Someone started whatever you’re considering revamping or eliminating – so it is important to at least a subset your membership. Involve as much of a cross-section of members as possible to capture different perspectives and ensure that you are gathering information from a variety of sources. Bringing members along the way and engaging them in the process of change will go a long way to having that change embraced when it is introduced.

Start Early

Getting member buy-in may take some time, especially if it involves a survey or focus groups. If possible, begin this process a few months in advance of when a strategic discussion needs to take place at the board table. The final decision may take longer than anticipated, as will getting feedback from the organization’s stakeholders. Presenting data, member input and options for potential next steps results in a more robust, strategic discussion with board leaders, so allow yourself time to coordinate this information. You should either find or become the leader that will own the decision in convincing other leaders to reevaluate or stop doing something – or at least adjust it to better align with your organization’s mission.

Overall, remain focused on your organization’s mission – that’s what drives strategic planning and thinking. Each program, event, service, etc., exists to support the mission and members. As our own Tim Murphy stated in his blog post, “There is no sin in killing a program that no longer fills a need as it once did – even if it is a tradition.” People evolve, grow and adapt to changing realities – so should your organization. Use these tips to help make the hard strategic discussions a bit easier with your board.

To learn more about strategic planning and start 2020 on the right track, download our free e-book: How to Prevent Your Strategic Plan From Failing.