Case Study: Strategic Planning and Management Training with the Nourish and Develop Foundation

“If not during planning, then when?” A look at the power of strategic planning to drive alignment and embrace change.

“What is the change we’re looking to make?”

It’s a question we ask very often in our work with non-profits and social-benefit organizations. It is also often the driving force behind the creation and development of non-profits in our communities.

In 2022, the Nourish and Develop Foundation (TNDF) was asking themselves the same question. TNDF was originally founded by a group of dedicated individuals who had a shared vision of how to address pressing social issues in their community.

Over a decade later, the original project had been a success, and TNDF had grown in size as well as in the range of services it provides to their community, through community-championed food security initiatives. It was time to undertake a strategic planning process to ensure that the organization was still pursuing the activities that would have the greatest impact.

This post takes a look at the journey that TNDF went through to emerge with a newfound sense of clarity and empowerment.

  1. Step 1: Recognizing change and the need to re-focus
  2. Step 2: Finding the right strategic planning consultant
  3. Step 3: Strategic Planning
  4. Step 4: Supporting implementation by effective management training for non-profits

Step 1: Recognizing change and the need to re-focus

Change is ever-present for non-profits, especially over the past few years. Thinking back on how TNDF had evolved over the last decade, TNDF’s Interim Executive Director Jessica Topfer reflected,

“We had been operating in the community for nearly a decade before COVID hit; we were well-established, but we were also constantly growing and changing. That’s sort of the nature of TNDF, we’re always evolving.”

When Laridae began our work with Jessica and the TNDF team, we knew that we would need to begin by understanding how TNDF had changed over the last several years, and how this could impact TNDF’s path forward.

New leadership

One of the biggest shifts that TNDF had experienced in recent years was the departure of their long-time executive director in 2020. With the Board Chair stepping into the role and the TNDF senior team rallying in support, the organization was able to continue delivering programs and services to the community.

The impacts of COVID-19

In the short-term, the agility and adaptability of the senior team helped TNDF remain successful through the many pivots and changes in program delivery that the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated. However, as COVID waned, new challenges emerged: the demand for services continued to increase while the global economy had a negative impact on donor giving. As a result, when looking at its path forward, TNDF decided to prioritize sustainability.

Step 2: Finding the right strategic planning consultant

In June 2022, TNDF engaged the Laridae team to support the board through a strategic planning process.

For Topfer, a few things had to be true of the partner they chose to collaborate with in this planning process.

  1. Firstly, they needed to be experienced: “We wanted someone experienced, who would help us pull all the threads and organize them. We’re so close to the work that it can be hard to see and understand objectively what exactly is happening, what our options are, or what our priorities could or should be.”
  2. Secondly, a good partner should be able to create the space and capacity for the TNDF team to continue to deliver programs and support to the community, throughout the planning process.
  3. Third, an ideal partner had a team that could recognize and consider the uniqueness of TNDF as a private foundation.

With experience supporting non-profits of all shapes, sizes, and sectors for over 10 years, Laridae stood out as the right fit.

Over the next year and a half, TNDF and Laridae worked closely together to in two complementary areas:

  1. Strategic planning, as well as mission, vision values development
  2. Management training

Step 3: Strategic Planning

Engaging staff and community partners

One of the principles the Laridae team introduces at the start of any planning process is, “if not during planning, then when?”. By facilitating honest and brave conversations, we help non-profit teams get aligned around their intended impact.

Connecting with staff

Reflecting on the staff engagement process, it was the space created for open conversations as a team that really sticks out to Topfer:

“One of the greatest parts of the process was the fact that it pushed us as a leadership team to have conversations we had never had before. We walked away from the strategic planning process with shared understandings of each other professionally and personally, because conversations offered us insights into each other’s values and priorities. It was galvanizing in that sense.

Hearing from the community

In addition to connecting with staff, it was also important to give TNDF’s external stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in. Community engagement and empowerment are core priorities of TNDF, so Topfer was pleased that, during the engagement phase of the project, “it felt like there was opportunities for all to contribute – it was fantastic to be able to reach such a wide range of participants. That can be difficult to do when there are so many stakeholders for a multi-service agency.”

The outcome: a clear and actionable strategic plan for the whole organization

Having heard from everyone involved in TNDF – including the board, staff and external community partners – we helped the TNDF develop a clear and actionable strategic plan. Stakeholders felt heard, and they shared a renewed sense of the ownership of the organization’s direction.

“When we saw the first draft from Laridae, our entire staff had this overwhelming feeling of ‘okay, this is good, the feedback aligns with the track we are on.’ Until then, we had not taken the time to get clear on the language to describe where we were and where we needed and wanted to be”.

For Topfer, it was the sense of clarity they had been looking for.

As the new strategic plan has rolled out, Topfer often finds herself referring to the commitments within: “I continue to refer back to the strategic plan to remind myself why we’re doing what we’re doing, and what our biggest priorities are, especially when things are challenging.”

Refreshing the mission, vision and values

Moreover, the strategic plan is not only used by the organization’s leadership. Topfer is pleased that the refreshed mission, vision, and values statements are relevant to the entire organization:

“[The refreshed mission, vision and value statements are] something our whole team refers to on a regular basis. It’s been great for us to have a strong shared sense of identity as agency.”

Step 4: Supporting implementation by effective management training for non-profits

Having achieved clarity and alignment via the strategic planning process, it was time to turn toward organizational capacity and implementation. Laridae’s Management Training Program offered an ideal solution, not only providing TNDF’s leadership team with the skills and tools they needed to succeed, but also taking them through a cohort-based learning process that helped foster alignment and cohesion.

“[The management training program enabled us to] build alignment and clarity throughout our team. It was incredibly helpful, and we use our management training tools and resources constantly.” 

Strategic planning can bring about a lot of change, and although it can be exciting, this level of change can also make teams to feel uneasy. For Topfer, the value of the management training program was in its ability to equip and position her team with the right approaches, skills, and language to successfully create a culture of healthy change management.

Ultimately, TNDF emerged from strategic planning process with a clear, community-informed strategic plan. Along the way, they engaged in internal and external dialogue, which shaped the direction of the strategic plan and fostered a shared understanding of the path forward.

Further equipped with skills from Laridae’s Management Training Program, TNDF is now poised to embrace change confidently, ensuring a culture of healthy change management and continued positive impact for its community.

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