Clarify your purpose

Focusing on the reason your organisation exists and the difference you want to make can be a powerful way to kick off a strategic planning process. It’s a key part of confirming your organisation’s broad direction. Another important starting point is building your understanding of your user group or cause.

Vision, mission and values

To help clarify your purpose, you should review your:

  • vision – the ideal world your organisation wants to see
  • mission – a one or two sentence summary of the contribution your organisation hopes to make to its overall vision in the next few years, stemming from the objects in your governing document.

You may also want to revisit your values. These capture the way your organisation works, its behaviour, and the traits, beliefs and characteristics that underpin what you do.

You may find that people have different interpretations of these statements. Or you may feel that one or all are no longer relevant and need to be changed. It might be useful to gather a range of perspectives from stakeholders both inside and outside the organisation.

To help decide whether your vision and mission need updating, think about the needs of your users or cause and the impact you want to have on them. Read more about impact on the NCVO website.

Understanding need

In order to make the biggest possible difference in the coming years, you will want to ensure that the products or services you opt for at decision time are ones that best suit your users or cause. That calls for some investigation into needs and preferences now. For example, you could interview some of your users to find out what their needs are, what they want from you, how they view your organisation and your services, and what they think might change over the next few years. Or you might want to learn more about the particular state of your cause, whether that’s conserving wildlife or historical buildings, by conducting research or interviewing experts in your field.

Remember that the needs of your users or cause are likely to change, influenced by external trends and forces. Listen to Richard Boyle’s story about how his organisation anticipated future needs to ensure ongoing success for beneficiaries.

Planning your impact

Once you are clear about the broad needs you want to meet, you can identify the main outcomes (benefits or changes) you want to bring about, and start to explore what sort of outputs (products or services) would have the biggest impact.


You might find these tools useful:

What next?

Look inside and look outside your organisation to gather information and ideas to help you open up choices for the future.

What are your experiences of strategic planning? Share your triumphs and tribulations with our network members or write your own tips by commenting on this page.

Last updated at 17:57 Mon 12/Apr/10.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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