Ask Me Anything: Strategic Planning

Northspan President & CEO Elissa Hansen covered the ins and outs of strategic planning during the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Bite-Sized Learning session “Ask Me Anything” on April 20, 2022. A recording of the event is available at this link for 60 days (use %=7jOu4? as the Zoom access passcode).

The virtual session explored Northspan’s preferred strategic planning method in detail, including the major components of focused conversations, consensus workshops, and accelerated action planning, as well as seven phases in the development of a strategic plan: 

  1. Preparation and design
  2. Practical vision
  3. Underlying contradictions
  4. Strategic directions
  5. Vision, mission, and core values 
  6. Focused implementation
  7. Quarterly and annual evaluation and planning workshops

“One of the main goals of strategic planning is to get everyone on the same page with a shared vision and excited about possibilities for the future,” said Elissa. “It’s critical to make sure that everyone who should be at the table is there. Sometimes that means the whole community! More and more, we’re seeing that some form of community input strengthens the entire process—and that’s true whether you’re an organization, a government entity, or a quasi-governmental group.”

In light of these findings, Northspan has developed a three-part model for determining the ideal level of community involvement in the strategic planning process: 

a) Community Informed — Develop and survey/canvass community members

b) Community Involved — Develop and host focus groups and/or key stakeholder focused conversations

c) Community Engaged — Involve community members directly in planning and decision-making groups

Northspan can conduct a wide variety of scans and assessments to support the strategic planning process. These range from demographic and economic analysis to feasibility studies, SWOT and current reality assessments, and more. 

“All too often, we hear about a strategic plan that took a lot of time and resources to develop, only to sit on a shelf collecting dust for the next five years,” added Elissa. “That’s why we have follow-up workshops and quarterly planning meetings built into our preferred strategic planning method to ensure accountability and success in the long-term.” 

Have questions about how a strategic plan could benefit you or a group you know of? You can learn more in this powerpoint presentation from the Ask Me Anything session, or reach out to Elissa at  

View/Download: Northspan’s Preferred Strategic Planning Method