Strategy and planning is about determining what’s most important for your organization to do and then figuring out how best to get those things done. This is why strategic thinking and planning can serve as a powerful moment to identify opportunities to strategically align or restructure with another organization.

Reconnect with your organization’s core purpose: Any strategy and planning effort is an opportunity for an organization to ask itself fundamental questions about its purpose and position within the community:

  • What is our core purpose? What problem are we trying to solve or what new reality are we trying to create?
  • If we were to be founded today, would it be to meet an unmet need? Are there new players that are making our work more (or less) relevant?
  • How do our results and reputation compare to other organizations that are working in a space similar to ours?
  • Do we have competitive advantages (or disadvantages) that should inform the way that we are thinking about the potential of a strategic alliance or restructuring?
  • If we were to close our doors today, from whom would we hear and what would they say?

Listen for ways that a strategic partnership could support your goals: Strategy and planning create an opportunity to focus on the goals and priorities that are most important for your organization to achieve. Consider if your strategic goals create an opportunity or need to:

  • Add or combine programs. Before embarking on creating those new programs from scratch, consider how a partnership with another organization might enable you to achieve those goals faster, more efficiently, and without duplication.
  • Expand your scope. It’s not uncommon for strategy and planning to result in a call for an expansion of an organization’s geographic scope or population served. And that can definitely provide a great opportunity to build a strategic alliance or restructure with another organization, possibly enabling you to expand faster, more efficiently, and in a way that builds on existing reputation and credibility within the communities or populations you seek to serve.
  • Find efficiencies. Strategy and planning can uncover current challenges or roadblocks that call for a new path forward. Looking for ways to increase efficiency and decrease overlap between organizations can be a powerful way to continue and expand programs without requiring major infusions of resources.

In each of these scenarios, board members can help ask questions that help identify when a strategic alliance or restructuring might be a smart strategy. For example:

  • With whom will we be newly competing if we expand in this way? Would it be wise to consider partnering with them instead?
  • Are there organizations that have gone or will be going through major changes that might be open to partnership in a new way?
  • Do we have a strong reputation with this new community (whether geographic or population-based)? If we don’t, is there another organization that does with whom we should consider partnering?
  • Do we have the resources we need to execute on these strategies? What are our assumptions about the additional philanthropic support needed to achieve these goals, and are they realistic?
  • Are there ways that we could achieve these goals faster or more efficiently through a strategic alliance or restructuring with another organization?
  • If there’s something that we want to do, but don’t currently have the ability to do well ourselves, is there another organization with whom we could partner?

Provide support for a collaboration strategy: See Innovation & Scale

Continue to think about partnership opportunities after your formal planning and strategy process closes: Any plan or strategy should be revisited and discussed on an ongoing basis, with an emphasis on what’s changed and what’s been learned. As a part of those ongoing conversations, boards have an opportunity to continue to ask smart questions about the potential for strategic alliances and restructuring.

  • What has been harder to implement or move forward on than we originally anticipated? Why is that? Is there a need or opportunity to accomplish it in a different way, potentially through a strategic alliance or restructuring?
  • Where have we been wildly successful and might be ready for a new or expanded goal? Is there a way that another organization could help us achieve that new aspiration?
  • How has the competitive landscape changed? Are there organizations that are working in our space newly or differently with whom we should consider partnering?