McAlpine Consulting for Growth, LLC (MCFG) has been facilitating strategic planning since its inception in September 2001, serving over 30 non-profits in strategic planning processes.
Work the Process: Successful Strategic Planning
Conducting strategic planning using methodologies we develop based on the organizational needs of our clients, we have facilitated successful processes with Center for Enriched Living, Chicago Survivors, Gerber/Hart Heartland Health Centers, KAN-WIN, Les Turner ALS Foundation, Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, and Chicago Women’s History Center.
In our work with Snow City Arts, Chicago Women’s Health Center, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, and Howard Brown Health, we helped facilitate conversations around racial justice and equity, and assisted the groups with thinking through how to build racial equity goals into their strategic plans.
As the Chicago Women’s History Center (CWHC) prepared to celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we determined that a strategic planning initiative was in order. We engaged McAlpine Consulting to assist us in this endeavor. We have recognized that this was a smart decision, as the facilitation provided by McAlpine allowed us to focus our energies on our input without having to manage the process at the same time.
– Maureen Hellwig, Vice President, Chicago Women’s History Center
Laura and Mac provided key support for Special Gifts Theatre (SGT) during a transitional period for the organization. By compassionately guiding the strategic planning process, they set the foundation for the transformation of the organization. Their facilitation, analysis, and follow-through skills are exceptional. They set the bar for best practices and are an incredible resource. I credit our plan with McAlpine for being the catalyst for transformation that led to long-term sustainability and strength including weathering the pandemic as a performing arts organization.
– Elise Larsen, Special Gifts Theatre
Our Approach to Strategic Planning
Our consulting practice is interactive and structured to allow for generative conversations. In our experience, this process brings forward the best thinking about how to build upon the strengths and major accomplishments of the organization while also thinking critically about the best ways to position an organization for future growth. In addition to contributing to a final written strategic plan, it is our goal for organizations to gain a better understanding of how to continue strategic thinking by staff and board, and engage in opportunities to have these conversations with the community that is central to the mission. We use teams to conduct consulting, so that we can assemble the right skill set to handle the variety of tasks and services associated with a strategic planning process, and use our expertise in a manner that is cost effective for our clients.
As consultants, we define ourselves primarily as facilitators, specializing in listening to our clients, and tailoring every project to their needs. We provide insight and analysis based on our experience, but we will not push a particular agenda or expect a role as a decision-maker.
Adapting the Process: Virtual Formats
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health precautions, we have adapted our entire strategic planning process to a virtual format, using Zoom for planning meetings, information-gathering, retreats, and writing sessions. As much as possible, we keep our virtual meetings interactive, utilizing chat, polls, and breakout rooms to keep participants engaged in the conversation. We also work with the Strategic Planning Committee to ensure that the virtual design achieves desired goals and also allows for dynamic conversation amongst all participants.
5 Phases of our Strategic Planning Process
Our firm typically facilitates a robust, five-phase process to support the development of a strategic plan. Our consulting practice is interactive and structured to allow for generative conversations that bring forward the best thinking about how to build upon the strengths and major accomplishments of the organization while also thinking critically about the best ways to position the organization for future growth. In addition to an aspirational plan, it is our goal for organizations to gain a better understanding of how to continue strategic thinking by staff and board, and engage in opportunities to have these conversations with the community that is central to the mission.
- Summarize organizational history and need for strategic planning
- Revisit mission, vision and values
- Identify critical issues and questions
- Review previous and current strategies
- Gather input from internal and external stakeholders
- Gather information about program effectiveness
Agreeing on Priorities
- Review information gathered
- Analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, challenges/threats (SWOT)
- Choose criteria and set organizational priorities
Writing Strategic Plan
- Write goals, objectives, outcome measures, timeline, budget
- Review, revise, and adopt strategic plan
Implementation and Evaluation
- Write implementation and monitoring plan
- Develop performance indicators to evaluate effectiveness of plan in relation to activities of the organization
Why work with a Consultant?
Organizations often hire an outside consultant to add objectivity and autonomy to the process while also alleviating the stress of the additional workload for staff. As consultants, MCFG acts as a facilitator to direct the process, but we do not impose our own agenda. We work with our clients to determine the best process, goals, and strategic vision for their organizations. We do share our expertise, conduct information gathering, and coach the board and staff on final production of the plan. We specialize in listening to our clients and tailoring the strategic planning process to fit their needs.
What’s included in a typical strategic plan?
- Creation of a strategic planning timeline
- Overall project coordination and scheduling of meetings
- Facilitation of all committee meetings and retreats
- Assessment of organizational capacities and board functionalities
- Development and implementation of internal and external assessments
- Assistance with setting organizational priorities
- Facilitation of strategic plan writing sessions with identified organizational representatives
- Development of implementation plan and evaluation measures
Our suggested retreat agenda includes:
- Welcome/Introductions/Retreat Overview
- Review and affirmation of Mission/Vision/Values
- Summarize information gathered
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) Analysis
- Setting Priorities—this is the heart of the retreat, as it will form the basis of the strategic plan
- Close out and evaluation
We work with the Strategic Planning Committee to set the retreat objectives and agenda, determine pre-retreat communication with participants, and manage retreat logistics regarding space, materials, etc.
Resources & Downloads
Download our Strategic Planning information sheet (PDF, 70kb)
Additional resources and guides:
- Retreat Planning Guide
Our Clients Include
Need help with your strategic plan?
Our strategic planning consulting services are informed by the activities and expertise gained through similar previous initiatives and your requested scope of services. Let’s start a conversation about your goals and objectives.
Or, call 773-728-0271.