At the planning retreat, scores of recommendations are proposed. Ideas are scribbled on flipcharts or keyed into laptops.

Eventually the flipchart pages are rolled up and stored in a closet or the report is added to a file folder to collect dust. A strategic plan is meant to be a tool for use by board, staff, and committees.

Knowing the potential uses and formats of the final plan, the planning team can better focus their input. For example, are they creating a 20-page document or a one-page brochure?

There are many ways to frame a strategic plan to guide a successful association:

Business Card: Print business cards for directors to convey priorities. This ensures leaders, chapters and members have consistent messaging. Include the mission, logo, goals and contact information.

“We found wallet cards helpful for our board. At a glance, all members know the priorities of the association,” explained Steven Louchheim, CEO, Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®.

At the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, EVP Jay W. Millson offered, "With rapid change during COVID and external situations, we must be able to communicate the association value proposition succinctly. Having a business card with the mission, vision and values and a one-page dashboard to illustrate how organizational priorities are progressing through the year are best practices.”

Brochure: Members want to know the organization’s priorities. Design a brochure that answers the question, “why join or renew?” Use it with dues billing and distribute at member events. The brochure may be more informative than a membership application.

Placemat: Format the plan to fit on a horizontal placemat-style document. Print it on card stock or laminate to highlight importance. Keep it on the board table. As recommendations and motions are offered, reference the placemat asking, “How does this advance our mission and goals?”

Online PDF: Members expect to access the association’s priorities on the website. Design it so members can click down from goals, to strategies, to performance expectations. Link the committees to the strategic plan goals to encourage volunteer commitment.

Pop-Up Banner: Print the mission and goals on a pop-up banner for display at a meeting registration desk. Position it in the corner of the boardroom as a visual reminder of purpose and priorities.

Dashboard: Report on progress with a dashboard. Use color-coding such as red, amber, and green to indicate which projects are moving forward, awaiting resources, or have come to a stop.

Program of Work: A program of work is developed by staff after the strategic planning retreat. It is an internal document, tracking deadlines, assignments, and performance metrics.

Chapter Template: If chapters exist, encourage them to align their efforts with the strategic plan. Create a template with goals and space to fill in their local efforts in serving members. The Illinois Farm Bureau provides a worksheet based on the board’s priorities, encouraging local organizations to align their initiatives.

“Each time we adopt a new strategic plan, we budget funds for designing and printing, widely marketing it to members and prospect. It helps them buy in to where we are going as an association. Staff members keep copies on their desks for easy reference.”

“We also print small, business-card sized handouts for our board with our high-level key goals. This assists in keeping our plan top of mind throughout the year,” added Sonia Riggs, CAE, President & CEO, Colorado Restaurant Association.

Maximize the value and uses of a strategic plan with innovative formatting.