Artificial Intelligence and Social Work

Introduction

Social Work and related professions have the potential to experience rapid change and growth in the future as technology advances and the population changes. This is especially true with artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) describes a range of technologies that allow machines or computers to make decisions that are normally made by human beings.

Emotional Support Technology

Perhaps the first attempt at emotional support using a computer was the ELIZA software created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1964. Through pattern matching the software was able to respond with empathy statements and open-ended questions to keep the conversation going.

Modern options include XiaoIce (Zhao, et. al., 2018). As the authors describe,

The primary design goal of XiaoIce is to be an AI companion with which users form long-term, emotional connections. Being able to establish such long-term relationships with human users as an open-domain social chatbot distinguishes XiaoIce from not only early social chatbots but also other recently developed conversational AI personal assistants such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

Another example includes Replika, which recently released its source code as open-source. As these technologies get more advanced they may play a more important role in our emotional support options for people who are struggling with loneliness.

Digital Psychotherapy

Digital psychotherapy options include online and electronic therapy options. One example is Electronic CBT for Insomnia (Espie, et. al., 2018) which was a rich-media web application that participants used to receive cognitive behavioral therapy via the internet, and Whiteside et. al. (2014) which studied the program Thrive:

Thrive is similar to programs used in successful trials of Internet-delivered CBT; the Thrive interface is interactive and its curriculum is adaptive to patient input. […] Thrive includes three CBT-based modules that are based on behavioral activation, cognitive restructuring, and social skills training techniques

While these programs are currently not utilizing much artificial intelligence, in the future we may see them adapting to the client’s progress and altering the curriculum in ways that will increase efficacy or completion rates.

As CBT programs become more researched and advance we should see more of these appearing. As Whiteside notes, these programs are significantly cheaper to deliver (using a fully automated or a paraprofessional “coach” model rather than delivering full therapy) and so may represent an increasingly common option for therapists.

Decision-Making Tools

Decision-making tools are potentially the most exciting use of technology and artificial intelligence. An example of where this technology has been helpful is in child protection work in England. (Pegg & McIntyre, 2018)

We may see AI being used in the future to help us integrate the hundreds of variables found in child protection assessments and files to increase our success rates and improve risk assessments. Certainly, we can’t replace humans in this incredibly careful work (just like in suicide risk assessment) but we can use these tools to augment our understanding of child protection and decrease the lag between learning things in research and applying them in practice.

Conclusion

Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve our lives by providing more emotional support to those who are lonely, providing digital psychotherapy and decision-support tools to improve child protection and other social work fields.

References

Espie, C.A., Kyle, S.D., Williams, C., Ong, J.C., Douglas, N.J., Hames, P., Brown, J.S.L. (2012) JAMA Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.jwatch.org/na47591/2018/09/28/electronic-cbt-insomnia

Pegg, D. & McIntyre, N. (2018) Child abuse algorithms: from science fiction to cost-cutting reality. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/16/child-abuse-algorithms-from-science-fiction-to-cost-cutting-reality

Weizenbaum, Joseph (1976). Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. pp. 2, 3, 6, 182, 189. ISBN 0-7167-0464-1.

Whiteside, U., Richards, J., Steinfeld, B., Simon, G., Caka, S., Tachibana, C., Stuckey, S., … Ludman, E. (2014). Online cognitive behavioral therapy for depressed primary care patients: a pilot feasibility project. The Permanente journal18(2), 21-7.

Zhou, L., Gao, J., Li, D. & Heung-Yeung, S. (2018) The Design and Implementation of XiaoIce, an Empathetic Social Chatbot. Journal of Human and Computer Interaction.

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William Penn University Human Services Program

Introduction

William Penn University is a private university located in Oskaloosa, IA. They first came to my attention when I moved to Iowa because they have a Human Services program. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Athabasca University in 2018 but at the time I moved I wasn’t finished yet and wanted to make sure I had evaluated my options.

Unfortunately my experience with the William Penn faculty has been poor to date, and I would not recommend the university or their Human Services program.

The university makes the claim that:

the Human Services program presents our majors with the interdisciplinary perspective required of those desiring to provide human and social services to individuals and communities. The program curriculum fosters the development of knowledge, skills, and experiences required of professionals who work in public and private human services agencies and organizations.

I’m not convinced.

The core courses look pretty standard:

  • PSYC 108 Life-Span Psychology
  • PSYC 221 Introduction to Counseling
  • PSYC 331 Human Services in Contemporary America
  • PSYC 348 Crisis Intervention
  • SOCI 123 Sociology of Contemporary Issues
  • SOCI 217 Ethnic and Race Relations or
  • SOCI 219 Sex and Gender in Society
  • SOCI 220 Social Organization
  • SOCI 335 Social Research Methods
  • KINS 231 Substance Abuse
  • KINS 208 Leadership in Sport, Exercise, and Recreation or
  • KINS 210 Camp Management and Outdoor Education or
  • KINS 336 Organization and Administration of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER)

And some elective options:

  • KINS 334 Tests & Measurements in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER)
  • PSYC 240 Health Psychology
  • PSYC 305 Theories and Systems of Counseling
  • PSYC 322 Multicultural Counseling Approaches
  • PSYC 326 Abnormal Psychology
  • SOCI 211 Introduction to Criminology
  • SOCI 218 Juvenile Delinquency
  • SOCI 311 Marriage and Family

Additionally there is a practicum. A few things stick out to me: the department of Kinesiology offering the course in Substance Abuse seems a little odd. And requiring a course in “Leadership in Sport, Exercise, and Recreation” or similar just smacks of not having a diverse enough course offering to actually make a course relevant to Human Services.

PSYC348 Crisis Intervention

If you were hoping to find the syllabus for the PSYC348 Crisis Intervention course at William Penn University (WPU) you’ll be disappointed. I reached out to Sarah Tarbell at William Penn University, who told me she hadn’t taught the course in 3 years. I also reached out to Professor Michael O. Johnston, one of the two faculty members listed on the WPU Human Services website. No response. I sent a second follow up. No response.

Michael Collins, the “Social and Behavioral Sciences Division Chair” didn’t respond to repeated phone calls or emails, even though I spoke to him and he told me he would provide me with a copy of the syllabus, about summing up my experience with WPU. He and Professor Johnston are Sociologists, so I strongly question whether they are able to teach human services courses effectively.

Interestingly, the WPU website doesn’t even list faculty for the PSYC 348 Crisis Intervention course, making me wonder if they no longer teach it. You can’t become an effective human services practitioner if you don’t have basic training in crisis intervention.

A good crisis intervention course will include:

  • How to identify individuals in crisis
  • Models or theories of crisis intervention
  • Intervention techniques for different situations
  • Practical demonstrations or roleplays of crisis intervention
  • Basic suicide assessment and intervention

But I can’t be certain the WPU course includes these elements. You can read my evaluation of the human services curriculum at other schools.

Conclusion

While William Penn appears to have a weak Human Services program, you might find programs offered by other colleges like the University of Iowa a better fit. The tuition at WPU is also ridiculously high, at $25,000 per year. You could get an entire degree for that from a better school!

I would skip WPU and complete an Associates in Social Work at a community college like Indian Hills before completing an online Bachelor’s degree instead.

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How to be an Effective Board Member

Introduction

Becoming a Board Member is a big responsibility and a big accomplishment. This is doubly so if you are young, given that less than 2% of Board Members are under 30 in the United States! The benefits of Board Membership are numerous, including giving you new professional and personal networking opportunities, professional skill development and spiritually – knowing that you are supporting an organization’s growth and development, especially if you are a nonprofit Board Member.

On the other hand, the skills that make someone an effective Board Member do not come naturally. While some organizations have formal Board of Directors training programs, not all do. Read on to learn about the skills required of effective Board Members.

Understand the Role of the Board

The role of the Board of Directors is to set the organization’s strategic direction, assess risks and threats to the organization, plan for the future and to make corrections in order to keep the organization on track. Additionally, the Board of Directors hires the Chief Executive (either the CEO or the Executive Director, occasionally the President) and sets the metrics that are used to evaluate that individual.

The Board is responsible for governance and leadership, but not for the day-to-day operational activities of the organization. This is something new Board Members sometimes struggle with. Your role is to make sure that the Executive Director has the tools they need to achieve the metrics, but they will ultimately decide how best to carry out these goals.

For instance, your strategic plan might include increasing your revenue by 10%. The Executive will be responsible for carrying this out (though the Board is an important contributor to fundraising and finance.) So, you might help by setting up meetings with people in your network or by participating in fundraising events but it would be inappropriate to tell the Executive Director to plan a certain event or direct the way in which they raise the revenue by 10%.

The organizational flow is from customers or clients, to the staff, to the Executive Director or CEO, and finally the Board. If this chain of command gets disrupted, you will have issues. It is important to strike a balance between minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities – because these concepts are in constant conflict.

Perform Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the process of setting the strategic priorities of the organization. This involves figuring out where you want the organization to go and then to set in place concrete strategies, goals, and ideas in order to decide the future of the organization.

Strategic planning models can be used to help you identify where the organization is right now and where you would like to be. One example is the model presented by OnStrategy, that includes 4 phases:

  1. Determine Position
  2. Develop Strategy
  3. Build the Plan
  4. Manage Performance

You can see my article on Basic Strategic Planning for Nonprofits to help you learn more about the nuts-and-bolts of strategic planning.

 

Hire and Evaluate the Executive Director

Hiring the Executive Director is one of the most challenging aspects of a Board of Directors. The Executive makes a huge impact on the overall success of the organization and choosing the wrong Executive can seriously impede progress to your goals.

One barrier that makes choosing Executives difficult is that many Board Members are mid-level or senior members of their own organizations but have not held that role themselves. This makes sense, given the number of organizations out there – only one Executive can exist at each one. If you’re hiring for a role you’ve never held yourself, the possibility exists that you will select someone based on the wrong criteria.

To avoid this, make sure that you ask behaviorally-based questions that get at the heart of the activities you need your Executive to do, and captures the essence of the job. For example,

  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage a large fundraising project
  • What would you change about our organization over the next 12 months?
  • What is your approach to handling conflict?

You should also share the Key Performance Indicators and the Strategic Plan (if it is public) with potential Executive Directors because these are the metrics you will be evaluating your Executive Director on. Their goals should align with your Board’s goals.

Manage Organizational Risks

Risk management means identifying the potential threats to the organization and then taking steps in order to mitigate their risks. This will be different depending on what your organization does, but some common threads will run through all nonprofit organizations.

For example:

  • Your funding comes from one primary funder. What happens if the funder winds up or stops funding you?
  • One staff member has critical competencies that if you lost, would affect the missing. How do you respond?
  • One of your most important programs has no competitors. What happens if a competing organization starts working in the same space as you?

Identifying these risks on a regular basis will help your organization to respond to them. As the Board, you will not direct the Executive Director how to respond to these risks, but together a collaborative plan can be put in place to make sure an effective response is developed.

Board Members are legally responsible, with a fiduciary duty, for the success of the organization. This means that if the organization gets sued, the Board Members (if they don’t have Errors & Omissions insurance) could be held personally liable for the debts of the organization.

Approve the Budget

Determining the budget of the organization is one of the most important jobs the Board has. In addition to creating the budget (usually based on the previous year’s budget, expected revenues and other data), the Board must also ensure the organization is staying within the budget.

Each meeting, you will review the financial statements in order to discuss where you are above or below the budget. This will help avoid a sudden cash crisis.

Participate in Fundraising

Board Members should be participating in fundraising to help the organization succeed. This can include helping to run fundraising events, providing access to a network of contacts (especially if you are a mid-level or senior-level member of your industry) or otherwise helping the organization to bring in some revenue.

Perform Effective Governance

Governance is the “command and control” or “checks and balances” part of the Board Member role. Good governance includes both the role of the Board of Directors and the organization at large. You’ll perform good governance by making sure the strategic plan is up to date and being reviewed regularly, approving and discussing the budget, and also by creating and enforcing policies and procedures.

Policies and procedures are the rules that set the conduct of both the Board Members themselves, but also of the volunteers, staff, and others in the organization. Examples of policies and procedures that are important for good governance include:

Meeting Attendance. Your Board Members should be required to regularly attend meetings. If they are unable to meet this requirement, they should resign from the Board in order to allow that spot to be filled by someone who is more available to commit to the Board’s requirements.

Term Limits. Most Boards have one or two-year terms, which ensures regular turnover and assessment of who is an effective and high-performer on the Board and who is not. This helps keep the organization fresh and energetic, while also benefiting from the experience and expertise of long-term Board Members.

  • Budget Approval. There should be a formal policy about how often and when the budget is approved. It should be approved at least on a yearly basis, and then reviewed more regularly than that to ensure that the organization is staying within their financial means.
  • Conflict of Interest. A Conflict of Interest policy helps ensure that Board Members do not let their personal interests interfere with those of the organization. For example, if a nonprofit is seeking a facilities management contract, a Board Member who owns a facilities management company should not vote on (or potentially even be present during the session) where the picking of a company is decided on.
  • Auditing. It’s important that organizations receive regular audits, and a policy may be written to ensure the organization seeks regular audits based on the size of the organization. Larger organizations may be required to receive an audit yearly, while smaller organizations may want to get one in order to ensure they are eligible to apply for grants and other forms of fundraising.
  • Board Evaluation. A self-assessment of the Board can help Board Members identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can make changes in the future. Every year or two may be a good frequency for this activity.
  • Board Orientation. Like a Board Evaluation policy, a Board Orientation policy should set out the procedure for orienting new Board Members to the organization so that they can hit the ground running.
  • Review and Writing of Bylaws. Bylaws are the policies and procedures that govern the organization, including things like what are the names, terms, and appointment process for the Officers (President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer) and other elements. These bylaws should be reviewed regularly.
  • Personal Giving. Finally, some organizations choose to have a Personal Giving policy that expresses the organization’s wish that nonprofit Board Members participate in fundraising for the organization or make their own annual gift to the organization.

Conclusion

These are a few of the many elements that go into an effective Board Member. Are there elements you think I’ve missed? Do you weigh technical skills or interpersonal skills more strongly in an effective Board Member? Let me know in the comments.

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2019), "How to be an Effective Board Member," retrieved on May 24, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/effective-board-member/.
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Advanced Crisis Line Training

Introduction

A few years ago when I was working for Distress Centre Durham (DCD), I undertook a project to develop a new advanced training curriculum for telephone responder. Currently the Basic Training is 16 hours of in-class, plus another 16 hours of supervised phone shifts where a responder demonstrates that they have the active listening, empathy, suicide and crisis intervention skills we need for them to be on the phones independently.

After about 3 months or 50 hours they are required to undertake an Advanced Training session. This session helps consolidate some of the learning, revisit some of the classroom skills and then to build some additional skills going forward.

This training was turned into a PowerPoint that I won’t share because it contains some copyrighted Distress Centre Durham material – but you can read below for information that you could use as the foundation of your own advanced crisis line training. I’ve since made some updates so this training goes beyond the original that I developed for DCD.

Session Information

The length of the session was usually about 3 hours. The content covered was as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Burnout and Stress Management
  • Handling Difficult Calls
  • Advanced Suicide Intervention
  • Advanced Crisis Intervention
  • Discussion of Difficult Situations
  • Conclusion

Five Step Limit Setting Process

For more information on this limit-setting process, you can see my article Setting Limits and Boundaries with Callers. Briefly, the five steps are:

  1. Identify the inappropriate behaviour
  2. Identify what correct behaviour is
  3. Indicate the consequences for failing to change behaviour
  4. Give the caller an opportunity to change their behaviour
  5. Follow through on consequences (e.g. hanging up) if behaviour does not change

Active Listening Process (ALP)

For more information on the active listening process, you can see my article Active Listening Process on Crisis Lines. As a quick reminder, the different skills in the ALP include:

  • Voice Tone
  • Pace
  • Setting the Climate
  • Open Ended Questions
  • Close Ended Questions
  • Empathy Statements
  • Clarifying
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarizing
  • Referrals
  • Winding Up

Burnout and Stress Management

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a “state of physical, emotional, or spiritual exhaustion.” It occurs when we give too much of ourselves for too long and don’t take appropriate steps to recover. Symptoms of burnout can include:

  • Becoming cynical or critical of callers
  • Being irritable or impatient
  • Feeling responsible for the outcome of calls
  • Having unexplained headaches or other physical complaints

An example of a situation I knew a responder was feeling burned out was when they took a 20 minute call with a regular caller who was dealing with relationship issues. While their on-the-phone work was good, when the call was over, they were very upset that the caller was not in crisis and just wanted to bounce ideas off the responder.

This responder felt like their time was being wasted by this caller, when we could be taking crisis calls instead. It’s clear that responder cared a lot for our callers – but they were not treating all of our callers like they were important to us. For this reason, we had a discussion about how our service is preventative and designed to both provide emotional support and crisis intervention. The responder took a leave of absence and when they returned several weeks later they were recharged and ready to support all of our callers.

Emotions on the Helpline

We can experience a range of emotions on the helpline. Some of these are positive and some of these are negative.

Positive Helpline Emotions

  • Excited
  • Grateful
  • Happiness
  • Hopeful
  • Meaningful
  • Optimistic

Negative Helpline Emotions

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Physical fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts

What Causes Burnout?

There are a number of causes of burnout. These include working too many hours on the helpline – feeling like you’re a martyr or you always have to be there. Having your expectations set too high and expecting clients to change or improve (they call us because we’re a source of support that don’t ask them to change.)

Being isolated or having a lack of social support can increase burnout, as can a failure to debrief either with peers or supervisors after your calls. Feeling disconnected from the day-to-day events and other things happening at the crisis line can also cause increase your fatigue and burnout.

Overall, if you feel ineffective in your work you’ll be at greater risk for burnout.

Preventing Burnout

To prevent burnout, it’s important that you always debrief after tough calls. You can talk to your peer in the call room, you can talk to your supervisor. You can work fewer shifts or even take a Leave of Absence away from the Centre for a while, to recharge. Adjusting your personal life so you have a better work/life balance, and coming to Team Meetings and other social events can help you.

Finally, stress management techniques and having a strong support network will help you prevent burnout.

Relaxation and Stress Management Techniques

  • Bubble Bath
  • Hot Shower
  • Meditation
  • Physical Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Yoga
  • Others…?

Handling Difficult Calls

There are a range of difficult callers that responders can be confronted with. These include individuals with significant mental health issues, “chronic” or repeat callers who are calling for social maintenance reasons and sexual fantasizers or abusive callers who are trying to misuse the service.

Seriously Mentally Ill Callers

These individuals have significant struggles or may be actively in a mental health crisis. They might speak very quickly and not let you get a word in edge-wise, or they may be very impatient. Winding up the call be difficult and these calls can make you feel ineffective or frustrated.

Remember to keep an open mind, and remember why we support these callers. They often have few resources other than us that are non-judgemental and empathic. Let the caller vent their fears, anxieties and frustrations, but always remember the Active Listening Process (ALP).

If a caller is having delusions, we must not feed into those delusions but instead empathize with the underlying emotion. Rather than saying “Yes, there could be vans outside your house monitoring your thoughts”, say something like, “That would be really scary if it were happening.”

Social Maintenance Callers

These individuals are calling because they’re lonely. While our service provides support to them we must make sure that they do not monopolize the lines, or push boundaries in trying to collect personal information on our callers.

We will use our 5-Step Limit Setting Process if the caller wants identifying information, and try to engage the caller openly in things that they can do, or that you and them can talk about, to reduce their loneliness. When the call starts going in circles (they’re repeating themselves and not moving on to anything new), we can begin to wind up the call.

They should call us back tomorrow if they’d like to speak again, and you can discuss with staff the setting of a time limit or other restrictions.

Sexual Fantasizer Callers

These can be some of the most frustrating calls for us to deal with, because they make us question what we’re doing on the helpline. These callers are often difficult to determine as sexual fantasizers at first – they drag it out as long as possible.

When we begin to suspect that we’re speaking with a sexual fantasizer, we must remind them to stick to the discussion of the emotions of their problem. For example, sometimes we get legitimate callers who want to talk about cross-dressing, sexual orientation, or sexual fetishes. If these callers are genuine, they will prefer to speak about the emotions of those elements and how they impact those around them, rather than discussing the specific activities of cross-dressing, having sex with men, or engaging in a sexual fetish.

You might feel angry or used when the call ends if you don’t figure it out early enough. You’ll need to make sure that you debrief and put your stress management techniques into practice.

Angry or Abusive Callers

These callers are those who are calling to take emotions out on you. This can be challenging and is not an appropriate use of our service. Using your Five Step Limit Setting Process, you’ll need to let the caller know that you are here to listen if they are upset but that they cannot direct language at you.

If they would like to make a complaint, they should call the office line. Set the boundary, and if they continue then you’ll end the call. And make sure you follow through!

Suicide/Crisis Intervention

Suicide intervention is the process of assessing and intervening with someone who is at high-risk of suicide. Once you’ve done some risk assessments on the phone you’ll have a better sense of how to weave these questions into your exploration of the caller’s issues.

By starting each suicide assessment with “Have you done anything tonight to kill yourself or end your life?” you’ll be able to move smoothly into the safety planning questions. Your goal is to make sure that you have a sense of whether the caller will be safe tonight. If they will, you don’t have to worry. If they won’t, you can begin building a safety plan or support network collaboratively with the caller to make sure they will be safe.

You’ll want to conduct a suicide risk assessment:

  • Any time you suspect a caller is suicidal
  • When they tell you they’re having suicidal thoughts
  • Even if the person denies current suicidal thoughts

In an emergency, when the caller has already taken steps to end their life, you must:

  1. Change your voice tone. Become assertive, to let that caller know that they need to cooperate with you so you can get them help
  2. Collect their location, and other identifying information
  3. Tell them to unlock their door, open the door if they can, so that emergency personnel can reach them
  4. Debrief after the call with your supervisor

Example of Suicide Intervention

  • Caller explains they have self-injured today
  • Responder assesses suicide risk, they come up medium on the CPR or DCIB Suicide Risk Assessment
  • Responder explores coping strategies but they say there’s nothing they can do, they’ve tried it all and they can’t guarantee their own safety
  • Responder arranges for a taxi to take them to hospital or mental health crisis bed

Discussion of Difficult Situations

During the discussion of difficult situations, responders would talk about situations that they personally found challenging – whether or not they were covered on the above. A group discussion would help responders get a better sense of how their peers would handle those situations, and the facilitators would share their own thoughts. This helped to increase the confidence of the responders in dealing with those situations in the future.

Conclusion

We would wrap the session by thanking everyone for coming out and presenting them with an Advanced Training certificate. Completion of both Basic and Advanced Training was required for a responder to be considered a Certified Volunteer Helpline Worker.

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Basic Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

Introduction

Strategic planning is the process used to make a plan for a nonprofit or other organization over the next few years. It is a living document that helps steer the ship and ensure the organization continues to carry out its mission.

Strategic planning models and phases abound, this is just one example of a model of strategic planning that your Board can use. The OnStrategy model includes 4 components:

  • Determine Position
  • Develop Strategy
  • Build the Plan
  • Manage Performance

Determine Position

Determine the Position includes identifying the issues that you need to focus on. What are the risks and opportunities your organization is facing right now? You also need to collect information about your clients, the state of the market and other relevant information that will help you plan.

Develop Strategy

Next, developing strategy involves reviewing the organization’s mission, vision and values. What is the purpose of the organization, has it changed since your last strategic plan? What are your core beliefs (your values), and what would the world look like if your organization succeeded in its goal (its vision)? These all help you set the strategy your organization will follow.

It is important to identify your competitive advantages. What makes your organization different from the others in your industry, in your sector, in your area? This will help you later when it comes time to determine your organization’s messaging. If you don’t know your value proposition, your messaging will be muddied and this will make it more difficult for your organization to be successful.

Once you have done these things, you will develop objectives and set out strategies to help you meet those. Financial forecasting may also be part of this process.

Building the Plan

Building your strategic plan involves taking the big and long-term goals and setting smaller objectives and goals to help you on the road-map. For example, your major objectives will be set out over the next 3 years (in many strategic plans), but you need to identify goals for the next 3, 6, and 12 months – and then for the 12, 18, 24 and 36 months on the way to the next strategic plan.

You may select Key Performance Indicators that you can refer to on a regular basis (perhaps even at each monthly meeting) to know if you are on track. These could include:

  • Monthly Donations
  • Number of Service Users
  • Retention Rate of Volunteers

You will also need to create or review the budget in order to make sure the organization has the money they need to work on these goals.

Manage Performance

Finally, the last item in the strategic planning process is Manage Performance. This involves setting a schedule so that you understand when key events will be taking place and when milestones will be met. Your KPIs might be added to each agenda. You may wish to implement a quarterly review to make sure the Executive Director is still on track to meet these goals.

Finally, a one-year review will let you see what goals you have achieved and what goals remain to be completed.

Conclusion

Have you ever facilitated a strategic planning session, what was it like?

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