NGOs 101: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”Alan Lakein

In this context, its crucial for NGO leaders to do Strategic Planning to gear their organization, their efforts and the funding they are receiving towards the best course forward.

So the first question is: What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning in a nutshell is envisioning what the future of the organization should look like and drafting the course of action towards it.

Below is a list of simple Q&A that can help you better understand Strategic Planning.

When should an organization do Strategic Planning?

  • When starting up
  • When a new program or initiative is to be launched
  • When the organizational structure is to be changed
  • When there are major changes in the community, thus changing the context of the organization
  • When there are major changes in the Board or Team members
  • Annually

What are the benefits of Strategic Planning?

  • Understand Why the Organization Was Created
  • Set the Vision, Mission and Goals
  • Set Action Plan
  • Ensure Team Buy-In
  • Develop a Sense of Ownership
  • Utilize Organization’s Resources Efficiently & Effectively
  • Develop Metrics to Measure Progress
  • Resolve Key Issues  & Fill Gaps

What are the 2 types of Strategic Planning?

Goals Based

  • Start with future in mind
  • Develop the plan to achieve it
  • Extrovert  Approach

Issue Based

  • Start with current status in mind
  • Identify gaps and issues
  • Develop the plan to overcome them

What is the Strategic Planning Life Cycle?

Goal Based Strategic Planning:

  • Understand the purpose of your organization – Why was it created?
  • Assess the organization’s history – How was it created and what has it achieved so far?
  • Develop/Assess its Vision – How does the future look like?
  • Develop/Asses its Mission – How will it achieve the future?
  • Develop/Asses its Values – How will it achieve the future?
  • Develop/Assess its Goals – Narrowing down the Mission into clear elements
  • Understand the internal factors – Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Understand the external factors – Opportunities & Threats
  • Extract Lessons Learned – What to repeat and what to avoid
  • Develop/Assess the Program/Projects/Tasks/Operations to achieve its Goals – The Action Plan & Tactics

Issue Based Strategic Planning:

  • Understand the internal factors – Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Understand the external factors – Opportunities & Threats
  • Extract Lessons Learned – What to repeat and what to avoid
  • Understand the key issues facing the organization – What is wrong with the organization today?
  • Develop/Assess ways to tackle the above mentioned issues – How are we going to resolve the issues using the SWOT results and Lessons Learned?
  • Develop indicators to check if what you planned to do is being implemented and is getting you where you expect to be – Monitoring & Evaluation of Key Performance Indicators

In my upcoming articles I’ll share with you my recipe of how to assist your organization in drafting it’s Vision, Mission, Goals, Values and then how to use the SWOT Analysis, PESTLE Analysis, Enhance SWOT Analysis, how to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and finally how to Extract Lessons Learned.

Stay tuned for more!

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NGOs 101: Field of Work of NGOs

NGOs 101 Series

Many of those I meet think that NGOs are limited to charity work and philanthropy. Yet throughout my work with NGOs, I’ve realized that they cover almost every aspect of “industries” or “field of work” that many of the Private Sector cover, as well as those of Public Sector and UN agencies.

Here’s a quick overview of the list of “industries” or “fields of work” that NGOs cover:

  1. Advocacy & Awareness
  2. Agriculture
  3. Business & Economic Policy
  4. Child Education
  5. Youth Empowerment
  6. Citizenship
  7. Communication
  8. Conflict Resolution
  9. Peace Building
  10. ICT
  11. Culture & Society
  12. Democracy & Civic Rights
  13. Rural Development
  14. Disability & Handicap
  15. Displaced Population & Refugees
  16. Education
  17. Environment
  18. Family Care
  19. Women’s Rights
  20. Governance
  21. Health
  22. Human Rights
  23. Charity/Philanthropy
  24. Labor
  25. Law & Legal Affairs
  26. Migrant Workers
  27. Relief
  28. Reconstruction
  29. Rehabilitation
  30. Research & Studies
  31. Science
  32. Social Media
  33. Technology
  34. Transparency
  35. Training & Capacity Building

Thus, the next time you hear of someone working in NGO, I kindly ask you not to label them as “Charity Worker” as many NGOs are not limited to charity work.

NGOs 101: Categories of NGOs

NGOs 101 Series

Considering that NGOs target various geographic scopes, they can be categories accordingly. Below is a breakdown of their categories:

Community Group: Family Associations, Village Cultural Clubs.

Local NGO (LNGO): Aie Serve, Sesobel, Greenline, Ayadina, Beeatoona, Ibtissama.

Regional NGO  (RNGO): MENA Entrepreneurs Summit, Anna Lindh Foundation(EuroMed), African Aid Network, European Youth Federation.

National NGO (NNGO): MentorArabia, Injaz, Safar Fund, USA Red Cross.

International NGO (INGO): PMI, World Vision, Red Cross, Rotary, Greenpeace, Save the Children, Oxfam.

It’s important to clarify here that the following International Organizations (IOs) are NOT considered NGOs: UNDP, ESCWA, UNESCO, ILO, OPEC, FAO, Arab League..etc.

Let me know how that sounds.

NGOs 101: What are NGOs?

NGOs 101 Series

Many times I get asked: What are NGOs? The answer is usually a bit more complex than you’d expect.

But before going into my own definition, let me share with you some definitions by some renowned sources. So here they are:

  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government.”- www.UN.org
  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.” –  www.NGO.org
  • “A nongovernment organization is an association which is based on the common interests of its members, individuals, or institutions has no governmental status or function, and is not created by a government, nor is its agenda set or implemented by a government.” – www.SIL.org
  • “Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development” – www.WorldBank.org

 

Now the problem is, none of the above is complete or accurate, here is why:

  • The UN definition misses out that such organizations should have a cause for the benefit of the community and that they should be not for profit. According to UN definition, most private sector companies would fall under the category of “NGOs”, which is obviously incorrect.
  • The NGO.org definition misses out that they should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGO bodies. Moreover, it limits the to “voluntary” work, while in reality there are thousands of NGOs that have paid staff.
  • The SIL.org definition also misses out on the not for profit part, thus once again being an inadequate definition.
  • The World Bank definition misses out on many factors. Their definition misses out on the fact that should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGOs, nor that they should be not for profit. Just to name a few that is.

 

In this context, after further research, discussions and meetings with stakeholders from NGOs, I’ve managed to identify the components that one can use as a checklist to check if the organization in study is an NGO or not. Here are the components or attributes if you’d like to call them so:

  • Is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons.
  • Not initiated nor managed by any government.
  • Doesn’t accept membership of governmental bodies.
  • Works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not for profit.
  • Can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.

 

Using the above, I can assure you that you’d be able to clearly identify what is an NGO and what is not. You can put them in a definition as follows:

“An NGO is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons that is not initiated nor managed by any government nor does it accept membership of governmental bodies. An NGO works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not profit, and it can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.”

Thus, the following organizations are not, and should not, be considered as NGOs or labeled as such: UNDP, ESCWA, UNESCO, ILO, OPEC, FAO, Arab League.

I hope that clarifies the issue for you and I look forward to hear your feedback on the definition.

NGOs 101 Series

NGOs 101 Series
Dear reader,

Considering the sheer number of questions and consultations I get regularly about NGOs, their types, fields of work, definitions, structures, proposal writing, fundraising and the like, I will be posting a series of articles about NGOs to cover such topics.

Here is a quick overview about some of the articles I’ll be posting:
• Defining NGOs
• Types of NGOs (by geographic scope)
• Fields of Work of NGOs (by industry)
• Functional Types of NGOs (internal structure)
• Project Management in NGOs (how it differs from those in private and public sectors)
• Fundraising in NGOs
• Proposal Writing in NGOs (how it differs depending on the donor/funding agency)
• Logical Framework Approach/Matrix (what it is, how it came into existence, when is it to be used)

If you’d like to know about other topics related to NGOs don’t hesitate to drop me a comment about it.

Stay tuned!

Volunteering: How It Changed My Life!

volunteer

Believe it or not, volunteer work changed my life. The first time I volunteered I was 11 years old! Yes that young. In fact I’m glad my school (ISC) had something called Student Life Organization (SLO) which engages students in their school life to run this student led organization that acts something like a Student Affairs in a typical school.

Starting at that young age helped me overcome some personal weak points, from shyness to knowing how to interact and deal with people and responsibilities. Yet the seed it planted in me…didn’t stop there, it grew multiple folds to flourish in my university life and beyond.

From the first year of university, I just had that drive to give back to community, to serve, to grow, to meet people and so I ended up joining student societies and clubs at my university (AUB) as well as cofounding an NGO called Aie Serve among my involvement with many others that I am still involved in till this day whether as founder or Board Member or Advisor or simply as a member.

So here are some of the things I believe volunteer work gave me:

  • Opened my mind to new ways of thinking about life.
  • Gave me a purpose beyond my own self and my day to day life.
  • Got me to meet the most inspiring people I would have never dreamed of knowing.
  • Made me more friends that I could have possibly done in 50 years.
  • Gave me life changing experiences and challenges that made me mature way faster than many of my colleagues and friends that were not involved in volunteer work.
  • Made me feel proud about the achievements I was able to accomplish with the teams I worked with to make Lebanon a better place to live in. From improving the life of underserved children to giving back to nature through tree planting and beach cleanups to mentoring youth to training and sharing knowledge with aspiring young leaders to many many maaany more.
  • Gave me opportunities to learn how to manage projects, lead teams, do strategic planning, explore my training skills, brainstorm for ideas that will make the world a better place…just to mention a few.
  • Lead me to having a career in consultancy and training that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do all the volunteer work I did, simply because a typical university life and a 8-5 job wouldn’t have given me half as much opportunities to learn, grow and meet new people.

So my recommendation to you, no matter how old you are or what your social/economic/academic/marital status is, if you’re not engaged in some volunteer work already, then get to it! You can never do too much volunteer work, the more the merrier, and trust me it just gets better with time, just make sure you join the organizations or causes that you feel passionate about or at least interested in, the rest will follow!

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