Strategy, development & support for coalitions, associations, organizations and initiatives

Why Strategic Planning is Especially Important When You’re Swimming Upstream

Why Strategic Planning is Especially Important When You’re Swimming Upstream

We recently completed a Needs Assessment for the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department Community Services Block Grant Program. The report highlights what many social sector leaders in the region are experiencing first-hand:

  • While many people in our region have benefitted from economic growth – a growing number of people are struggling to meet basic needs such as affordable housing, food for their families, and a decent school for their kids.
  • Poverty has increased dramatically in recent years in Travis County, from 10 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2013. At that same time, Travis County grew by 30 percent.
  • People living in poverty are moving out of central east Austin and into the outlying communities of Travis County, making service delivery more challenging.
  • Children are more likely to suffer from poverty in Travis County, with one in five children under the age of 18 living in poverty. Female headed households and racial and ethnic minorities have much higher rates of poverty. In comparison, seniors have relatively low rates of poverty.
  • 54 percent of the Austin metropolitan area’s poor population live in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher.
  • More than one-third of residents have low-incomes and one out of five struggle with food insecurity. People with low-incomes fare worse across a host of community indicators, from health to education.
  • Over a third of households are housing “cost-burdened,” including almost half of all renter households and three-fourths of renters with annual incomes below $50,000.
  • To meet current demand, the City of Austin Housing Market Study finds that Austin needs an additional 48,000 rental units affordable to people earning $25,000 or less.

Why Strategic Planning?

How should we react when we see these statistics or if we are with an organization who is overwhelmed by demand? Organizations, including non-profit organizations and government agencies that fund them, can fall into the trap of keeping their head down and continuing doing business as usual. With such a large demand for services, this can seem the way to go. Why would you stop providing the services you offer in the way that you currently offer them, if there is a line out the door?

Some key reasons to re-evaluate the status quo include:

  • Could evidence-based practices help your organization serve your clients more efficiently and more cost effectively?
  • Has your organization been able to keep up with the changes trends and demographics shifts?
  • Have you had the time to have a meaningful dialogue with your clients and key stakeholders in your work?
  • Does your organization lack focus and spending too much time on programs or services that do not meet the main mission of your organization?
  • Are there funding sources or key collaborative agencies that you could tap into?

Our experience working with organizations is that this is one of the most important times to do strategic planning. At WNA, we have helped many organizations and initiatives find direction and focus through strategic planning. If you feel like your organization is swimming upstream, contact us to talk about how we can use our strategical planning experience to help you keep your head well above the water.