Featured Capstone Project: Visioning & Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

Posted in News Story

As part of the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program, participants complete a capstone management project that addresses a major organizational issue or need in their work. Projects focus on a range of important topics including: creating new onboarding processes for board or staff, diversifying fundraising plans, improving long-term impact evaluation, and leading organizational change, among many others. The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership sat down with Chris Biggs, a participant from the Summer 2023 cohort and current Director of Global Partnerships at Salesforce, to discuss his capstone project that focused on creating a template to help nonprofits develop their organizational vision and strategic plan.

Why did you decide to focus on vision and strategic planning as your capstone project topic?

I spent 11 years working as a management consultant at two large firms (Deloitte and Slalom, respectively), and I was lucky enough to deliver over a dozen strategic planning and visioning projects with customers across multiple industries. So for my capstone, I wanted to distill my knowledge into a short, easy-to-use primer on the subject. I’m also of the mind that defining your organization’s future aims—and making strategic tradeoffs as part of the strategic planning process—are among the most challenging, interesting things you can do at work. A leader may only have a handful of attempts to move their organization forward through a process like this, so when it’s time, there’s value in being prepared.

What were the most surprising or important lessons you learned as you worked on the project?

Everyone – literally everyone – approaches visioning and strategic planning differently from the next person. There are various methodologies used by futurists to prompt thinking. Strategic plans vary widely in their language, structure, and business objectives. And these products can be the result of a one-day workshop, a year-long team effort, or something in between. Given that variability, my greatest learning here was the importance of keeping things simple. If you can’t explain your process for visioning and strategic planning in the course of an elevator ride, you probably don’t have a clearly-defined process yet.

How might your capstone project be used by other nonprofit leaders?

My hope is that this document is accessible to all of the amazing nonprofit leaders out there who are thinking about embarking on a journey of visioning and strategic planning in the near future. The document is in slide format, provides examples and instructions, and takes about 5-10 minutes in total to read (by design). If you get value out of it, please share it with a friend who might be able to do the same.

To access Chris Biggs’s full Capstone Management Project click here.