Back the Strategic Plan with Resources

Bob Harris, CAE and Leonard Toenjes, CAE

There is a saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.” 

It means if you have an idea or plan, it should be supported by resources.  Without aligning resources any plan is unlikely to succeed.  In associations, resources include time, finances, committees, leaders, and staff.


A strategic plan is a roadmap for the board.   Sometimes it is called the board’s GPS — goals, priorities, and strategies.

Let’s use travel planning as an analogy.

In preparation for a road trip, the first thing most people do is choose their destination.  Secondly, they plan the route.  Finally, they make sure they have a vehicle that is reliable and can get them to the destination. 

“Planning and budgeting are interconnected.”  

For instance, four people planning to drive from Bangor, Maine to San Francisco, in a Smart Car, without air conditioning, and only enough money for one tank of gas will not work. 

To reach their destination, to accomplish their mission, to enjoy the trip, alignment of resources is essential.  Exhausting the resources will put a quick end to the trek.  

Planning and Budgeting

Setting the destination and aligning resources is consistent with the process association’s use in strategic planning and asset management.   Planning and budgeting are interconnected.   

In preparation for, development of, and execution of a strategic plan the resources should always be kept in mind.  Be sure the planning participants have an understanding of the financial capacity of the association.  They should be conversant with the budget, assets and structure. 

Avoid the inclination to “blue sky” ideas.  By inviting input, many good ideas will be offered.  They will only be dreams if resources are not available. 

Along the route of strategic planning be sure to evaluate the necessary and available resources.  For example, what finances will be used and what will be the return on investment (ROI)? Will a task force need to be appointed to advance the initiative?   Does it add a burden to the staff team? 


In execution of the plan, an executive director should build the budget according to the elements of the strategic plan.  Each financial report should consider income and expenditures and their alignment with the agreed upon goals. 

Planning is not only about adding initiatives, it is an ideal time for assessing and programs and dropping what has lost value.   Some organizations continue programs because, “We’ve always done it this way.”

The process of dropping or refining programs that drain resources while not adding value is called “purposeful abandonment.”   Conduct a comprehensive review of all activities, publications, and events.

Some members might be upset if a favorite benefit is eliminated, but most will never notice. It is about making the best use of resources.  

Planning allows you to have agreement as to what programs are most beneficial.  Spend money on the goals and actions identified in the plan, first. 

Regarding the road trip from Bangor to San Francisco, travel planning, you want to make the travels successful and arrive at your destination without pushing yourself the final mile because you took too many detours or ran out of gas.  Similarly, you want the strategic plan to be the association’s primary guide for achieving the mission and goals by analyzing and aligning necessary resources.

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Note:   Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at   Leonard Toenjes, CAE is President of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Missouri.