New Financial Year Resolutions: Culture, Skills and Planning

New Years bring resolutions, reflection, and sometimes a hangover. While there’s usually less drinking involved, the end of financial year is time for resolutions and reflections nonetheless. It is a great opportunity, as an organisation, to make professional New Year resolutions.

A lot has happened this Financial Year in the NFP sector. There’s been federal budget cuts to volunteering and foreign aid, the NDIS rollout is fast approaching (and there is still much uncertainty as to how things will play out for existing disability organisations), and a federal election is upon us adding another level of unpredictability.

In an uncertain environment it’s important for NFPs to create an agile plan so they can pivot depending on what unfolds. This year, it is not about taking last year’s strategic plan and adding 10%, it means revisiting your strategic plan and doing things differently with three focussed New Year’s resolutions. No, we’re not talking ‘get fit, enjoy life, save more.’

From our experience helping NFPs transition to sustainable business models here’s our three New Financial Year Resolutions to commit to when undertaking your strategic planning this year.

Resolution #1: Focus on your culture

It doesn’t matter how solid your strategic plan is – if your team does not have an authentic desire to achieve the results it will struggle to come to fruition. To motivate your team they need to understand their own sense of purpose in realising the organisation’s goals. What’s their role? How do they play a part in creating the strategic plan?

To do this we suggest dedicating half a day before your strategic planning to solely focus on culture. The purpose is to create a strong and unified foundation, from which the group can cohesively build their plans and common purpose. During this process assist your team to set deliberate intentions of their role on the strategic planning team and look to uncover and address any unconscious barriers that hold them back from truly thriving.

At Spark, we’ve recognised this missing link to strategic planning and engaged The Reach Foundation’s youth facilitators to kick-off our two-day strategic planning workshops to encourage participants to self-reflect and share, providing a refreshing alternative to traditional approaches.

Remember, if your organisation is planning on making significant changes, cementing values and culture is the first integral step.

Resolution #2: Skill up

In addition to your culture make sure you have the right skills to execute your strategy. We’ve identified three key skill areas, that are often overlooked, to be the levers for a successful strategic plan and long term sustainability. Make sure you have these capabilities internally or engage external support to fulfil these areas.

Digital capabilities:  

The back end IT function is the foundation of most organisations, this includes anything from having a high functioning CRM, to an accessible cloud based storage system, to a digital strategy. Try not to underestimate or overlook the need for the “basics”. They contribute significantly to the organisation working efficiently and seamlessly. When you have the “basics” functioning well you have the ability to focus on the more important things. There a number of IT companies that tailor to NFPs and help align IT with social impact – check out Human IT.

Other than basic IT functions, you need to think about the best channels to use to reach your stakeholders. Often digital solutions are a cost efficient and accessible way to do this and it is increasingly important that your online presence is professional and up to date.


It’s imperative Not-for-Profits know how to talk to their market. There are 60,000 Not-for-Profits in Australia. That’s 1 for every 38 people. NFPs, like businesses, are in competition with each other. Achieving their social objectives (more awareness, more donations, more impact) depends on winning and maintaining the trust of the community and general public.

When speaking to your market, organisations need to be able to articulate their evolved purpose and their value proposition. If you don’t have a laser clear focus on the current mission, value proposition and business model, use your strategic planning session to get one.

Commercial capabilities: 

The lines are blurring between commercial and social sector more and more. With profit and purpose movements like B-Corps  becoming increasingly popular, it is proving commercial entities are becoming more socially focused. And NFPs are viewing things with a commercialised lens in order to sustain themselves in a future context.

Therefore, forming good relationships is key to taking advantage of this shift. Commercial partnerships and relationships have the ability to provide funding and promotion. Though keep in mind the importance of finding a partner that is values aligned (check out our whitepaper Partnering for Purpose for more information).

Resolution #3: Get good at the planning basics

All that said, lets not forget the basics of good planning. To get the most out of this precious time there are a few basic factors you need to consider:

Engaging an external facilitator: There is no avoiding the fact that if you want the leaders to really participate then they can’t facilitate or scribe. Facilitation and scribing require focus and exclude the person doing each from really contributing. To ensure everyone has equal input (and this goes back to culture and creating purpose for each team member) it’s important to engage external facilitation.

Have a clear, structured agenda: If you only have a day dedicated to this exercise, don’t seek to answer questions that are too broad. Decide on the key questions that need to be asked and set out an agenda and allotted time to get them answered. Swap questions like “What are our dreams?” for “How are we going to reach financial sustainability over the next year?” If you want those really broad questions answered then don’t call the session a planning session.

Keep things practical and data driven: Speak to your stakeholders before the session so when it comes to making decisions during your workshop you avoid making assumptions about internal and external factors. Once you’ve settled on key strategic objectives, attach hard numbers, then cascade these to roadmap activities to which different people have accountability. We’ve found Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard is an easy, logical tool to use to bring teams along this journey so that they understand the link to the ultimate vision and adopt ownership.

Resolutions can be hard to stick with. We get it. But don’t think of New Financial Year planning as a necessary evil. It might sound clichéd, but it can be fun. Let us be clear though: fun doesn’t mean frivolous – it means creative and energised. This year take the opportunity to bind your team, skill up and get really good at planning. If your resolutions haven’t stuck in the past (and I know I’ve broken a few), try doing it differently this year.

If you are interested in learning more about business strategy and sustainable business models

Download our Whitepaper on ‘In Search of Sustainability’

Click Here

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