5 Pragmatic Ways to Pay for Your Strategic Planning Process

Once a ministry has identified the need for strategic planning, the most common barrier to moving forward is the cost associated with hiring an outside consultant to facilitate the process.
The idea that strategic planning has to cost a lot of money is a misconception.
If done right, engaging the services of a consultant will actually benefit your ministry's finances.
Two ways:
1. People give to a vision. Giving usually increases when you clarify your vision.
2. An effective process will identify several things that you should stop doing. Ineffective practices usually cost you money. Stop doing them and you save money.

While strategic planning will likely save you money long term, there is the reality that most small to mid-sized ministries do not budget for it annually. There is an upfront cost to strategic planning. Here are five ways to pay for it.

1. Get a donor (or 2) to cover expenses.
I have found that this is the most common method of funding a strategic planning process. Do you have someone who is outspoken about the need to grow or do things better? Have someone who has some cash? Find a person or a few people with both the means and passion for the future of your ministry. Make the ask. I’ve found the most willing donors are seasoned citizens who are forced to make withdrawals from their retirement funds and don’t need those funds to cover monthly expenses.

2. Divide the cost between two budget years.
Don’t have room in your current annual budget to pay for planning? Schedule the onsite work of your consultant to straddle two budget years. I’ve worked with ministries who operate on a January-December fiscal year to schedule my two onsite visits in the fall and spring.

3. Leadership pays the bill.
Who are the leaders in your ministry? Staff? Board of Directors? Church Elders? If your leaders feel that strategic planning is worth the effort, maybe they feel that it is worth their treasure as well. Have your leadership commit to paying for the process and “pass the hat.” An added benefit to this approach is that it helps underscore the significance of strategic planning. There is power in being able to communicate to your community that your leadership is so committed to the future of your ministry that they are paying for it!

4. Get a grant.
Not as easy as it used to be. There are foundations and denominations that will fund planning efforts. The term ‘revitalization’ is trendy in the church world now. Make strategic planning your revitalization effort and maybe your denomination or a local foundation will pitch in.

5. Split the cost.
Find another ministry in your area who is thinking about strategic planning. Hire the same consultant and look for ways to split the costs. At a minimum, you can save on travel expenses. Many consultants are willing to facilitate two ministries in the same facility on the same day.

The bottom line in funding a strategic planning process is that in the long run, it should save you money. There are practical ways to pay the upfront cost without wrecking your budget.

Bryan Blackford