The Best Laid Strategic Plans...

Reflections on SIF’s strategic plan in year two

Nearly two years ago, the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) Board of Directors approved the organization’s first strategic plan -- setting a course for the next phase of work centered on achieving four broad goals within the greater Boston social sector: 

1) Strong, authentic connections among funders/supporters and mission-driven organizations

2) Stronger, more networked nonprofit organizations

3) Informed, engaged, and educated funders directing resources locally

4) A greater understanding of the sector of value of SIF’s “marketplace” approach.*

We shared a summary of the plan, which was the culmination of a year and a half of work,  with many of our stakeholders in the fall of 2019 as an insert to our 2019 annual report. A few months after sending out our strategic plan summary, the pandemic hit. As an organization that relied heavily on relationships built through in-person interaction, the sudden inability to gather as a community threw us for a loop. The Social Innovator Showcase -- the flagship event of our flagship program -- was canceled, then redesigned as a virtual two-part event. Our nonprofit coworking space -- the vibrant hub of our “marketplace” -- was quiet. 

We pivoted to respond to the immediate needs of the nonprofit organizations in our portfolio by offering timely workshops and in-kind support. We launched a new email series, “Notes from the Field,” to keep our community updated about how our nonprofits were navigating the pandemic and what resources they needed to keep going. We experimented with different ways of serving our 2020 Social Innovators, including investing in additional PR and communications support for their organizations. We strengthened our programming for funders, including convening a funder education advisory council and launching a participatory philanthropy pilot tied to our 2022 Social Innovator Accelerator selection process. 

Yet, the tactics may have changed but the goals stayed the same. We aren’t off track. We are on a different track but heading to the same destination -- towards the true north of our four big goals.

As we began planning for our fiscal year 2022, we took a look at our strategic plan and reflected on where we were (now midway through FY2021). In some cases, we were behind the targets we set -- we have only a handful of coworking members at the moment, not the 24 we had predicted. In other cases, we are ahead -- we’ve done far more nonprofit workshops/learning sessions than originally planned. 

When we drafted the strategic plan in 2019, we wrote the following conclusion, “While this plan offers a road map, we know that we must remain flexible and nimble as we navigate this path, ready to respond to unanticipated changes and challenges.” The past year has taught us that a good plan must be balanced with a degree of nimbleness and flexibility and we intend to take this learning with us into the future.


*A marketplace approach to social change – one which engages a diverse array of stakeholders in collaborating to accelerate positive social change locally.