CAPE: Plan

In the third step of the CAPE Cycle, you and your team will create a simple and effective strategic plan in the Causey strategic planning software.

Words of Wisdom

Over the years we’ve seen a lot of people try to create the perfect plan. If that is your tendency too then, please, do your best to resist that urge. We’ve found that when it comes to planning, perfect is the enemy of the good. 

First of all, we’ve never seen a “perfect” plan. Largely because once a plan is created then it typically gets immediately revised when it meets reality. 

Second, if you shoot for perfection then it is going to slow you down considerably

So, roll up your sleeves and just get going and see what you create. Remember that your plan will be updated indefinitely as you implement the CAPE Cycle.

Set a Date to Present Your Draft Plan 

In Step 1, Champion, you should have set a date with your staff and/or board to present and discuss your draft strategic plan. If you didn’t do that then do this now. 

This is important because it creates accountability for completing your plan and not letting the process drag on for weeks and months. This also will provide a great opportunity for feedback and buy-in from your team. 

You can schedule this meeting to happen soon since creating your draft plan can be done in several hours of concentrated work. 

Generally speaking, this meeting should be a couple of hours long. That will give time for you to share the plan and also get key feedback.

If desired, this session could also be incorporated into a daylong retreat or meeting as you see fit. 

A Three-Phase Process

We’re going to walk you through this three-phase plan-creation process:

  • Phase 1: Analyze Your Assessment Information 
  • Phase 2: Create a Draft Plan 
  • Phase 3: Finalize Your Plan

The time for the overall process varies significantly from organization to organization but expect to spend anywhere from four to twelve hours on this. 

The main factor that increases the time is the number of people involved. Fewer people involved makes the process go faster. However, with fewer people you also risk getting a lack of buy-in over time. Just like we established in Step 2, finding this balance between speed and buy-in will be one of the ongoing components of your planning work. 

Your Overall Champions (or strategic planning task force if you established one) are responsible for overseeing these three phases.

Phase 1: Analyze Your Assessment Information

In Step 2 of the CAPE Cycle you conducted a two-part assessment of your organization. 

Now it’s time to begin organizing and analyzing that information to inform the creation of your strategic plan. 

Complete a Worksheet

With that in mind we created this worksheet where you’ll:

  • Review and organize all of your information.
  • Identify your organization’s top five priorities for the next year.

Create a common long-term vision for your organization.

This worksheet can be completed by your Overall Champion(s) and/or your strategic planning task force. 

After completing the worksheet then proceed to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Create a Draft Plan

A. Preparing the Software

A1. Familiarize Yourself with the Two-section Strategic Plan Format (10 minutes)

One of the biggest problems with most strategic plans is that they’re too complex. Too many sections, too many goals, and too much fluff.

With that in mind, we’ve created an easy-to-understand two-section format for your plan:

  • Section 1: Our Compass
  • Section 2: Our Actions

The Compass section provides you and your organization with overall direction and contains things like your mission statement, vision statement and organizational values. The Compass serves as an inspirational north star that remains somewhat unchanged from year-to-year. 

The Actions section is where you’ll document the things that you and your team will do in pursuit of your Compass. Your goals will live in the Actions section. 

A2. Launch the Causey Strategic Planning Software (30 minutes)

Now it’s time to start interacting with one of the most critical elements of your future strategic planning success: the Causey strategic planning software.

Compared to when our customers used to create their plans in plain documents and spreadsheets, the software has helped them establish:

  • A dynamic strategic planning process that gets results.
  • Significantly greater buy-in by their entire team.
  • One central location to store and communicate all of their strategic plan documents. 
  • Stronger and more effective goals.
  • More commitment to implementing the CAPE Cycle.
  • A more enjoyable planning process. 

Causey Overview Video

A3. Add People Into the Software (15 minutes) 

One of the first things to do within your software is to enter the names of those people that you want to be a part of your team on the plan. For most small organizations their entire staff and board will be given access. 

Here is an article and video that walks you through this straightforward process.

Some things to consider when entering people into the software:

  • When entering members into the system you’ll have an option of allowing them to get an emailed invitation to the software right now or at a later time. The default setting is to have the invitation sent later. This is preferable since it will allow you to create the draft plan in the software and then, when you’re ready, you can email them an invitation from within the software. 
  • Per the video, you’ll find definitions of each of the software “access levels” within the software. Generally speaking, you’ll want to have a couple of people on your team have the “administrator” access level. Most other people on your team will be either “editors” or “viewers”. Here is a brief article and video that reviews access levels in a little more depth.
  • If you have two people on the team with the same initials then you can use three letters for their initials.
A4. Enter Your Timeframe and Overall Champion(s) (10 minutes)

Here is an article and brief video where you’ll get an overview of how you can easily enter the plan’s timeframe and overall plan champion(s) into the software. 


Under typical conditions we recommend a three-year timeframe for your strategic plan. Three years provides a long enough horizon to encourage big-picture thinking but not so far out as to seem unrealistic. 

However, if your organization is just starting out or is experiencing a crisis of some sort, then a one-year timeframe may be more realistic. 

Overall Champion(s)

In Step 1 of the CAPE Cycle, Champion, you identified your overall champion(s). Refer to this article and video where you’ll learn how to enter the overall champion(s) into your plan in the software. 

B. Create Section 1 of Your Plan: “Our Compass”

B1. Enter Your Mission and Vision Statements into the Compass (Time varies)

There are two cornerstones of your Compass:

  1. Mission Statement -- What Your Organization Does and For Whom
  2. Vision Statement -- What the “World” Will Look Like When Your Mission is Met

Your mission and vision statements are the only two “required” components of your Compass. An organization without a mission and vision statement is rudderless. 

If your organization has both a mission and vision statement that’s working, then you can enter them into the Compass in the software. Here is an article and video that shows you how to do that. 

If you don’t have a mission and vision statement (or you need to revise it), then here is a worksheet you can use to guide you. You can use the mission and vision data from both your Organizational Bio and Mission Met Checkup assessments to help you think through this exercise.

B2. Additional Compass Elements (Optional)

At this point your Compass is fine with just a mission and vision statement. However, if you have other elements that you’d like to include then do so now. Other elements may be:

  • Organizational values
  • A tagline
  • A BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal)
  • Long-term strategic themes
  • A link to a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement

As long as these elements are somewhat timeless and give you needed overall direction then they are fair game to live within the Compass. 

That said, try not to clutter up your Compass. You and your team will benefit from the focus that a simple Compass can provide.

B3. Create a Small Set of Key Metrics (Optional)

If you are just starting out with strategic planning then this section is optional. However, you’ll want to return to it at some point since clarifying a small set of key metrics is extremely helpful to your organization’s long-term success. 

Key metrics are measures that indicate the success of your organization. They help drive program design and provide board members and funders with the confidence to support and fund your organization. 

There are two broad categories of key metrics: output and outcome. 

An output metric is a direct measure of your efforts such as:

  • 5000 program participants
  • 12 trainings held15 field trips
  • $1,500,000 loaned

An outcome metric indicates your organization’s impact:

  • 5% increase in graduation rate
  • 3% increase in literacy
  • 200 new small businesses launched
  • 45 metric tons of carbon reduced

Both types of measures are important to consider. 

Review your organization’s programs and services and identify no more than five of the key metrics that you’d like to measure. At this point don’t worry about choosing the perfect measures. Over time you’ll become more and more clear about the best metrics to use.

Several years ago Guidestar created the Common Results Catalog, a long list of the key metrics that organizations within their database were measuring. Reviewing this list may spur some ideas of your own. 

After you’ve identified your key metrics then enter them into the Metrics tool of Causey. Once complete, the Key Metrics will live within the Compass on your plan. 

C. Create Section 2 of Your Plan -- “Our Actions”

C1. Identify Your Focus Areas (15 minutes)

It’s now time to create a small set of “Focus Areas” within Section 2 of your plan.

Focus Areas provide a framework for your organizational vision and serve as organizing buckets for your goals. 

Here is an article and video that shows you how to set up Focus Areas within the Causey software.

We recommend that you select no more than five Focus Areas. The fewer the better. 

Start with These Five Focus Areas 

For most small organizations you can use these five Focus Areas as a starting place:

  • Programs 
  • Fund Development
  • People (includes staffing, board and volunteers)
  • Marketing
  • Operations (includes financial management, human resources, policies and procedures, etc.) 

Having strength in these five areas lead to a deep organizational capacity.

Different Focus Areas

The five Focus Areas presented prior are a great starting point. That said, consider eliminating or changing one or more of these Focus Areas if:

  • Upon reviewing your assessment data it is clear that you and your organization needs are different than these five.
  • Your plan is for a shorter time frame (one year, for example) and five areas are just too much to tackle.
  • Your organization is just starting out or has limited capacity and you need to limit your focus. 
  • Your organization is more mature and needs to focus on a more specific set of areas.

Below are other Focus Areas that we’ve seen organizations use:

  • Staffing 
  • Board Development
  • Membership 
  • Development
  • Strategic Planning
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Facilities
  • Financial Management
  • Volunteer Engagement
  • Technology

An alternative way of thinking about Focus Areas is to think of them as committees. This has been especially useful for organizations with large boards such as membership organizations and associations. If that’s your case then your Focus Areas may be something like this:

  • Membership
  • Governance
  • Events
  • Advocacy
  • Marketing

Whatever the case is for you, don’t worry about selecting the absolute perfect Focus Areas at this moment. As you work through the draft of your plan you’ll get more clarity about which Focus Areas make the most sense. 

If you haven’t already, create your draft set of focus areas in the software right now. 

C2. Enter Your Long-term Vision for Each Focus Area (30 minutes)

Earlier you completed this worksheet. Review the visions that you crafted for each of the Focus Areas and then enter them into their respective Focus Areas in your plan. Refer to this article and video if you need assistance entering the information into the software. 

If you have different Focus Areas than those listed in your worksheet then create a similarly-designed long-term vision for those areas. 

C3. Select Focus Area Champions and Team Members (Optional)

One of the best ways to ensure that the Focus Areas get the attention they need is to identify a Focus Area champion(s) and team member(s) for each Focus Area. 

This can be especially helpful for those organizations that approach Focus Areas as committees (see item C1). In this way each Focus Area champion is also the committee chair and each team member is a committee member. 

However, this is an optional step. Since each of your goals will have a goal champion(s) and team member(s), having an additional layer of champions and team members but be unneeded bureaucracy for your small organization. 

C4. Write Goals for Each Focus Area (Time varies)

Now that you have your Focus Areas set up, let’s draft a small number of goals for each area. 

Common Definition

Goals are one of those terms that has different definitions for different people. Let’s make sure that we have a common definition.

At Mission Met, we define goals as follows:

  • A specific and measurable desired achievement.
  • May take several weeks to a year or more to accomplish. 
  • Has a goal topic, a due date, at least one champion, and often at least one key team member. 

The following table provides examples of statements that are and are not goals. 

Note that the items on the left in the table may be priorities, but at Mission Met they aren’t goals. 

Process and Results Goals

Further, many people think that all goals need to be about a specific result. That’s not the case.

There are two different types of goals: process goals and results goals: 

  • Process Goal -- A specific and measurable process. An example of this type of goal is: STAFF ENGAGEMENT: Document and implement a staff performance management system. 
  • Results Goal -- A specific and measurable result. An example of this type of goal is: STAFF ENGAGEMENT: Average at least 8.5 on annual staff engagement survey. 

We’ve found that small organizations, in particular, can actually get better results when they use process goals as opposed to only results goals. Most plans have a mix of both types. 

Write Your Goals

Now that you have an idea of what your goals can and should look like, let’s create some goals within the software. Take a moment to review this brief article and video that shows you how to do this. 

Additional Input for Your Goals

I. Vision Assessment 

In your Vision Assessment, one of the repeating questions was a version of this: 

Specifically, what needs to happen to make that vision a reality?

Review the responses to this question to get additional input for your goals. 

II. Top Five Priorities 

As you may recall, when you completed this worksheet you identified the top five priorities for the next year for your organization. This set of priorities may provide you with some additional guidance about what goals are truly important.

Well Done!

At this point you should now have a draft of your plan. 

Phase 3: Finalize Your Plan

Get Feedback

At this point you’ll want to get feedback from others in your organization. 

If you’ve been doing this work with a strategic planning task force then you’ve likely received a significant amount of feedback along the way. 

If you’ve been working by yourself or with only one other person, however, then share the plan with one or two others and get their feedback. 

You can share the plan in the software in multiple ways:

As Team Members: As indicated in section A3 of this document you can invite them to become members of your team and gain access to the software. 

Provide a View-only Link: You can share a view-only link that allows others to view your plan without being a team member. Here is an article and video to show you how to do that. 

Create and Share a PDF of the Plan: You can create a pdf of your plan and share it with whomever you’d like. Here is an article and video to show you how to do that.

Refine your plan based upon their feedback. 

Conduct a Team Meeting

Earlier in this document you were asked to create a meeting date for your team of fellow staff and/or board members. Now it’s time to have that meeting. 

This could be a stand-alone meeting or be integrated into a larger strategic retreat day. 

The key outcomes of this meeting are to:

  1. Set a positive tone for your organization’s adoption of the CAPE strategic planning cycle.
  2. Get everyone’s high-level input on the draft plan. 

Within this meeting be sure to review:

  • Your role as the Overall Champion(s)
  • The CAPE Cycle 
  • Your draft calendar for your annual meetings (our reference guide)
  • The draft plan

Be careful to not let this meeting turn into a wordsmithing exercise. What you’re looking for is high-level feedback. After the meeting you and others can wordsmith the plan as needed. 

Know that we have never walked out of one of these meetings without some form of edits to our draft plan. Expect good feedback and questions that will help you both strengthen your plan and increase your team’s buy-in. 

Refine Your Plan and Finalize

After the meeting you’ll simply use your team’s feedback to finalize the plan.

It’s possible that the board may want to vote on the final plan at their next meeting so be prepared for that.