October 2023 Newsletter

The Value of Strategic Planning
by Frank Donaldson, President, ISPD

How up to date is the strategic plan for your Catholic school and/or parish? Have you ever created one that engaged hundreds of people?

When we talk about strategic planning with a Catholic school and/or parish, ISPD’s philosophy of belonging leads to believing takes the front seat. How do we reach the many ripples of people who are not involved? These could be parents, alums, parishioners, past parents, grandparents, community members. In addition, we have found that in most cases Catholic schools and parishes need better processes in place to get to know these folks and their many connections and resources. With evangelization being so important in the church today, the essential role of the layperson has never been so dramatically emphasized, and that leads us to one of the greatest challenges we face in developing our schools and parishes: how do we create the roadways, avenues, and vehicles to invite and involve and engage people into the life of our Catholic schools and parishes?

There are many ways to approach strategic planning. “Back in the day” some Catholic school and/or parish administrators would call in 5-6 people (teacher, council member, finance chair, ministry leader, and parent), and they wrote the mission statement and created the Plan of Action. Quick. Easy. Not time consuming. They were “in and out” in 1-2 sessions. However, there was no buy-in; there was no ownership; others did not see this as their plan. They did not engage people and take full advantage of their many gifts. A pastor once told us that a member of the parish council (who was president of his own company) once said to him, “You’re in charge; you set the tone; you set the vision; you set everything, and people need to fall in line and follow.” In today’s world, that would not prove to be successful in a Catholic school or a parish. One thing we have learned over the years: People want to belong.

Today, strategic planning in a Catholic school and/or parish can be exciting, invigorating, and serve as a wonderful way to engage people and call them to action. It needs to be realistic and reasonable, yet challenging and courageous, while affirming and inspiring. With these

thoughts and ISPD’s philosophy, we view and approach strategic planning as a wonderful opportunity to put together a series of steps and processes that will reach out beyond the first ripple of people who always raise their hand and invite many others to step forward and gain a clearer understanding of their role and value in that specific Catholic school or parish.

Throughout our 34+ year history, ISPD has developed a number of strategic planning processes. Our four most popular are:

  • Long-Range Pastoral Plan (LRPP): When a parish wants to plan for the future in all areas: Liturgy and Worship, Faith Formation/Education; Sacramental Preparation; Evangelization; Finance; Facilities, Development/Stewardship; Communications; Sunday Mass Experience; and Leadership.
  • Strategic Growth Plan (SGP): When a Catholic school wants to plan for the future, and they build their plan around the four domains of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools. Mission and Catholic Identity; Governance and Leadership; Academic Excellence; Operational Vitality.
  • Strategic Plan for Development/Advancement (SPD): When a Catholic school and/or parish wants to just focus on their development/advancement efforts.
  • Collaborative Plan of Action: Collaboration planning has risen to the top over the past 5-7 years. A Collaborative Plan of Action can be created for a parish and its school; or it can be created for a cluster of schools and parishes; or a group of Catholic schools can plan together, or an entire (arch)diocese can plan for the future with all of its schools.

Other planning processes we have developed are:

  • Enrollment Management Plan of Action: When a Catholic school wants to create an Action Plan for their Enrollment Management efforts.
  • Total Stewardship Plan of Action: When a parish wishes to create an Action Plan for their year-round total stewardship efforts.
  • AWE Planning Process: This is when a parish wants to plan better on how they AffirmWelcomeEngage

 Regardless of the process, it is our belief that every Catholic school and/or parish needs a strategic plan that can be created through the engagement of people. It all adds up to number in the hundreds of people who could be involved.

  • Executive Committee (3-5 people)
  • Surveys and questionnaires (to all)
  • Initial Assessment Interviews (20-30 people)
  • Steering Committee (18-20 people)
  • Planning Area Teams (75 – 100 people)
  • Convocation Attendees (100+ people)
  • Implementation Teams (40-50 people)

Properly organized and focused, it is amazing the creativity and innovation that can come out of a strategic planning process. So, what are the advantages?

  • Improve performance: vision, planning and goal setting can positively influence performance
  • Stimulate forward thinking and clarify future direction
  • Solve major challenges
  • Survive–even flourish–with less
  • Build teamwork and expertise
  • Influence rather than be influenced
  • Respond to needs
  • Invite and involve others
  • Be proactive not reactive
  • Build ownership in your Catholic school/parish where people will feel vested

Recently, ISPD had the wonderful opportunity to work with Notre Dame Academy, an all

girls’ school in Staten Island, NY. Led by Kate Jaenicke, president, NDA engaged numerous people in their planning process and created a dynamic plan for the future. That Strategic Growth Plan is now being implemented. To view a copy of their plan, please click on this link: Notre Dame Academy of Staten Island-Strategic Growth Plan

Another Catholic school we recently worked with is St. Ursula Villa in Cincinnati, OH. This elementary school did an outstanding job of reaching out and engaging hundreds of people in their planning process. Led by an outstanding Executive Committee, SUV is now in their second year of implementation, under the new leadership of Jody Sedler, president. A copy of their plan can be seen here. SGP–St. Ursula Villa — 2022-23 FINAL.pdf

With the month of October now upon us, NOW is the time for school and parish leaders to enter into a meaningful conversation about their vision and plan for the future. What a wonderful way to engage people, build ownership, and create that Culture of Belonging.

For more information, please contact ISPD at catholicdev@ispdconsulting.com.




“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” This hit song by the late Jimmy Buffett is such an appropriate theme for ISPD’s annual summer conference which is focused on development – advancement – enrolment management – stewardship for Catholic schools, parishes, and (arch) dioceses. Housed at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, the ISPD Summer 2024 Development School will take place from June 18-20, 2024. On Tuesday, June 18th this will be a special one-day workshop just for Catholic elementary school principals/administrators. On June 19th – 20th the two-day Development School will take place. In honor of our 35th anniversary, this will be the largest conference ISPD has ever hosted. The one-day workshop on June 18th for Catholic elementary school principals/administrators will have 12 different presentations and four roundtable discussions. The two-day conference on June 19th and 20th will have 16 presentations, four networking luncheons, four roundtables, and three keynote speakers.

New Orleans, Louisiana! What a place to have this theme come alive – at the birthplace where Jimmy Buffett started his musical career at the Bayou Room on Bourbon Street in 1967. Not only will this conference be challenging; it will be fun! (Pack your party gear for our “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” reception in the River Room on Wednesday, June 19th at (of course) 5 PM. Margaritas (“Margaritaville”), cheeseburgers (“Cheeseburger in Paradise”), and gumbo (“I Will Play for Gumbo”) will be the order of the day!

Learn More Here



Share this post