Strategy in Action (Fall 2017 HRA Members’ Meeting)

At the Fall 2017 HRA Members’ Meeting in Chicago, Melissa Stevens of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy at the Milken Institute provided  in-depth perspective on the “how to” regarding framing the strategy and next steps for either organizational or programmatic planning.

According to Stevens, philanthropic investment in medical research has an outsized impact. Considering that it accounts for 3% of the  total investment in medical research, it has a much bigger impact. Stevens pointed to the following reasons:

  • Philanthropy takes on more risk. It is much more nimble, quick, and flexible.
  • Philanthropy is also patient and in it for the long haul.
  • A robust strategic plan can increase success by getting all stakeholders on the same page in terms of defining and
    achieving commons goals

Steps to Creating an Effective Strategic Plan

  1. Define Vision and Mission
    • Vision: Your end goal
    • Mission: How you go about achieving that goal
  1. Understand the current state
    • State of the science (what do we know and what do we not know scientifically)
    • State of the system (what do we have and not have: funding, regulation, data, patients, human capital, tools)
  1. Map your stakeholders
    • Talk to key opinion leaders in your space & in connected areas (patients, NIH, FDA, PPPs, Pharma, Investors, other Nonprofits, Tech, etc.)
    • Talk to industry partners downstream
    • Who else is funding in your space
    • Bring them all in the room at the same time
  1. Identify unmet needs and set goals
    • What are the “Gaps to Goals”
  1. Find the best tool for the problem
    • What are the solutions? Funding (grant or other investment solution), Convening, Infrastructure, Policy, others
    • Consider:
      • Strengths and weaknesses
      • Financial resources
      • Human capital
      • Potential partners (leverage investment, maybe bring in others so you don’t have to go it alone)
  1. Measure what matters
    • Use both quantitative and qualitative metrics
    • Include patient-relevant outcomes
    • Know when to STOP
  1. Walk the walk
    • Actively use the plan to track progress and make decisions
    • Update 3-5 years or as needed. Younger organizations should update more frequently.

In all, Stevens offered four important takeaways for an effective strategic planning process:

  • Carefully message to your core constituents
  • Engage innovators from outside your field
  • Look for leverage
  • Be disciplined, yet flexible