Strategic Planning

Our blueprint to ensuring The Community Kitchen’s continued relevance, impact, viability and sustainability.

Developing a Strategic Plan that Doesn’t Gather Dust on a Shelf

Peter Rooney is a former journalist, communications consultant, and college administrator. He has been on The Community Kitchen board since 2016.

You can find a summary of the plan here. 2022-2025 Strategic Plan

I had initial reservations when the idea of hiring a consultant to help The Community Kitchen with its strategic planning was first proposed. It seemed expensive, and the process overwhelming, at a very busy time. We had made it through the worst of the COVID pandemic without missing a hot meal or grocery distribution. Meeting our staffing needs was a daily challenge. Did we really need to bring in a consultant
just as Sarah Harpster was starting her new position as executive director? With so much going on, couldn’t a strategic plan end up gathering dust on a shelf?

Over time, these concerns were alleviated. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, a big believer in strategic planning for nonprofits, awarded The Community Kitchen a $25,000 grant to help pay for our efforts. Sarah made it clear that she would appreciate an outside voice experienced in nonprofit management to help navigate the challenges she’d be facing in her new role. In the end, I joined fellow board members in voting unanimously to hire Christine Strong of Strong Resource Group in Portsmouth, NH to help guide us through the first comprehensive strategic planning process in The Community Kitchen’s 40 year history. Developing the plan involved hours of meetings, some virtual, some in person, and two weekend

board retreats. Staff members who work so hard for The Kitchen were consulted and provided valuable input. Eventually, the board unanimously approved the plan at its February meeting.

The blueprint that will guide us over the next few years will help ensure The Community Kitchen’s continued relevance, impact, viability, and sustainability. Over the next two years, the plan will focus on Human Capital (recruiting, training and retaining the right mix of staff and volunteers), Board Development (having an active, engaged and diverse board of directors) and Financial Stability (developing, managing, and monitoring resources for long-term sustainability). Education and Food Supply will also be addressed, and the strategic plan acknowledges the need for flexibility to address unforeseen challenges and opportunities.

We’ve already implemented one of the plan’s most urgent recommendations, hiring a new advocacy and development director, Jocelyn Desmarais, to help ensure our continued financial viability and commitment to improving food security in the region. Though the plan doesn’t offer all the answers, it does provide us with a valuable User’s Manual that most definitely won’t be gathering dust on a shelf.