Mental Health America (MHA) is the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. MHA works to promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of all individuals, families, and communities nationwide. MHA marked its 100th anniversary of service to the nation in 2009.
In 2008, under new executive and program leadership, and looking ahead to its centennial milestone, MHA determined the need to review its operations, and to establish future priorities for the organization as a whole. The management staff of MHA sought an inclusive approach to develop a Strategic Plan, and to ensure the involvement of its affiliates, partners, Board, committees, staff, and leadership in identifying strategies for the organization both to have a national impact on mental and emotional wellness, and to identify operational and program priorities for the organization.
Over just a few months, CSI designed and conducted a comprehensive process to capture the input of over 340 identified stakeholders in a concept map. The conceptual framework highlighted specific areas for strategic decisions and organizational planning. Additional planning components included a targeted literature review, interviews with leaders in related associations, and action workshops with executive management and Board members. CSI also solicited input from identified affiliates and other parties on the Strategic Plan document, which was delivered to the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee.
Through this multi-faceted approach, the initiative was able to yield a concept map and related reports that, based on stakeholder input, depicted areas of concentration and priorities for action within each area. The resulting conceptual framework emphasized eight focal areas for MHA to consider in its strategic planning efforts:
The inclusive development of the strategic framework allowed MHA to consider implementation priorities and to move forward with confidence in the plan’s relationship to each audience’s specific interests. Following the Strategic Plan development, the staff engaged in intensive operational planning, taking the concept map as the framework. Because the concept map, augmented with data from the other sources, contains all of the details generated by participants with the higher order clusters mentioned above, the staff was able to use the specific recommendations from the map to create operational directions and align them with timelines, to ensure that progress would be timely and measurable.
Throughout the three years following completion of the strategic plan, the MHA board and staff have repeatedly referenced the strategic and conceptual framework that was generated through this process to gauge MHA’s activities. Both board and staff have commented on the utility of the plan in noting that they have never seen a strategic planning document that was used so successfully in managing an organization. While MHA, like many non-profits, has been adversely impacted by the recession of 2008-09, the availability of the strategic plan was invaluable in managing retrenchment by clearly identifying core organizational priorities.