Strategic Planning for Victim Service Leaders
Anne Seymour, Viki Sharp  -  2010/2/24
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
Given the current economic struggle for victim service providers, community collaboration and partnerships are effective ways to pool resources. What kind of organizations should victim service providers look to for partnership to address the most pressing advocacy issues?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 Greetings, Helga! Timely question the current economic situation actually provides opportunities we did not have before! As a practical matter, all victim assistance groups do not always cooperate with each other despite great strategic planning. When money was flowing, we sometimes duplicated services. I remember several times two agencies would have advocates at the scene, the hospital and court for one sexual assault victim. Now there is just one pie, and we have to slice it up in the most logical and efficient way. Many times we look at the most obvious organizations to partner and share resources. Of course, direct victim service providers (such as prosecutor based, sexual assault, domestic violence advocacy programs) can frequently identify cross-over services that can be combined, training and legislative opportunities that may be shared. The mistake victim service providers sometimes make is not thinking about partners outside government and non-profit organizations. Victimization impacts everyone and every company and organization. Sometimes a crime actually creates an opportunity for new partnership that was not identified in the strategic planning process. I recall when an administrator of an airline was the victim of domestic violence. We did our normal victim assistance, without a second thought. The airline then asked how they could help us help victims! A great partnership was formed! Always be on the look-out for a community partner and a new volunteer. There are many more resources than we tap or consider when we do our planning!
 
2.  Anne Seymour
 Hi Helga, great question! The answer depends upon exactly what are a jurisdiction's most pressing advocacy issues. You can explore this question through an environmental scan (SWOT process) that examines an organization's or jurisdiction's strengths and weaknesses (internal), and opportunities and threats (external). Then focus on strengths and opportunities. Once these are identified, it's helpful to consider potential partners who share the challenge; have resources that can help address the challenge; or whom have already solved similar challenges. I find it helpful to consider three general categories of potential partners: community-based; system-based; and the private sector. Please see the OVC Strategic Planning Toolkit for more information at https://www.ovcttac.gov/taResources/stratPlan.cfm.
 
 
How do you start the dialogue to include criminal justice agencies in victim services partnerships?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 John,Your sage wisdom is right on. Nurture all allies and more importantly, nurture those in the other camp!
 
2.  Viki Sharp
 Heidi,I love your suggestion. Victim advocates everywhere!
 
3.  John Stein
 Invite everybody is good but often insufficient. If there is a key figure in your community or state who might buy into cross-agency cooperation, nurture that person. In Oregon, former AG Hardy Myers invited representatives from all public and private sectors to review victims' rights compliance (voluntary) then enforcement, with constitutional and statutary changes, with all participants expected to go back to their constituencies. It worked -- Oregon now leads the universe in victims' rights! (OK, possible exaggeration). What was key was his stature and partience -- he kept at it for 3 or 4 years. (No, we will not lend him out to others). Now we need a similar effort focused on services -- which ain't so hot.
 
4.  Heidi Artman
 We, as an agency, have found it beneficial to be in as many places, meetings, court hearings, etc., as possible. It has been our experience that merely making our presence, mission and philosophy known, that the collaboration tends to follow.
 
5.  Viki Sharp
 Invite everyone you wish to include to a meeting. Make the invitation sound like the most exciting event ever! Be sure to serve some kind of food and start with the concepts you can all agree on!
 
6.  anne
 Great question! You need to make the case about how quality victim assistance can make stronger cases and make the CJS work better. AND go to THEM (and bring food!).
 
 
I work for a national law enforcement organization. In our strategic planning, we bring together Sheriffs/Police Chiefs and leaders of victim service entities. We also try to bring in district attorneys. Any nuggets of wisdom on how to more easily get all three groups at the same table (nationally and locally), especially insofar as many DA offices and law enforcement agencies have their own victim units that do not necessarily always work strategically together)?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 Tim, from your question I gather you have had some success in the past bringing quite diverse groups together so something you are doing is working! In this day and age of shrinking budgets and added work responsibilities, the biggest motivator for groups is to recognize what is in it for them i.e. will it make prosecution easier, will it relieve them from taking victim calls? It's the right thing to do does not always cut it nowadays. Dangle a carrot.
 
2.  anne
 Hi Tim, they have to be convinced that working together is not only in the victim's best interest, but their own as well. It sometimes helps to engage survivors who can share their positive AND negative experiences with CJS folks, accentuating the POSITIVE!
 
 
Are you aware of any strategic plans that can be used as examples or templates so we're not re-inventing the wheel?
 
1.  anne
 In the OVC SP Toolkit, there are best practices for state planning in the appendices. If you would like some organizational examples for VS agencies, please email me at annesey@atlantech.net, and I'll be happy to provide examples of plans that I've helped develop.
 
 
How do I know if my organization is ready for a strategic planning discussion? I want to keep the big picture in mind, buy I'm concerned that we may get overwhelmed if we aren't adequately established when we begin our stratgic conversations.
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 Great point, Vienna. Timing is everything! If your organization is just establishing itself other things may have to come first. However, a mini strategic plan to head you in the right direction is better than no compass at all. Be sure you have a vision and a mission as you begin and it is simple and wise enough that everyone in your organization can recite it at a moment's notice!
 
2.  Anne
 Hi Vienna, the OVC SP Toolkit has great resources to assess if you are ready to plan. The answers will also help you decide if you want to develop a one-, two- or five year plan. If it feels overwhelming, recognize that developing even a one year plan will help you stay on a straight path and develop clear priorities and measurable objectives (which are important to funders AND grants!).
 
 
Do you have tips/suggestions for leading a strategic planning session? What parties should be present? Should we reach out to other local entities for input?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 In my opinion, a task force that is not unwieldy should determine the key players. Decide if they should be at the table or can participate by e-mail or in another role. There are pro's and con's to using a person from a participating agency. A local person knows the community better but is seldom a prophet in their own land. Sometimes a national facilitator will get you a bigger crowd and lend more credence to your endeavour.
 
2.  Anne Seymour
 There are several steps to the planning process. Once you've done your assessment and SWOT analysis, I suggest planning for a two-day session to develop guiding statements, goals and measurable objectives, eval strategies, and outreach strategies. The Toolkit has great tips to make the session interactive, allowing participants to offer individual, small group and full group input. Also, you can ask OVC TTAC for help in securing a consultant facilitator - we trained over 30 folks in how to use the SP Toolkit. Good luck!!!
 
 
How much help do we give and for how long?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 A retreat is a great way to start this process I really recommend re-visiting your mission and vision see if your priorities and actions are consistent with what you say you do and why you exist. Invite some victims your agency has assisted some that will talk about the great work you have done and some that will tell you what was missing and needed. Real people. Real stories are compelling.
 
2.  Anne
 The best approach is let folks know that the SP process will NOT work without their valued input. ALSO see my response to Marti A's question - engage folks in advance via email, and use their cumulative input as an advanced starting point for your onsite SP session. If you do this, you can develop the bones of a SP in one day. Good luck!
 
3.  Michelle Ellis
 Our board is getting ready to have a retreat to start our strategic planning. Our organization is a statewide nonprofit. Many of the members are carrying huge caseloads and do not have time to give to the organization. Many things that we should be doing are not being done. Can you give us some insight on how to inspire the members and get the buy in we need to take the organization to the next level?
 
4.  Viki Sharp
 Pauline,I am not clear on your question. Would you please indicate who you are referring to as far as help and the timeline?
 
5.  Anne Seymour
 Strategic planning is not a static process. It takes alot of time and, once a plan is developed, it must be periodically reviewed and updated. So think of it as an ongoing project, AND be sure to engage ALL folks who will be affected by the plan in its development to ensure their buy in. DO check out the OVC SP Toolkit, particularly Section 3, Create for more ideas. Thanks!
 
 
Strategic planning for victim services has been difficult in the past few years because of shrinking federal and state resources. The programs end up strategically planning what they will drop from their services, how they will do the work with high personnel turnover since nobody gets a raise, and how to share critical services over an ever increasing service area. I think that type of strategic planning is important in tough times, but how can we get the government funding to stabilize? Most of the justice system is funded for defendant rights and reentry. When can we begin to do meaningfully future planning?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 Marti, you are absolutely correct. In this day and age victim assistance programs are so busy putting out fires and responding to victims' crisis that strategic planning is hard to fit in and often reflects only crisis management We can do two plans. One based in reality and one that reflects our dreams. it will be great to have in hand when approaching legislative issues and to help us make those visions a reality.
 
2.  Anne
 Hi Marti, we have to continue working to protect existing victim funding (VOCA)and seek increases that will offset state and local funding cuts. ALSO, Strategic planning helps agencies to PRIORITIZE their most important services to victims, which makes it easier to say no to things that are beyond budget.
 
 
Do you have any advice for sparking the interest of the command staff in law enforcement agencies? (Besides offering food, we already do that!) It is difficult for our victim services unit to "rouse the passion" for victims rights in the command staff and rank and file Officers.
 
1.  Karlene Johnson
 Maybe using the information about the number of calls and danger involved in responding to domestic violence situations. But, that will help law enforcement understand those issues. Increase their awareness of federal grants and other trainings available to that department.Increase the issue of victims who are juveniles and work with the school districts. But, don't forget the colleges and private schools.
 
2.  Viki Sharp
 Hi Kerry, You are very wise to use food with Law Enforcement....I can tell you have been working with them for a while. Having a law enforcement liaison that is a super champ can be very helpful. There is always one or more in each Department Sadly, either they have been a victim themselves or they have seen the great work you do. Also, if you can suggest ways this strategic plan would help law enforcement i.e. get new grants, reduce time spent on calls, reduce victim call load, create good PR etc. that will help. Having victims and victim advocates write appreciation letters to the chiefs also goes a long way!
 
3.  Anne
 Excellent question.....I would stress the fact that victims who are treated well by LE as they enter the criminal or juvenile justice system tend to have less trauma, and are more able to be good witnesses, which results in more convictions and more bad guys off the street, which is a benefit to law enforcement. ALSO would always validate the difficulty of LE work, and how working with victims can, indeed, be stressful. Again, asking a victim to speak to LE leaders about the value and importance of their work with victims is also helpful. I hope this answer helps a bit - good luck!!
 
 
What's the main goal we should meet during a strategic planning meeting? Or, how does it help the program?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 I will address how it helps a program...victim services providers are typically reactive vs proactive. Taking the time to do a strategic plan helps you use your resources in the best way possible and gives you a road map so you do not end up on as many detours! Your funders and other stakeholders also look for a strategic plan to see what your organization is all about. I admit I used to abhor doing strategic planning until I took an OVC class on the topic. I went home and we did the hard work to put together a smokin' plan. After that it was actually easy to review and tweak as times and issues changed.
 
2.  Anne
 A good main goal is to create a plan that proactively engages all those whose work will be affected by the plan, and to recognize that change can be difficult but if folks are part of the change process, they are more likely to buy into the process. It truly helps any program by helping you to prioritize your goals and services, and helps your agency set boundaries that will allow you to focus on the most important services, and say no to those that are NOT priorities Sorry, that is not within the scope of our strategic plan, so we can't be involved. Think of your SP as your roadmap for the future, or your GPS to organizational stability and success!
 
 
Have you seen any statewide strategic planning begin with use of something like Survey Monkey? I agree clarifying values, mission, and vision helps prioritize core services in tough times. It has become difficult, even as a positive person, to get advocates to one more meeting where we know we likely have to compromise the vision.
 
1.  Anne
 Thank you for recognizing that we are ALL busy people! I adore Survey Monkey because the basic piece can be free, and surveys are easy to complete, and data are compiled for you. You can also use e-versions of the worksheets in Module 3 of the OVC SP Toolkit, and get folks in advance, on their own time, to contribute their ideas to development of mission, vision and values statements. Then at your session, you can start from this advanced point to finalize the guiding statements, and get cranking on shared goals and measurable objectives! Thanks!
 
 
What are the most common barriers to strategic planning and how can we overcome them?
 
1.  Viki Sharp
 I think there are quite a number of barriers....time, expertise, getting the right players in the discussion, etc. Sometimes when we look at all the barriers it becomes daunting and we put it on the back burner. May I suggest that you change your focus to what are all the advantages that would come from creating a strategic plan? Your energy will change and the ideas will flow!
 
2.  Anne
 1. Not conducting an assessment in advance, and the environmental scan (SWOT) to determine strengths and weaknesses. 2. Not having the right people at the table (anyone who will be affected by the implementation of the plan). 3. Failing to recognize that change is difficult, and some folks will need help in adjusting. 4. Developing a plan and then ignoring it. Please see Module 1 of the SP Toolkit for more barriers, as well as BENEFITS, which are also important to recognize! Thanks for a great question!
 
 
Does the strategic planning involve a formula somewhat like SAMHSA?
 
1.  Anne
 Karlene, thanks, ALL those are very important. If you have time to review the OVC SP Toolkit, I think you'll find these and other critical planning issues addressed in a user-friendly format. AND don't hesitate to contact OVC TTAC for help - they have great resources and consultants to help your SP process!
 
2.  Viki Sharp
 Karlene,I am not sure about a formula but there are many models for strategic planning. OVC has a comprehensive, professional model and toolkit. I remember the days, however, when we just put a bunch of flipchart paper on the wall and starting writing thoughts and ideas and then pulled it all together into a strategic plan! I think the most important thing is to REALLY spend lots of time on your mission...why do you exist? From that will flow the goals and objectives and then you can add the timelines and the accountability.
 
3.  Karlene Johnson
 SAMHSA uses a design involving a few steps like assessment, substantablity, cultural diversity, and evaluation. Just to list a few of them.
 
4.  Anne
 Karlene, I am not clear on your question, could you please clarify?
 
Return to Discussion