Strategic planning is an area we’ve worked with clients on since day one at Alterline. We love it because this is, needless to say, meaty strategic stuff! Working with the board and senior management team to re-shape and re-direct an organisation. It fits very closely with what we want to do as an agency i.e. research that drives action, it also fits with our philosophy that research isn’t important per se, it’s what you do with it that counts. It also adds to our mission to help clients with not just the research but the “action” too. Traditional agencies respond to a brief, “do” the research, write a report with recommendations and move on, often because the next steps don’t involve research. We want to be involved in those next steps and strategic planning work gives us the opportunity to do just that.
Arthritis Care are one of our clients that wanted to use research to drive the charity in the next stage of its development. It’s fair to say the organisation has not had an easy time in recent years with, like many similar organisations, a decline in income and members. A.C has a long established membership structure with members belong to and participating in local and regional brand structures, and it is the membership who elect most of the board.
We started our journey with a big collaborative workshop with the SMT and the board where we looked at the current strengths and weaknesses of the organisation; organisational and brand values and how these needed to be updated, what we would like to know about arthritis care members and those with arthritis in the under community, estimated as being 10m people; we set some hypotheses that we wanted the research to test and we began to describe an emerging vision for the organisation. From there we embarked on 2 large pieces of quantitative work – a survey of 2,000 members and a telephone survey of 1,100 people with arthritis from across the UK.
Our analysis then concentrated on the similarities and difference between the two groups; the experience of members, their hopes, perceptions and aspirations for the charity; and the experience of those with arthritis in the UK, what sort of help they sought, where they go for that help, their awareness of what help is out there etc.
The challenge for Arthritis Care, like many membership organisations, was how to ensure that the organisation was to ensure that the organisation remains relevant for those closest to it whilst at the same time appealing to the wider population who may be looking for help may be willing to make a financial contribution but not want high levels of involvement.
The research produced a fascinating and valuable story which we shared with the team, analysed in detail and distilled down to the key strategic issues. These issues are now informing the department of the next strategic plan (2014-2018) but have already influenced changes in other areas such as website, fundraising and member engagement.Image credits: Michael Dorausch /Mark /Alan Levine / Mr.TinDC /Max Braun / SamahR