The organization to be examined; American Red Cross has a very important international role in providing aid and help for people and countries. Therefore, the strategic planning project would attempt to provide suggestions and a framework for improving the awareness of the activities and opportunities of the organization, as well as creating a positive public image about the projects using different channels. The missions, values and communication structures, as well as the strategic planning process, would be reviewed, in order to create a full strategic plan implementation guide, suitable for the American Red Cross. Interventions would be needed and plans designed, based on the most important roles of the organization; increasing the stakeholder commitment, donations and efficiency alike.
American Red Cross started its operations in Switzerland, Geneva in 1863, and moved to the USA in 1881, opening its first branch. Today, it is one of the best known international charitable organizations, responding to more than 60.000 disasters and emergency situations a year. The structure of the non-profit organization is based on distributing donations through its branches located all over the world. Determining priorities, missions and creating projects, as well as strategies, to improve the response time, effectiveness, while keeping operational costs low are extremely important for the American Red Cross. The need for aids and the increasing number of worldwide disasters have created further challenges to overcome. The organization sponsors first aid programs, HIV/AIDS projects and collects blood, tissues for disaster-struck areas’ medical services. (American Red Cross website) The organization has a long past and good reputation; however, to improve its public image, increase awareness and communicate effectively with stakeholders, there is a need for adapting the 21st Century strategies and implementing changes within the charity. Determining the values, missions and priorities is an ongoing task, and a careful evaluation needs to be carried out to improve the service the organization provided for the public today.
The American Red Cross is the only organization that has a congressionally mandated role of providing education and aid for victims of disaster in the United States. Although the organization is not funded by the federal government, its activities are mandated and supported by the country. The American Red Cross is able to respond to worldwide disasters, just like earthquakes, epidemics and wars. It is an independent organization, providing aid and creating projects to help people all over the world. As such, the role of strategic planning is great within the organization, as it relies solely on private donations. (American Red Cross Mission Statement Online)
Mission and Values
The Red Cross Website provides the main principles of this International Movement. The mission of the international charity is described: “…will provide help people prevent and relief to victims of disaster, respond to and prepare for emergencies.” (Red Cross Website) The values of the organization are based on equality and diversity, and there is no discrimination present, regarding to employees or people the American Red Cross provides aid for. There is a need for reviewing the missions and values of the organization, to adjust it to the requirements of the 21st Century (Hopkins and Gross, 2009. pp. 23.) The principles of the American Red Cross are: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. With humanity and universality having the most important role in the globalized world, the strategic plan should focus on these two principles, and be built around these main values.
When conducting a stakeholder analysis within the American Red Cross, the involvement level, as well as the visions, should be reviewed, in order to satisfy the expectations of all stakeholders, by matching the values and aims of the different groups. The main stakeholders of the organization are donors, government agencies, charitable and for-profit research organizations, and employees. As there are volunteers within the American Red Cross, as well as paid employees, the importance of improving the commitment level is high. The most influential stakeholders are donors and government agencies, with the second one occasionally taking on the role of a supporter, as well. (Bryson, 2004) The higher the influence level of the stakeholders is, the more important it would be to create a strategic plan that matches the expectations of them; in this case, donors and government agencies. The main development areas that are important for these stakeholder groups are effectiveness and cost-reduction.
The purpose of strategic planning in non-profit public organizations would be to measure the input, output, effectiveness and efficiency, as well as provide a framework for the development based on the SWOT analysis. (Young, 2001, pp. 49-50)
The SWOT Analysis of American Red Cross
- Reputational value
- Supporter base
- International connections
- Government support
- Old organizational image
- Relying on volunteers
- Volunteer packages not attractive
- Slow administration
- Opening new offices worldwide
- Training and language skills provided
- Collaboration with multinational firms
- Running out of supplies
- Increased need for support
- Economic crisis, reduced donations
As the organization is mainly responding to emergencies, it is hard to implement a long-term strategy, which would not be overwritten by disasters or events around the world. This means that the American Red Cross needs to develop a long term, universal and well-organized strategy that applies to all of the areas the organization works at. As there are hundreds of agencies of the organization around the world, the greatest challenge would be to implement a general and universal mission statement, taking into consideration the global issues, future predictions and the economic crisis.
Strategies to Address the Issues
Addressing the above issues would involve the implementation of surveys and research, to enable the organization to increase the volume of donations, despite the economic crisis. The main stakeholder groups, after careful analysis, should be asked about their preferences, ways of donation, as well as communication. As effective communication is a part of the strategic plan to be developed, in order to create interactive and highly responsive groups around the world, the American Red Cross needs to assess the stakeholder behavior regarding Internet and multimedia use, to determine the most effective channels for communication. The response time of the organization can be reduced, if a large number of donors and volunteers can be reached in a short period, using interactive communication methods. This would also help the company create the 21st Century image among the stakeholders.
Adopting the Strategic Plan
Process improvement needs to involve a well-planned case study analysis, in order to bring the processes and priorities in harmony with the expectations of public and stakeholders. (Scribner, 2002.) To adopt the strategic plan, pilot schemes need to be created in small groups of the organization, to evaluate the effectiveness of the changes. Training provided for one agency’s staff and surveys concluded would be assessed based on their effect on the level of service, satisfaction and growth of number of donors. The adaptation of the strategies needs to be carried out gradually, to be able to make changes along the way.
Organizational Future Vision
The mission statement and organizational vision of the American Red Cross needs to be revised, according to the new challenges created by catastrophes and epidemics around the world. The cost of operation is one of the most crucial aspects of the services provided by the organization, and letting stakeholders know about how their donations or support are used, is one of the main changes that needs to be implemented. The openness of financial data and operations needs to be developed and different teams need to be set up to create the reports and distribute them to the pre-determined stakeholder groups.
The implementation of the strategic planning would be based on predictions, the SWOT analysis and the results of the stakeholder surveys. (Wells, 2006) The agencies that need to most urgent intervention would be determined by the leadership of the American Red Cross, and the changes, challenges and steps need to be determined in a written report and distributed to all the agencies involved. (Powell and Stenberg, 2006) It is important to gain the commitment from all the employees, volunteers and donors, as well as the government agencies before the implementation is taking place. The fitting between the organization and the operations environment can be created by assessing the needs of various charities and creating surveys of the areas needing the most support, to be able to meet the needs of the public. (Poister and Streib, 2005.) Determining the priorities of the strategic plan is an important step, and these aspects would be determined based on the stakeholder survey results. (Scribner, 2002.)
Monitoring and Re-evaluation
The vision created for 5- 10 years (Foundation for Community Association, 2006) needs to include a process and implementation plan, as well as monitoring processes. Encouraging stakeholders and checking the understanding and perception of the project would be essential, as well as the comparison of predicted results with regular forms of assessment. (Bryson, 2011) The main assessment areas for American Red Cross would be the response time, cost effectiveness and the volume of donations. Targets need to be set and monitored, and – as mentioned in the beginning of the study – the organization mainly responds to emergencies, the vision and strategic plan would be created for the shorter period; in this case, five years. Every six months, the board meeting would create a detailed report and publish statistical data for stakeholders, in order to keep them updated about the developments, gain feedback and suggestions for the implementation and next steps.
Reflections on the Strategic Planning Process
The preceding study revealed that strategic planning is just as important for non-profit organizations as the for-profit firms. In order to provide quality services and increase the volume of donations, the American Red Cross needs to tackle the challenges set by the 21st Century’s global society, as well as the increasing need for aids. (Young, 2004) However, as predictions are not always proven to be accurate, especially in the area the organization works in, there is a need for gaining insight into the mind of stakeholders and understand their expectations. According to Hopkins and Gross (2009), the governance needs to set up an effective communication structure, as a part of the strategic planning. The main challenges the organization would face were identified as the increasing need for aids, the low availability of funding from donors and communication structures. However, the American Red Cross is able to build upon its organizational strengths, determined by the SWOT analysis, and turn into the 21st Century, interactive, effective and responsive organization, which is able to tackle the future challenges, thanks to the implementation of the carefully designed strategic plan, to improve processes, reduce response times, increase the number of volunteers being trained and raising awareness through effective communication. (Best Practices, 2006)
Although the American Red Cross has hundreds of branches, and worldwide catastrophes cannot be predicted, a careful analysis will be able to reveal the most important areas where improvement is needed, and training needs to be carried out to improve responsiveness, knowledge and communication methods, as well as prevent delays in carrying out the charitable work. (American Red Cross Governance for the 21st Century. Online.)