Sustaining a NORC Program
Guiding Principle # 1
Strategic planning guides the evolution of a NORC program and is essential to its future.
Actions and Considerations
Develop a strategic plan to describe your planned activities and the capacity you expect to build. Your plan should sequence your activities along a timeline. This allows you to consider what you are doing and when, and to recognize the interdependence of your projects.
Describe the resources you need to match the scope of your strategic plan and the desired outcomes you have identified. Include realistic three-year projections of expenses, including staffing, office and other infrastructure expenses, and an activity budget. Spelling out the resources you need makes it easier to go after them actively, rather than passively hoping that things will get done.
Build evaluation into your plans. Define simple and easy-to-collect measures of success that help you assess progress and identify gaps in participation. For example, keep track of how many senior residents participate in an activity, compared to the numbers who are eligible. (This is an easy way to measure the penetration rate of a project.) (For a discussion of process evaluations, see Designing and Implementing a NORC Program, Guiding Principle #6. For a discussion of outcome evaluations, see Evaluating the Projects of a NORC Program.)
Make choices where necessary. When funding is scarce, consider where you can compromise. It is better to scale back or limit the scope of a project than to move ahead without adequate resources. One approach is to launch a pilot project that can be expanded into a larger initiative once it proves itself and funding becomes available.
Keep in Mind
A strategic multi-year plan helps all of your partners see how a NORC program can develop, and what resources are needed to make a difference. This protects you against pressure to cherry-pick the easiest or least costly ideas, or to take an approach to implementation that is less than systematic.
A multi-year plan helps set expectations for future funding. To be sustainable, a NORC program needs to make clear to its partners that certain in-kind support or legislative earmarks will need to be replaced in future years with more stable sources of funding (see Sustaining a NORC Program, Guiding Principle #2).
Change is not failure, and all strategic plans need to be revised. As you implement projects and engage new partners, you may be surprised by what works and what does not. A flexible plan allows you to respond to new knowledge and to changes in staffing, funding, and goals, so that your program evolves in an orderly fashion.