You’re ready to move forward with your association’s strategic planning efforts, but you don’t want to go it alone. You want to hire a facilitator. But where to start?

First, gain some referrals from your peers. Find out whom other associations used to take them through the process.

Next, interview potential facilitators. This can be done in person or by phone. Explain your situation briefly. If in person, try to observe the facilitator’s interpersonal and professional skills. Qualities found in effective facilitators include neutrality, emotional stability and maturity, integrity, and sensitivity. Look also for good interviewing skills, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, ability to listen, ability to define and clarify issues, problem-solving ability, and organization.

Ask the facilitator for a list of clients and for sample strategic plans he/she facilitated. And of course, ask the facilitator for a breakdown of fees. This allows you to pick and choose and pay only for the services you need.

The following questions can help your association make a well-informed decision when selecting a strategic planning facilitator.

  • How have your education and experience prepared you to help facilitate our specific case?
  • Do you participate in continuing education, ongoing supervision, or consultation?
  • What values and goals do you emphasize in your practice?
  • What are the components of your planning package? Can any of those components be purchased separately?
  • How much pre-work do you do, and what kind? For example: leadership survey, pre-session staff conference, structural audit, follow-up
  • What type of "deliverables" (if any), do you provide, other than the plan itself? (e.g., survey results, focus group write-ups, etc.)
  • Will you help us develop benchmarks and performance measures (dashboard) in the process? If so, what is your method for doing this?
  • Do you offer implementation support to help associations maintain their plans? This may be in the form of any or all of the following:
    • Business Plan
    • Tracking methods-benchmarks/performance measures
    • Ways to plan for the unexpected
    • Follow-up conferences or surveys
    • Evaluation tools
  • How can we maintain our strategies in a rapidly changing business environment?
  • Will you encourage the participants to communicate directly with each other, or do you control the interchanges?
  • Do you keep a visible written record of agreements, points of interest, and information needs during the facilitation?
  • Do you have a prior relationship with any of the participants?
  • How involved do you want to be in the meeting logistics? This includes arranging meeting times/locations and preparing agendas and meeting materials. Can you handle some of those details if we don’t have the staff to do it?
  • Do you work as a team with a recorder or alone?
  • How can we keep costs down?
  • Are there any other charges associated with your facilitation?