Case Study

Find Out…

How SeriousFun Children’s Network built a strategic plan to strengthen their Network of 30 Member Camps and Partner Programs.

The Nonprofit Impact System

The Challenge

SeriousFun Children’s Network (SeriousFun) was started by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman with the vision of creating unforgettable camp experiences where children with serious illnesses could experience the joy, adventure, independence, and friendship of childhood, free of charge. What started as one camp more than 30 years ago has grown into a global network of 30 independently operated Member Camps and Partner Programs serving the needs of children with serious illnesses and their families. 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the camps, children, families and communities the organization serves. In response, SeriousFun wanted to leverage its global footprint, and vast knowledge and experience, to navigate pandemic-related challenges while continuing to grow their impact. They approached Prosper Strategies to facilitate and develop a Network-wide strategic planning process that would effectively engage the SeriousFun board and management team, as well as representatives from their 30 Member Camps and Partner Programs. Like all of our strategic projects, we based our work with SeriousFun on the Nonprofit Impact System, a complete set of tools and approaches to optimize every aspect of a nonprofit for maximum mission impact.

Diagram showing the People element of the Nonprofit Impact System

People

SeriousFun Children’s Network is a global organization that operates as a federated model, supported by a Support Center headquartered in Connecticut. The Network-wide strategic plan was driven by the Support Center management team and board, but needed to be informed by the collective priorities of all SeriousFun camps and programs. Our Shared Power Strategy was central to engaging the right people at the right times throughout the process.

 

We started by identifying the individuals who needed to be integrally involved in strategic planning, which included SeriousFun’s management team and board. 

Then, we identified the groups that would need to be engaged at various points throughout our work together. This included Support Center senior staff, CEOs of each Member Camp; executive directors and CEOs at the organization’s Partner Programs around the world; as well as donors and funders. 

With these stakeholders in mind, we developed a project road map to outline each group’s specific involvement in the process, which ranged from survey participation to stakeholder interviews to inclusion in key strategic meetings and listening sessions. To ensure we had SeriousFun’s board input throughout, we also established a board strategy committee that would provide insights on a more regular basis.

A diagram showing the Strategy element of the Nonprofit Impact System

Strategy

Once we solidified our Shared Power Strategy approach to the strategic planning process, we conducted an organization assessment and an ecosystem assessment.

 

In our organization assessment, we reviewed SeriousFun’s past strategic plans, organization structure, annual reports, financials and other key marketing and fundraising collateral to get up to speed on the organization and its existing priorities.

For our ecosystem assessment, we reviewed the business models, programs, strategic plans and financials of other medical specialty camps and programs, along with those of other organizations operating under an affiliate or federated model, where they had a central or “national” organization that supported a network of independently run organizations.

As it always does, this research uncovered several key insights that served as the foundation for the rest of our work together:

  • Stakeholders and Support Center management team and senior staff were generally in alignment about areas of opportunity for SeriousFun Children’s Network.
  • SeriousFun Children’s Network had the opportunity to lean into the benefits of its network model, but also faced commonly held challenges among these types of organizations.
  • SeriousFun Children’s Network had a unique advantage in that it’s the only decentralized network that serves children with a diversity of serious illnesses and their families at a global scale.

Based on these insights and the input from SeriousFun’s stakeholders, we worked with SeriousFun’s management team and board strategy committee to develop two reason for being statements, one for the Support Center and one for the Network to clearly define the unique impact of each in comparison to others.

seriousfun-reason-for-beings
serious-fun-messaging

We then hosted a series of listening sessions with SeriousFun’s board and Member Camp CEOs to garner input on all of these items before finalizing. 

Following the development of SeriousFun’s foundational strategic elements, we moved on to create SeriousFun’s strategic plan pillars, or its priority goals for 2022-2024. We hosted several strategic workshops where we arrived at the organization’s three year vision, explored the strategic questions we would need to answer to achieve it and prioritized what the Network would need to do to bring it to reality.

serious-fun-strategy
The progress element of the Nonprofit Impact System

Progress

During the progress phase of our work, we facilitated several discussions to assist the Support Center leadership team in developing the objectives and key results (OKRs), or the measurable actions that would take place to bring the plan to reality. Then, we determined who on the SeriousFun team would be responsible for the execution of each pillar, objective and key result, and we provided SeriousFun with a tracking dashboard to assist them in maintaining accountability for the plan. 

Finally, we translated the three-year strategic plan into a one-year activity plan that identified the activities that needed to take place in the first year of the plan to help the organization begin driving toward its goals.

Results

SeriousFun Children’s Network shared their new vision, mission statements, values and strategic plan for SeriousFun’s board vote in December 2021, and it was adopted. The SeriousFun team is now beginning to execute on the course it identified, with critical stakeholder input, for the organization’s next three years.

Could your organization benefit from similar results? Get in touch.