Thursday, October 06, 2022

Partners in Planning: A Strategic Planning Approach for Friends Groups

This New York Library Association webinar was focused on "A Strategic Planning Approach for Friends Groups" as they partner with their public libraries. Joy Fuller, who has 10+ year in strategic planning, gave this webinar. She is the author of Strategic Planning for Public Libraries.   

My Summary:

Interesting that most people attending the webinar are familiar with strategic planning. Perhaps what was different for us is seeing explicitly how a library friends group can participate in the library's strategic planning. From Fuller's comments, a friends group can participate from the start - and that is the real lesson. As a library is engaging in strategic planning, it should include its friends right away and keep the friends engaged. This will allow the friends to provide input into and support for the process. In addition, it will ensure that the friends are aligned with the library through the strategic planning life cycle.


Fuller began with two polls:

  • How engaged is your Friends group with your library's strategic planning process?  - 62% of the webinar participants are not directly engaged in their library's strategic planning process.
  • How familiar are we with strategic planning concepts and approaches? - 79% somewhat or very familiar

Why should friends be partners in planning?

  • Enables friends organizations to fulfill their purpose and mission
  • Supports the library's efforts to create a community-focused plan
  • Facilitates ongoing alignment between the library and friends
  • Helps build awareness and membership for friends

In this webinar, Fuller talked about framework and approach.

Four Key Phases

These are common phrases, even if approaches may differ.

1) Prepare for strategic planning

What will the library do?

  • Define governance and approval process
  • Select and organize the core planning team
  • Evaluate the need for external support
  • Develop a project plan and timeline
  • Identify key internal and external stakeholders
  • Prepare a communications plan

Friends might be involved how?

  • Serve as a representative on planning team
  • Receive updates from library on the process and timeline
  • Be included as key stakeholders for continued involvement
  • Support communications plan within the community

2) Conduct community assessment (most mission critical)

What will the library do? Library turns outward in the community to understand how the library can serve the community.

  • Determine data needed for assessment
  • Gather and analyze existing data
  • Conduct conversations with key stakeholders and community members
  • Survey the community 

How might friends be involved? Friends can have a huge impact.

  • Sharing existing data with the library
  • Advise on groups or individuals to include in community conversations
  • Promote participation in library surveys and community conversations
  • Include friends questions in library survey

Benefits for friends: 

  • Directly support and provide input into the strategic plan
  • Outreach opportunity for friends

Case study: Penfield Public Library conducted a community survey as part of their 2021 strategic planning process. The friends included a question in the survey about learning more about becoming a friend of the library.  50+% respondents were interested in working with the friends. One result was new volunteers for their annual book sale.

Tips: Being active in the first phase will help the friends become a part of the survey. Make your questions actionable. Don't use sentiment or awareness questions, because they are less actionable. Limit yourself to 1-2 questions. Have a plan for following up quickly.  Provide actionable options. Help new friends get to know and work with existing friends. Maintain engagement and continue to follow-up.

3) Develop strategic plan content

What will the library do? 

  • Align community assessment with internal capabilities
  • Craft mission, vision, and values statements
    • Mission: The what - purpose & who the organization serves.
    • Vision: The why - what the community could be if the library achieves its mission. Future focused.
    • Values: The how - The norms and behaviors that are encouraged as the organization works towards its mission. They are observable and actionable.
  • Identify strategic priorities and goals
    • Strategic priorities: Broad, high-level area where the library can drive significant impact
    • Goals: Description of what the library will accomplish through the strategic priorities
  • Review the strategic plan with key stakeholders
  • Finalize the strategic plan

How might friends be involved? 

  • Review the plan before it is finalized (for feedback, not approval)
  • Gather library priorities and goals to inform friends priorities
  • Update broader friends group and community
  • User library strategic plan to inform friends' strategic planning


  • Opportunity for the library and friends group to gain alignment
  • Visibility into library strategic priorities and goals that will inform friends initiatives

4) Implement and measure progress - the longest part of the cycle. This is where you see the intertwined partnership with the friends.

 What will the library do? 

  • Create SMART objectives
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-bound
  • Develop an action plan - A list of all the things the library will do over the next one year to advance its strategic goals and objectives.
    • Initiative
    • Ownership
    • Start date
    • End date
  • Measure the success of initiatives
  • Manage and communicate change
  • Integrate continuous improvement

How might friends be involved? 

  • Provide ongoing support of library strategic initiatives in alignment with friends mission
  • Cascade communications to the community
  • Maintain regular cadence of touch-points with the library


  • Supercharges friends core, day-to-day initiatives
  • Helps friends with continued planning and prioritization
  • Ensures consistent messaging with the community

Planning for Friends Groups - what she has present is relevant, however:

  • Identify your friends stakeholders
  • Preview outputs from the library's plan
  • Gather feedback from stakeholders
  • Align friends and library plans 

Resources mentioned during the brief Q&A:

1 comment:

Unknown said...


Thank you so much for this great summary of Joy Fuller’s webinar sponsored by the Friends of Libraries Section of NYLA! We feel so fortunate to have Jill share her expertise on strategic planning with Friends groups, helping to emphasize how these volunteer support organizations can become involved in their libraries’ planning cycle.

I’d like to share that another resource on operating agreements (also known as a Memorandum of Understanding) is posted on the FLS/NYLA webpage under Resources for Friends Groups Supporting Small and Rural Libraries. See the section, The Purpose and Mission of Friends of the Library Organizations.

Lisa C. Wemett, FLS Coordinator for Professional Development