by Peter Baker, ESC Consultant
About the Organization
For 40 years, New Hampshire Peace Action (NH Peace Action) has been educating, organizing, and agitating to build a more peaceful tomorrow. NH Peace Action and their members envision a world in which nuclear disarmament, mutual security, global understanding, international cooperation, and respect for human rights create social, economic, and environmental benefits for all humanity.
NH Peace Action achieves its mission through member and staff driven events, media outreach, and direct briefing of key influencers and decision makers. The organization’s core program focuses on shifting wasteful pentagon spending to the funding of vital human needs, responsible and sustainable foreign relations, and confronting the existential threat posed to the planet and species by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation.
Militarism and war are large existential threats for society and humanity. However, current issues such as climate change and social inequality have come to capture much of the attention and energy for change today. This dynamic helped drive a decline in NH Peace Action’s membership by half over ten years. Current membership’s average age was over 60 with a lack of new, younger members. In addition, funding, while solid, was concentrated without a diversified base, causing concern along with membership age for the long-term outlook for the organization.
In March of 2020, ESC consultants Rebecca Hutchinson, Dan Waintroob, and Peter Baker were engaged to guide NH Peace Action through the development of a strategic plan that would address their declining and aging membership along with funding stability and organizational priorities. The strategic plan would enable the organization to focus on improving audience awareness and concern for their issues and impact, bring younger members into the organization, and increase the level and diversity of funding sources.
How ESC Helped
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic as the project kicked off added extra challenge to meeting the engagement’s goals. After the first in-person meeting, all meetings and working sessions went virtual as stay-at-home orders and social distancing went into effect. Rebecca and the team utilized virtual sessions via Zoom to move the engagement through the strategic planning process. As the engagement progressed, meetings moved from bi-weekly, with seven client members, to weekly, with expanded board participation. Pre-reading and homework helped ensure that virtual meetings were productive and effective with well-prepared board members and staff.
An Environmental Scan was executed by ESC as a first step, utilizing key stakeholder interviews and secondary research that identified issues and opportunities for the organization. The Environmental Scan was completed and presented virtually to the annual membership meeting of over 45 participants using both online, real-time polling and participant discussion to ensure understanding and buy-in by the organization’s members and board.
The Environmental Scan served as a foundation for a Strategic Planning Committee comprised of Board Members, the Executive Director, and ESC consultants to efficiently move through the strategic planning process. The committee produced the core components: mission, vision, SWOT, top Issues, and prioritized goals, strategies and actions. This resulted in a strategic plan for the organization with clear priorities to address challenges and opportunities along with specific actions, ownership, and timing to reach the agreed goals of the strategic plan.
Will Hopkins, Executive Director, NH Peace Action, said of the impact of ESC’s work, “Keeping peace in the public view in the first-in-the-nation primary state is essential to maintaining a healthy democratic nation. Thanks to our work with ESC, we have a shot at doing this better, and surviving longer into the future!”
The strategic plan produced a set of prioritized actions that are helping the organization meet its strategic goals. Highlights:
- Alignment of the board and assigned actions to create position papers and content that focuses on key themes, combining the issues of militarism and war with the current societal issues of climate change and social inequality
- Diversified fundraising plan that steps up asks within NH, and moves beyond the state’s borders by recognizing NH’s unique place in American politics
- Creation of a Messaging Guide that clearly identifies top target audiences, what they care about, and how New Hampshire Peace Action will connect with them for impact
- Development of membership options designed to both enhance commitment to action on key issues and enhance membership fundraising
- Plans to influence and work with other NH organizations that address issues of common interest
- Improved brand identity elements for NHPA to ensure consistency in core message, positioning, and organization/brand identification
Rebecca Hutchinson, ESC Lead Consultant, was able to lead a successful project despite the global pandemic, “I’m delighted to be able to say that while COVID presented a challenge, we were able to forge ahead and complete all three phases of NH Peace Action’s strategic plan within the planned six month timeframe, using Zoom meetings for all our work. It can be done!”
About Will Hopkins
Will Hopkins is a lifelong New Hampshire resident who served for six years in the New Hampshire National Guard. He was decorated for valor during a year-long tour in Iraq as an Infantryman, including the fall 2004 Fallujah offensive. He has served as a national member of the board of directors of Veterans for Peace, as well as the board of NH Peace Action Education Fund before taking over as Executive Director in 2009.