Strategic Institutional Plan
Strategic planning produces a mutually agreed-upon vision of where a museum is going and what it wants to achieve. It ensures this vision meets the needs of its audiences and community and requires that a museum identify how it will obtain the resources to fulfill this vision. A museum should use a comprehensive planning process that engages all relevant stakeholders (governing authority, staff, volunteers, members, community groups, etc.) to set goals and establish strategies by which it will achieve them; to ensure that the museum acquires, develops and allocates its human, financial, and physical resources in a way that advances its mission and sustains its financial viability; to gather appropriate information to guide its actions, including input from stakeholders and data from benchmarking; and to establish measures by which the museum will assess its achievements.
While each museum’s planning documents may look slightly different, this planning process should result in a strategic institutional plan that is multi-year, aligned with the museum’s mission, and contains measurable goals and methods by which the museum can evaluate success. A strong strategic institutional plan includes prioritized action steps, establishes timelines, and assigns responsibilities for implementing the plan. It also assesses and addresses resources needed to see the plan to fruition. It is often supplemented by an implementation or an operating plan that puts the decisions made in the institutional plan into practice. Implementation plans address day-to-day operations or one specific operational area, such as collections, business, development or education.
Museums operated by a parent organization for which museum management is not the primary purpose (e.g., a university, or government agency) are expected to have a museum/site-specific planning process and plan, both of which should be linked to the parent organization’s planning. The parent organization’s planning process and documents should also reflect support for the museum’s mission and ensure that museum/site-specific goals can be achieved.
A Strategic Institutional Plan is a Core Document that supports the Mission and Planning Core Standards.
- Current and multi-year
- Aligned with current mission
- Includes a summary of the planning process
- Articulates a strategic vision and goals as well as actions steps to achieve them
- Covers all relevant areas of museum operations
- Identifies the human and financial resources required to carry out the plan
- Assigns responsibility for completion of action steps
- Includes information about how success will be measured and evaluated
- Bears date approved by the governing authority
Institutions with parent organizations:
- Plan references and aligns with the strategic plan of the parent organization
Museums meet these requirements in different ways. Some incorporate all of the required elements into one document, while others divide it into a document that lists the broad vision and goals and another one with the implementation information (timelines, assignments of responsibility, resource identification, etc.).
Museums Within Non-Museum Parent Organizations
Museums operated by a parent organization for which museum management is not the primary purpose (e.g., a university or government agency) are expected to have a museum and site-specific planning process and plan, both of which should be linked to the parent organization’s planning. The parent organization’s planning process and documents should also reflect support for the museum’s mission and ensure that museum and site-specific goals can be achieved.
- National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums (free PDF copy for all AAM museum members)
- Standards Regarding Institutional Planning
- Secrets of Institutional Planning
- Mastering Your Museum’s Core Documents Toolkit (available for purchase)
- Required Elements of an Institutional Plan (recorded webinar)