Tag: Strategic Planning

The Importance of Strategic Planning

In any journey we need a GPS, directions and/or a map to reach our destination. Likewise, masjids need strategic plans.

What is a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is a plan that may be 3,5 or a 10 year plan that lays a roadmap for how a masjid intends to grow. A strategic plan outlines everything from the expansion of a masjid, the growth of staff, and the overall objectives/goals of a masjid as a whole Having this information in place allows for masjid boards and leadership to make strategic and intentional decisions to move the masjid growth in a certain direction.

Unfortunately, most majids either don’t have a strategic plan and if they do they aren’t adhering to it as closely as they should. A strategic plan can help guide masjid board decisions in terms of how to use funds effectively and how to make decisions that help in meeting the strategic plan goals. In order to create a strategic plan it is often better to get a professional strategic planner to conduct an intensive strategic planning session to guide masjid boards through the process and help them layout a solid roadmap that meets the needs, objectives and goals of the community.

Having a strategic plan to share with community members also helps in boosting confidence in the masjid board and leadership while providing transparency in the direction the masjid board is taking the community. Strategic plans can also be altered based on new developments, but the general direction should be followed strictly with each masjid board that serves the community. Deviating too much from a strategic plan renders it useless and ineffective.

A great place to start getting a strategic plan for your masjid is the Whitestone Foundation.

10 Mistakes Masjids Make

Building a masjid structure is easy, but are we really building our masjids to last?  If we truly want to see our masjids progress and  grow we need to address the following areas.

1) A Lack of a Clear Mission and Vision Statement

Many times the mission and vision statements of masjids are fluff and lack substance. It may sound great, but if your donor base/target audience is asking itself “Ok, but what exactly do you do and how do you do it?” it’s a problem.  A strong mission and vision statement alone can solve so many problems for masjids. Externally to the target audience and/or donor base it shows you have a strong idea and direction. Internally, in your organization it allows for your staff and volunteers to know what their focus is and what they’re working towards. It can also do wonders in terms of boosting efficiency, morale and work performance of staff and volunteers if they truly understand and buy-in to the mission and vision of your organization.

2) Strategic Planning

The second biggest problem is most masjids fail to do strategic planning. Many think simply starting a masjid is the end all and be all of their work. However, simply starting a masjid is only the beginning. We need to ask the tough questions :

“how will we sustain this operations 10 years down the road?” , “what direction do want to take 10 years down the road?”,  “how and when do we want to expand operations?” , “can we hire staff in the near future and how?” “how will we measure our success and achievements”

Answering these questions and more can solve so many problems in the long term and also can build up confidence, morale and support amongst your target audience, donor base, supporters, staff, and volunteers.

3) Financial Sustainability

Financial sustainability is by far the heart of the problem when it comes to our masjids truly moving forward. It’s unfortunate that we see small staffs in masjids, Muslim organizations and Muslim institutions. Not only is this unsustainable, but it will eventually burn out your staff and make them lose morale, work performance and interest in their jobs. Also, if your staff or board of directors is constantly worried about whether there will be enough money to sustain operations it doesn’t allow them to think at a higher more strategic level to improve operations, services, programs and expansion.

Masjids need to look into self-sustaining financial sustainability models which may include corporate partnerships, real estate investments (residential and commercial), endowments, and other models. If we fail to look for long term financial sustainability for our institutions and organizations we will fail to grow, fail to expand and fail to become more effective in our services and programs.

4) Human Resource Sustainability

By far the most common mistake masjids make is allowing staff or employees to stay in a particular position for more than 10 years. This is a huge mistake and stagnates the growth of an organization or institution. Individuals who are in the same position for over 10 years need to be given a raise, promotion to a higher position or a retirement package or pension. The existence of staff or employees who have been in an organization or institution suffocates growth, expansion and innovation.

This is not to say that individuals who are in organizations or institutions for more than 10 years in the same position are doing awful jobs or their performances are lacking, but more often than not their mere existence in an organization without professional development or growth for them or upward movement in the organizational structure can severely hinder progress, growth, innovation and expansion. If we look at any major sports team the team always recruits and drafts younger players. Similarly, organizations and institutions need to look for top talent for the positions they’re looking for. This means not hiring the “good brother” or “good sister” who everyone says needs a job. Pity hiring isn’t a long term solution nor is it professional.  Organizations and institutions need to hire based on experience, impact, skills and ability.

5) Retention of Talent & High Turnover

This brings us to the next point: losing amazingly talented individuals. Many Muslim institutions and organizations offer awful salaries and you’re lucky to find one that offers benefits. It’s unfortunate that we pay Muslim staff and employees less-than-competitive salaries with no incentives to perform at a high level which in turn impacts performance and the effectiveness of the organization as a whole. Due to this we see high turnover due to the frustration of staff and employees who don’t see any personal or professional growth in the institutions and organizations they are serving. While it is noble to sacrifice oneself for the community and work hard for the community or the target audience it’s not fair to pay less-than-competitive salaries to staff and employees while they can look for better jobs and career opportunities elsewhere.

In order to address this we need to retain talent and offer competitive salaries, benefits and offer professional growth opportunities.

6) A Lack of Transparency

One of the biggest discouraging factors for donors is a lack of transparency. This doesn’t just mean financial transparency, but operational transparency as well. When organizations or institutions lack financial transparency it makes donors think twice if not thrice about donating to you. It also may turn them away altogether from donating to your organization at all.

7) Communication with Community Members/Donors

Most masjids fail miserably with communicating with their community members/donors. This includes simply having a functional website, a functional email that gets checked consistently, an office that is fully staffed, a phone number that works and is answered and lastly keeping up with social media trends and using social media platforms effectively.

8) Quality Control & Accountability

Quality control and accountability is something that as Muslims is a part of our spiritual practice. We are exhorted to do the best job and perform at a high level with attention to detail. Unfortunately, we don’t always see this in our organizations and institutions. This includes keeping staff and board members accountable for their actions and responsibilities, ensuring programs and services are delivered with excellence and ensuring the “customer service” experience for all community members/donors/ is an amicable one.

9) Marketing & PR

Marketing and PR are often the last thing on the list of priorities for the masjid. However, having an effective marketing and PR capacity can help increase financial support, moral with your community members and also increase confidence overall in your organization’s work and brand.

10) Relevancy

Lastly, most masjids have programs, services and projects they feel will be the best for the community however most of the time they miss the mark. Many masjids haven’t done market studies or market research on their target market or end-user/beneficiary. Irrelevancy can lead to a waste of resources and lead to frustration with staff and board members who don’t see results of their hard work and effort. Simply understanding your market is a huge step in being effective in how to strategically deliver your services or programs.

3 Types of Transparency Masjids Need (ASAP)

The Dalai Lama said:
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”

Most masjid boards and leadership’s biggest weaknesses is their lack of transparency. Many donors and community members complain about masjid board’s lack of transparency. A lack of transparency discourages donors from donating and discourages community members from supporting the masjid or even being a part of the community at times.

Transparency doesn’t mean revealing every detail about masjid operations. There is some information that should remain confidential for the protection of the community as a whole (for example employee salaries). However, what is meant by transparency is how funds are being spent, policies and procedures, elections and hiring and firing policies and procedures. A lack of transparency can virtually kill donor and community members’ confidence and develop a deep-seated mistrust  in the masjid board and leadership which will cripple a masjid’s ability to move forward and grow.

There are three types of transparency a masjid needs to have with its donors and community members: financial transparency, operational transparency, and strategic transparency.

Financial Transparency

Transparency at a financial level includes showing how donations and funds are being spent and allocated. This can be as simple as releasing income and expense statements, but doing so in a way where the average community member can understand. Using charts and pie graphs can help immensely. Releasing financial statements that only an accountant or individuals with an finance background would be able to understand really isn’t helpful in helping your average community member understand what’s going on financailly at the masjid.  Keep it simple and easy to understand.

Releasing quarterly financial reports to the community can go a long way in building donor and community members’ confidence in the masjid board and leadership. It also allows donors and community members to keep the masjid board and leadership accountable for their expenditures and allocation of funds.

Operational Transparency

Transparency in operations is critical. This includes clearly outlining what masjid policies have been adopted from everything from how the facility is to be used to how zakat will be collected and distributed. Having a policies and procedures PDF or text available on your masjid’s website can go a long way in clarifying a lot of policy positions that the masjid has adopted or taken. This can help avoid a lot of confusion and problems in the operations of your masjid.

New policies and procedures adopted by the masjid need to be communicated to the masjid via its email newsletter or even at quarterly General Body Meetings with the community.

Strategic Transparency

Communicating strategy and masjid strategic plans to donors and community members can also go a long way as well. Explaining where the masjid board and leadership plan to take the masjid in 5-10 years or more can help build confidence in leadership, but also allows for donors and community members to offer critical insight, feedback, ideas and potentially resources to achieve the goals more effectively and even in less time than planned.

Masjid strategic goals need to be shared with the community on a quarterly basis to report progress and report challenges and obstacles that may be hindering the masjid from reaching its goals. This allows community members to provide feedback, ideas and resources to overcome the obstacles. This also gets community buy-in in the strategic plan and goals of the masjid board and leadership. Empowering community members and making them feel a part of the process goes a long way in building confidence and trust with masjid boards and leadership.

14 Questions We Need to Ask Before Building a Masjid

Many times we get eager and excited to build a masjid. We get excited when the cement foundation is placed and see the walls go up and the roof and get super excited when the masjid is complete. However, prior to even building a masjid the community and the masjid board needs to ask itself a couple of tough questions which if asked prior to the first brick being laid down will help the masjid prosper longer and grow much faster.

1) Why Are we Building a Masjid?

To some this is probably a simple or unnecessary question, but at a very fundamental level it will help keep the community and the masjid board focused for many years to come. It also helps orient the intentions of the community and masjid board to be for the sake of Allah instead of for egos or recognition. A part of this step would be to develop a mission and vision statement for the masjid. These two statements will help the masjid keep focused in achieving its goals.

2)  Are Our Constitution and By-Laws Solid?

Having a strong and clear constitution along with by-laws that are clear and easy to understand can help avoid several problems in the near future for your masjid. Some (if not all) masjids have some pretty awful constitutions and by-laws that are extremely narrow-sighted and short-sighted and limit the ability for the community to grow, function or operate properly.

A well-written constitution and by-laws will take into account the expansion and growth of the masjid and truly understand how to operate the masjid efficiently and effectively. A strong constitution and by-laws are the foundation on which a masjid is built. If the foundation is faulty the operations and execution of services and programs will suffer immensely over time and the masjid will never truly be able to realize its full potential.

 3) Can the Community Afford the Masjid?

Building a masjid is obviously a major expense for the entire community. It’s not easy to gain the funds necessary to build a masjid. Thus, it’s important to see if the community is able to afford the intiail costs of building a masjid.

4) What Facilities in the Masjid are Critical for its Operations?

Sometimes in our efforts to build a masjid we build huge beautiful structures and facilities, but often build masjids that don’t necessarily meet the needs of the community. Building a musallah (prayer area) is an obvious feature of a masjid, but our communities with the way they are developing need a lot more than a simple musallah. We need gyms, babysitting rooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and other facilities critical to the operations of a functioning masjid.

Thus, it becomes important prior to laying the first brick to know the needs of the community and meet those needs while keeping in mind future expansion and growth of your community.

5) Are We Leaving Space for the Masjid Facility to Expand?

Many masjids make the mistake of not leaving enough space land-wise to expand their facility or plan for their community to grow. Thus, in the blueprints or planning of the masjid facility it’s important to plan for the future growth and expansion of your masjid and community. In 5-10 years your community may grow, but will the infrastructure of your masjid grow with it? If not, then you need to begin planning how to accommodate the needs of the community as it grows.

6) How Will the Masjid Operational Costs be Maintained?

Many masjids make the mistake of building huge facilities which the community can more often than not afford to maintain. It’s embarrassing to see masjid fundraisers year after year begging the community to donate or the masjid operations will grind to a halt. Begging year after year for masjid operational costs isn’t just embarrassing and unsustainable, but makes the community lose its confidence in the masjid board and leadership to make smart financial decisions for the community and also make community members question how the donations and funds are being allocated and spent.

7) What is the Long Term Financial Sustainability Plan for the Masjid?

This brings us to the next question: how do you plan to financially sustain the masjid? Masjids in this day and age should not be operating on a fundraising model of depending on donations from the community. There needs to be long-term planning where masjid funds are being spent or invested in opportunities to generate revenue for the masjid operations and expenses. This may include but not be limited to investing in buying rental or commercial properties that can be rented out to gain revenue for the masjid or building an endowment which funds  masjid operations and expenses. Continuously begging and demanding funds from one’s community builds donor fatigue and frustration long-term when the donors don’t see progress.

8) What is the Community Demographic the Masjid will be Serving?

Knowing your community demographics is so important not just in helping you understand what facilities to have in your masjid but also help you develop programs and services that meet the needs of your community. It makes no sense to build a gym when the majority of your community is elderly Muslims in their 60’s or 70’s. Likewise it makes no sense to create programs and services targeting families when the majority of your congregation and community is high school or university students.

Understanding and knowing your community demographics and their needs is critical to building a masjid that is effective in meeting the needs of the community. Conduct surveys or studies on your community to simply understand who you are serving and what their needs are. Getting community input and feedback is critical to becoming an effective masjid. Demographic studies should be conducted every two years to keep pulse about how your community is growing or changing.

9) What will the Role of the Masjid Be?

Masjids have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Every masjid should identify its strengths and play towards it. Strengths may include location of the masjid or certain resources within your community you could use. For example, if your masjid is located in the middle of a city —perhaps your operations, programs and services may need to be different than one located in the suburbs. As for internal resources in your community perhaps you have a lot of doctors who may be able to provide a free healthcare clinic in your city/community.

10) What Services and Programs Will You Provide and How?

The basic obvious services a masjid needs to provide are: prayer, marriage services, zakat collection and distribution, Islamic classes, and funeral services. Beyond this the masjid leadership and community need to figure out what services or programs are needed to serve the community. This would require a survey to be conducted to figure out what the community needs.

11) What is the 5 Year Plan for the Masjid?

A 5 year plan for your masjid can assist and give you a roadmap of where you want your masjid and community to be. Simply keeping a status quo for 10-20+ years makes your community members lose faith and confidence in the masjid board’s ability to make decisions for the betterment and growth of the masjid and community.

12) What are Critical Staff (And Skills) Are Needed to Run the Masjid?

Many masjids simply think an imam is the only position truly needed full time to be a masjid employee, but honestly if we truly understood the needs of the community we would realize that masjids need upwards of 10-15 full-time employees to fully function and be effective. Simply having one imam at a masjid expecting  them to do everything from the adhaan (call to prayer), khutbahs (sermons ), cleaning and maintaining the masjid, conducting classes, and other responsibilities is simply not fair to the imam nor is it sustainable or effective.

There are so many critical services that masjids need to provide. We need to understand the needs of the local communities in which our masjids are built to provide critical services. Full-time staff with the necessary skills need to be hired who are given good salaries, benefits, and incentives to perform at a high-level and truly work towards meeting the needs of the community. High turnover can kill the progress of a masjid’s operations—thus hiring the right employees/staff is important and keeping them happy is critical to keeping operations smooth and consistent.

13) How do we Plan to Build a Community?

This is probably one of the most important of the questions in this list. We can build a beautiful masjid, but having the masjid empty 90% of the year except for Ramadan and jummahs then what’s the purpose of building the masjid in the first place? Our goal should be to have the masjid that is busy with programs and events throughout the week. There should be proactive efforts to build a community  that is inclusive, warm, welcoming and compassionate to all Muslims.
We may invest in beautiful masjid architecture, but do we invest in our communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to help build communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to connect the hearts of the Muslims to the masjid or do we feel that building beautiful masjids with soft carpets and expensive chandeliers are sufficient for our community?

14) Who are Our Neighbors and How Can we Work with Them?

While it’s important to build a community from within it’s also to understand the community that surrounds your masjid as well. If your masjid exists and is built and none of your neighbors know you exist then that’s problematic. Muslims should be known as community-changers and beneficial citizens to the communities in which they live. Your neighbors close to your masjid should be proud and happy that a masjid is being built in their vicinity because they know tha masjids are great resources that produce Muslims who contribute to the communities in which they live.