Strategic Planning for Stronger Community Impact
The Muskingum County Community Foundation (MCCF) has proudly served the people of Zanesville and the surrounding region since 1985. Over the years, MCCF has celebrated countless successes—from promoting educational initiatives to supporting Zanesville’s flourishing arts scene.
A recent shift in the foundation’s leadership gave MCCF the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate its long-term goals. MCCF engaged Benefactor Group to conduct strategic planning and help reimagine the foundation’s vision and role in Muskingum County.
The foundation worked alongside consultants Diana Newman and Ron Guisinger to envision new strategies to meet and anticipate the community’s needs. Drawing insight from community residents, nearby foundations, and local leaders, MCCF and Benefactor Group identified opportunities and issues facing Muskingum County, and they revitalized the foundation’s role in addressing them.
Assessing Effectiveness: An Outward Focus
The strategic planning process began with a series of interviews and focus groups with Muskingum County residents. More than 800 community members participated through online surveys, discussion groups, and one-on-one conversations. They came forth with candid feedback, matters of pride and concern, and ideas for improvement. Through these exchanges, MCCF and the Benefactor Group consultants identified the community’s greatest strengths and challenges—from small-town charm and the scenic natural landscape to concerns about educational achievement and economic growth.
“The foundation’s leadership understands the importance of engaging a broad cross-section of residents in discussions about the envisioned future for Muskingum County,” Diana Newman said, “and people across Muskingum County did not hesitate to provide great suggestions and passionate opinions! Our thanks to everyone.”
Benefactor Group then led a benchmarking exercise to compare MCCF’s successes and strategies with those of similarly sized Ohio foundations. By understanding how other community foundations address common objectives, MCCF leaders were inspired to reevaluate and restructure long-held practices.
Thanks to this period of research and discovery, MCCF was armed with tools to assess its practices and impact effectively. Drawing insight from county residents and comparable organizations, MCCF leaders refined the foundation’s core values and its mission to enhance the quality of life throughout the county.
Innovation from Within
MCCF leaders then came together for a two-day strategic planning retreat to discuss the preliminary findings. “Getting a large board like ours to commit to two full days should show just how much respect we have for Benefactor Group’s process,” said Brian Wagner, CEO of MCCF.
Under the consultants’ guidance, board members engaged in activities, brainstorming sessions, and discussions to solidify the foundation’s identity and vision. “The retreat was fantastic,” added Wagner, “and Ron and Diana kept us engaged and on topic, with plenty of opportunities to explore items from all sides.”
As the Muskingum County Community Foundation plans its next steps, it will continue to rely on the support of its board members, staff, and key constituents within the region. So far, these collective efforts have generated energy and enthusiasm for Muskingum County’s future. With fresh ideas and a revitalized set of goals, the board of directors is poised to adopt a comprehensive strategic plan this spring—a move that will enrich life in Muskingum County for years to come.