Strategic Planning Facilitation Services

United States  |   RFP  |   Hybrid

About the Job

Deadline for submission: September 14, 2022

Illinois Humanities is seeking proposals from qualified consultants and consulting firms to facilitate the development of a new strategic plan. The strategic planning process will support staff and board to collaboratively develop consensus on the vision, mission and values of the organization, be grounded by the organization’s commitment to antiracism and equity, diversity and inclusion, outline goals and objectives to guide short, medium, and long-term impact priorities that drive positive social change, and will be informed with meaningful input from a variety of stakeholders.

Requests for Information
Questions related to this RFP should be submitted to Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon at [email protected] with a cc to Administrative Coordinator Madeline Cruz at [email protected] Please specify “RFP for Strategic Planning Facilitation” in the subject line.

Timeline and Key Milestones

  • August 23, 20222 Issue RFP
  • September 14 Deadline for submitting proposals
  • September 15-19 Proposal Review
  • September 21 Notify applicants selected for interviews
  • September 26-28 Applicant interviews
  • October 5 Select and Notify Applicant
  • October 21 Board & Staff Retreat
  • January 2023 Board meeting; board working session
  • April 2023 Board meeting; working session with board and staff
  • June 2023 Draft strategic plan to Executive Committee for review
  • July 2023 Draft to full board for review, discussion
  • October 2023 Mid-October Board Retreat; adopt strategic plan

Scope of Services

Successful applicants will submit a proposal that addresses some – or all – of the following:

  • How they will get to know the organization staff, board, programs, organizational areas, and community of participants and partners
  • A summary of how the applicant would plan for meaningful engagement with stakeholders
  • General approach to consideration of mission, vision, values, organizational development and succession planning
  • How racial and economic equity, diversity, and inclusion inform the overall approach to planning and engagement
  • Approach to internal and external assessments, including plans to collect, review, and analyze quantitative and qualitative data

The proposal must include:

  • The consultant’s experience facilitating strategic planning for nonprofit organizations
  • The consultant’s specific interest in working with Illinois Humanities
  • Support that may be required from Illinois Humanities staff
  • Risks that could take strategic planning off track
  • A list of deliverables the planning process will result in
  • A comprehensive, all-inclusive budget, that takes all expenses into consideration, not to exceed $30,000
  • Biographies of dedicated team members as well as any supporting members
  • Proposed project timeline, which takes into account milestones identified in this RFP

Proposal Contents

In order to be considered, proposals must include the following:

  • Cover letter that includes the contact information for the consultant’s point of contact
  • Consultant/Firm background that includes information about the firm’s organizational structure, years of experience, and description of the approach to strategic planning that will be used to meet the unique needs of Illinois Humanities
  • Examples of relevant experience. This should include similar projects that the firm has completed as outlined in the RFP.
  • References. These must include at least three current or past clients (nonprofits preferred) or names of individuals familiar with your work that can be contacted during the review process
  • Project Overview. Clearly convey the firm’s understanding of the nature of the work ahead and the general approach that will be used to facilitate the strategic planning process.
  • Cost. This section should include a comprehensive list and description of expected expenditures for the work. The budget proposed should include all consultant fees, preparation of deliverables, support for stakeholder engagement, travel, printing, etc.
  • Budget must not exceed $30,000.

Selection Process

A selection team comprised of two board members, the executive director and a member of the staff’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee will review applicants. Applicants deemed to be most highly qualified will be notified of the opportunity to interview by September 21, 2022. The lowest bid is not the primary criterion that will be used for selection.

About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities is the only non-profit in Illinois with a statewide mission to ensure access to the humanities as a means of strengthening the state’s civic fabric. Illinois is rich with academic and cultural institutions, and Illinois Humanities has built strategic relationships with government, educational, and cultural partners. Our programs directly support our mission to activate the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We work to ensure all in our state have access to high-quality humanities programming, particularly communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, small towns and rural communities, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration.

Our offerings include humanities grants and activities in eight program areas divided, broadly, into three categories:

  • Grants and capacity building through which we provide grants to humanities organizations across the state through four grantmaking programs bolstered by community and capacity building.
  • Public programs bring Illinoisians together across lines of geography, ideology, race, and socioeconomic status for constructive, humanities-based discussions to strengthen the state’s civic fabric.
  • Education works to increase access to humanities-based education and educational programming for K-12 students, and adults particularly income eligible adults and teens who might not otherwise have access to college-level humanities courses.

Democracy and community are common themes that emerge across each of our program areas. We enhance our work by engaging over 100 residents each year as grant reviewers, Road Scholars, facilitators, instructors, advisors, evaluators, and board members, thereby ensuring our work is grounded in the values of the public humanities.

Over the last five years Illinois Humanities’ efforts have been instrumental in promoting civic engagement, advancing lifelong humanities learning, and supporting capacity building within humanities organizations. Key accomplishments include:

  • Sustained core programming while launching new initiatives. During the past five years we sustained dynamic humanities programming while initiating a new project, “Envisioning Justice”, to leverage the role of the humanities to address the injustices of mass incarceration.
  • Provided critical support to the humanities and cultural sector during COVID-19. To date, we have provided $2.1M in COVID-relief funding to 372 organizations across Illinois.
  • Bolstered our core competency – grant making – with community and capacity building support. Over the last three years, we have significantly expanded the support we offer to grantee partners. As we disseminated COVID-19 relief funding, we created a new racial equity funding effort and repurposed general operating expenses towards grant making. In addition, we offered grantees a suite of capacity building and technical assistance support.
  • Began to institutionalize our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) through an ongoing three-year partnership with consulting group Social Current to bring an anti-racist and equity framework to all programmatic and organizational operations.
  • Increased our ability to raise funds and garner support by increasing full-time development staff to two and retaining a lobbyist to support state government relations. One recent outcome is an additional $100,000 for Illinois Humanities in the State’s FY23 budget.
  • Invested in communications to more effectively tell our story and amplify the impact of the humanities in Illinois. We have invested in rebranding, increased our social media presence, and worked to increase coverage of our work and that of our partners.

While our financial position is strong and we have strong leadership in place, our budget has grown significantly in recent years, and we are mindful of the challenges that come with growth.

As we look ahead to build on our current position our priorities include:

  • Undertaking a board and staff informed strategic planning process to articulate our vision, values, and mission and guide our investments towards impact.
  • Embedding our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) throughout our operations and organizational systems.
  • Expanding our role as a philanthropic intermediary, particularly for public humanities organizations often left out of traditional philanthropy due to size, capacity, or geography.
  • Advancing community and field building to strengthen the state’s cultural infrastructure. In the year ahead we will actively explore a community hub strategy that could provide loci for humanities programming and strengthen communities regionally.
  • Investing in donor cultivation and retention to grow our donor pool and the proportion of revenue from individual donors to diversify revenue and increase long-term stability.

About the Company

Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.


Budget must not exceed $30,000.

To Apply

Learn more 

Deadline for proposals: September 14, 2022

Interested applicants should submit their proposals no later than 5pm on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 via email to Administrative Coordinator, Madeline Cruz at [email protected] Alternatively, you may attach your cover letter and full proposal at the posting on our Work With Us page at

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