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Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Ultimate Guide + 7 Examples
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Nonprofit strategic planning can help your organization meet challenges effectively and take advantage of new opportunities. Despite the many benefits that strategic planning can bring, 49 percent of nonprofits lack a strategic plan.
Organizations that do have a strategic plan continually express the advantages that this type of preparation gives them. One study found that 86 percent of respondents believed that having a strategic plan positively impacted revenue generation through grants, donors, events and other avenues.
Whether you’re crafting an emergency plan to react to unexpected external circumstances or creating your strategy for the next two to five years, this guide will help your nonprofit get the most out of its strategic plan. We’ll cover:
Nonprofit strategic planning FAQs
Types of nonprofit strategic plans, nonprofit strategic planning template, 5 steps of strategic planning for nonprofits.
- 7 nonprofit strategic plan examples
How donor management and fundraising software can support strategic planning
Annual strategic planning is the key to unlocking your growth potential for the future. Let’s get started.
What is strategic planning for nonprofits?
Nonprofit strategic planning is the process of creating a blueprint that guides an organization for a specified time period and helps accomplish its goals. The strategic planning process involves reflecting on your mission to identify your most important goals and determining the strategies you’ll use to reach them.
A good strategic plan ensures you have charted the necessary pathways to meet (and hopefully exceed) your organization’s goals.
How often should you develop a standard nonprofit strategic plan?
Ideally, every three to five years, your board and staff directors will meet to realign goals and begin the strategic planning process. This plan is a living blueprint based on everyone’s ideas.
What are common misconceptions about nonprofit strategic planning?
When it comes to strategic planning, there are a few common hesitations that nonprofits voice throughout the process. Here are three misconceptions about the process:
- It’s a cliche, but it’s true — you have to spend money to make money. During the strategic planning process, you should identify areas to spend money effectively in ways that increase your fundraising return on investment. When you make strategic purchasing decisions, you can set your organization up to fundraise more productively than ever before.
- Your nonprofit shouldn’t fear experimentation — taking calculated risks fuels innovation and helps you reach your mission more efficiently.
- We recommend that you don’t place board members in charge of setting strategic direction. The board should be tasked with providing oversight of your organization’s strategy, not setting the priorities themselves.
Learn more about common strategic planning misconceptions in this Bloomerang webinar:
How do you begin the nonprofit strategic planning process?
You’ll discuss measurable objectives for the team to reach and draft the priorities for each of these objectives. You may begin with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. This can help you start defining goals and considering which strategic planning model will best work for your organization.
Different circumstances and goals will require different types of nonprofit strategic plans. Choose a strategic planning model based on your nonprofit’s current circumstances, opportunities and threats.
Carefully examine the following strategic model plans to decide which one will best suit your nonprofit’s needs:
Standard Strategic Planning Model
The standard strategic planning model, also known as the basic planning model, vision-based model, goals-based model or conventional model, is the most common nonprofit strategic planning model.
It’s best to use this model when your organization’s external surroundings are generally calm. When you start using this model, the economy is probably stable, your community and country are at peace and your organization is well-established in the community.
Generally, this model follows these steps:
- Define your organization’s mission and goals.
- Set specific, short-term goals you would like to reach to get you closer to those larger goals.
- Create a clear plan to reach short-term goals, including who is responsible for each goal’s success.
- Write these actions down and create a timeline to complete each one.
Here’s an example of what this would look like: Let’s say your organization is an animal shelter. In the next year, your specific short-term goal is to increase the shelter’s capacity by 50 animals and invest in the materials to do so.
To do this, your organization will need to increase fundraising revenue by $10,000 by finding new outreach opportunities and strengthening relationships with existing supporters to increase donor retention.
You may decide to ask one team member to post to social media every day to engage your online audience . Meanwhile, you may assign another person to call new donors to thank them and increase your new donor retention .
This model is the most common because the climate in which your organization resides is, more often than not, fairly stable. When it does become unstable, that means it’s time to switch to a different model.
Issues-Based Strategic Planning Model
An issues-based strategic planning model can be used when your organization’s internal operations are in more turbulent conditions. For example, if you’re undergoing frequent staff turnover, a change in leadership or are understaffed, you may find an issues-based strategic planning model to be the best choice.
This nonprofit strategic planning model helps organizations get back on track if they have strayed from the path to success.
To implement this strategic planning model, complete the following tasks:
- Brainstorm the elements that are holding your organization back from success.
- Decide how to address each of those elements to get your organization back on track.
- Carefully monitor your progress and adjust the strategy accordingly.
Consider the following scenario: Your nonprofit has limited staff and struggles to increase fundraising revenue. You may decide to address this by working with an external fundraising consultant or directing your staff’s attention to building relationships with your most engaged donors who are likely to increase their giving amounts.
An issues-based nonprofit strategic planning model is a living plan. Instead of setting it in stone, set check-in milestones and make adjustments based on your progress and results.
Organic Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model
The organic or nonlinear nonprofit strategic planning model is best when there are uncertain external factors that threaten your nonprofit’s situation.
Using this model, your team members will come together to solidify their understanding of the organization’s mission and goals. Each person then comes up with actionable next steps to help get closer to that goal by the next time the group meets.
Generally, putting this model into practice looks something like this:
- You and your team members go on a retreat to unify your understanding of the organization’s big-picture goals.
- Each team member examines their own strengths and decides on an actionable goal they can achieve based on that strength by a certain date.
- The team meets together again either quarterly or annually (or as frequently as you’d like) to discuss your progress toward each goal and mission impact.
For instance, you may find that one team member, Theo, is especially good at face-to-face communication on the retreat. He’s empathetic and understanding and would be a great candidate for holding meetings with major donors to build relationships with them. He may have a goal to leverage the information in your new donor database to foster relationships and grow major giving by 10% in the coming year.
This model never looks the same for two organizations. Each team member has inherent strengths, so this model is designed to help your nonprofit make the most of your unique strengths.
Real-Time Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model
The real-time nonprofit strategic planning model is useful when your nonprofit is in the midst of a crisis, like an economic recession or national/global catastrophe. The situation could also be limited to your organization. For instance, you might have been the victim of a cyberattack or your headquarters might have been severely damaged in a tornado.
This model relies on an extreme focus on short-term goals that aim to help you weather the storm. Your nonprofit staff members might meet as frequently as every week to discuss your progress toward these short-term goals. The model usually looks like this:
- Your organization frequently meets as a large group to define short-term objectives for individual team members.
- In these team meetings, you discuss whether you’ve met these goals, your day-to-day progress and any roadblocks your organization members face.
- After the crisis period, your organization takes inventory of the progress made or damage done, thanks team members for their hard work and creates a new strategic plan using a different model.
Consider the following situation: You discover that your nonprofit was the victim of a cyberattack that potentially left some donors’ information at risk. In response, you meet with your team to define and align on urgent next steps.
You assign several team members to assess the extent of the attack and summarize their findings into a clear report. Then, you designate other team members to notify impacted donors as quickly as possible about the breach. You outline the steps you’ll take to keep donors’ information more secure in the future and prevent future attacks.
As you can see, these goals are small and manageable in a short time. Goals are created as responses to the direct impact that external forces have on your organization’s internal operations.
Alignment Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model
The alignment nonprofit strategic planning model is best when your organization has great individual departments or team members but has trouble when it comes to communication between these departments.
This model tends to look something like this:
- Your team members meet to learn about the issues each individual faces in their position.
- You re-establish the common mission that everyone on your team is working towards.
- You outline tweaks that your team can use to improve internal communication processes.
For instance, say your organization has an incredible grant writer, an excellent executive director, a communicative and empathetic major gift officer and very capable fundraisers. However, they have trouble communicating with one another about the nonprofit’s goals and what each of them is doing to reach those goals. The result is discord among teams and a lack of progress.
In this case, consider ways to encourage teamwork between members. You may provide an overall fundraising goal for your fundraisers and major gift officer to work on together. Or, you may set up check-in meetings for everyone to meet with the executive director and ensure that the director knows what’s happening in each department and can prioritize their tasks accordingly.
The alignment nonprofit strategic planning model is a great way to set new communication standards and processes to incorporate moving forward as a team.
Before you dive into the strategic planning process, it can be helpful to know what type of plan or report you’re going to end up with. Generally, strategic planning forms look similar to this:
This template outlines all of the essential planning steps that we’ll review in the next section. Here is a high-level overview of what your plan should include:
- Your organization’s mission statement. Your mission statement should dive into why your organization exists. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? How are you different from other organizations? This statement should use precise language but non-finite verbs. This leaves it open for continuous improvement and development of your mission; it will never be complete but always be a work in progress.
- Your primary goals and specific objectives within those goals. Identify priorities for the types of programs and services you’ll offer to support your goals, target audience for your services, target supporter audiences, advocacy and public policy aims and branding or marketing objectives.
- Who is responsible for each objective and what activities they will complete to work toward the objective. You’ll assign each team member a clear role in the process and outline the tasks they will complete that support your overarching goals.
Let’s take a closer look at how to develop each aspect of your strategic plan.
Use these steps to launch the strategic planning process:
1. Set fundraising targets
Use your organization’s budget to determine generally how much you need to raise to achieve your philanthropic goals. Then, outline the strategies you’ll use to acquire that funding.
For example, you may decide to raise:
- 50% of funding from individual contributions to your annual fund
- 20% of funding from your planned giving, legacy and endowment programs
- 20% of funding from corporate giving programs
- 10% of funding from grants
Every nonprofit will have a different breakdown of their fundraising goals based on their current fundraising initiatives and their community’s giving capacity.
2. Get input from key stakeholders
Next, ask your stakeholders for input about your fundraising goals. Provide context for your goals and philanthropic objectives, explain how each will impact your mission, then ask for feedback about the plan.
The different stakeholders you should reach out to include:
- Board members
- Staff members
- Key corporate and community partners
- A fundraising consultant
Running the plan by everyone will help you make sure that the goals you’ve set are achievable and manageable for your team.
Stakeholders might raise the alarm if your fundraising amount is drastically different from last year or if you’re relying on strategies that have been ineffective in the past.
For example, let’s say your nonprofit has a good track record with grant writing. You’ve won 80% of the grants you’ve applied for, so you decide to dedicate a large portion of your fundraising revenue plan to be raised using grant money. Seems reasonable, right?
Well, your grant writer may bring up the valid point that you’ve only been that successful because you’re incredibly picky about the type of grant you apply for. While the percentage looks impressive, there aren’t enough grants out there to meet the goal you’ve set. This is great insight and enables you to switch up your strategy to be as successful as possible.
3. Determine your key fundraising and marketing strategies
You may consider doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of your past fundraising to better understand what areas you’re already strong in and what could be improved.
This chart can help you outline your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats clearly and concisely:
Some of the fundraising and marketing strategies your organization should take into consideration include:
- Major gift fundraising . Major gift fundraising likely makes up a large portion of your proceeds. If it doesn’t already, this is one area of your strategy you’ll want to improve.
- Donor-centric stewardship . Donor stewardship leads to better retention rates and better fundraising results down the line. This ties in well with your marketing strategy and ensures you’re communicating regularly and effectively with donors.
- New donor acquisition and retention . The second donation a donor gives is the “golden donation” because most donors lapse after the first gift. After the “golden donation,” there’s about a 60% chance they’ll give again.
- Online fundraising . While more revenue probably comes from in-person conversations with major donors, most of your donors probably prefer to give online. It’s convenient so long as your fundraising page is well-optimized.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising . Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great strategy to attract new donors while raising additional funds from your committed supporters. Leverage the power of your social networks to raise funds using this avenue.
- Monthly giving . Recurring gifts are essential because they’re a consistent source of revenue. If someone sets up a recurring gift, you can probably count on that gift being given for an extended period and account for that in your future budget.
Assign areas that need improvement a lower fundraising target than the aspects of your strategy where you already know you’re strong. This way, you can try out different strategies to make these elements stronger without as much pressure.
For example, if you know your nonprofit has an incredible major giving program, specify that a larger portion of your fundraising will likely come from this avenue. If you know that you could use improvement on your new donor retention rates, you might set that at a lower goal and use this as an opportunity to try out new things like calling new donors and setting up a welcome email series.
4. Establish SMART objectives
When you set your fundraising goals, make sure they’re SMART:
- Specific: Target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable: Quantifiable
- Attainable: Achievable based on your past successes
- Realistic: Reasonable based on your available resources
- Time-based: Aligned with a specific time frame
For example, let’s say you have a specific goal for increasing individual contributions to your annual fund.
Here are a few examples of SMART goals that target this objective:
- Acquire 500 new donors through your online fundraising page within a year.
- Call 100% of the new donors who give within 90 days of their gift.
- Acquire 200 new donors through a 2-week peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
- Expand your monthly giving program by 100 donors within a year.
- Retain 70% of donors from last year.
These goals include specific numbers and time frames to help orient your strategic planning around quantifiable metrics.
5. Choose tactics to support each objective
Use reporting tools in your donor management system and marketing platforms to help keep your team accountable for reaching your goals.
Assign each team member an individual role that they’re responsible for. Here’s an example of a chart that clearly defines each activity, the staff member accountable for the task and the deadline:
When everyone is clearly aware of their role at the organization and how their actions will impact the mission at large, you’ll make sure everything gets done. Plus, everyone will have a sense of purpose as a part of the team.
In addition to assigning team member roles, you can also automate certain processes to free up more staff time. For example, if you used to send out the monthly newsletter manually or personally manage every social media post, consider investing in new marketing software as part of your strategic plan.
Ask yourself some of the following questions.
- What areas of our work do we need more time for?
- What can we automate?
- Who at our organization has repetitive tasks that take time away from more important activities?
Sometimes the answer to these questions leads you to invest in new nonprofit software like a new CRM to automate donor engagement efforts or volunteer management tools to streamline volunteer scheduling.
7 Nonprofit Strategic Plan Examples
Here are links to some strategic plans from other nonprofit organizations for you to analyze and consider while you plan your own:
1. The Denver Foundation’s 2021 Strategic Framework
The Denver Foundation is a community nonprofit foundation committed to strengthening the Metro Denver area.
The organization’s 2021 strategic framework was written to provide guidance for a decade — a longer period than a typical strategic plan. This extended time frame means the document is intended to be a living, flexible blueprint that will evolve as the community’s needs change.
The strategic plan is outlined in a user-friendly online booklet that clearly displays the organization’s mission, vision, purpose and values. It also details new policies, such as a new donor management approach, priority service areas and the organization’s business model.
This represents an example of a more far-reaching plan that will help the organization develop a long-term approach to reaching its mission.
2. Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles 2022-2023 Strategic Plan
The Girl Scouts organization provides programming and leadership training for girls in communities across the country and worldwide.
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles outlined a strategic plan for 2022-2023 . On the online web page, the organization points out five strategic priorities. This helps interested readers get a quick overview of the organization’s most important plans before diving into the full report.
In the complete plan, each priority also includes information about specific initiatives to support the goal and the intended outcome of each objective. This helps audience members understand the actions they should expect to see from the organization over the coming months.
3. Habitat for Humanity Australia Strategic Plan 2021-2024
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to provide affordable housing to families in need around the globe.
The organization’s Australian branch published a strategic plan for 2021-2024 that aligns a vision for the country’s programs with the organization’s overarching international activities.
The plan also includes a visually-engaging strategic pyramid that depicts how the strategic plan fits into Habitat for Humanity’s purpose, mission, vision and principles. This can help readers visualize how each element of the strategic plan is like a puzzle piece that helps build the full picture of the organization’s efforts.
4. Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta Strategic Plan 2021-2025
Boys & Girls Club of America is dedicated to providing enriching after-school programs for kids and teens. The Metro Atlanta chapter’s 2021-2025 strategic plan outlines plans to reach more kids, grow their supporter base and improve diversity and inclusion.
The plan includes five main focus areas, each with a few specific objectives, along with specific quantifiable goals. The plan also incorporates a timeline chart depicting when each goal is projected to be completed.
This level of specificity is essential for staying on target and reaching goals effectively.
5. SAMHSA’s 2023-2026 Strategic Plan
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a U.S. government agency established to make mental health and substance abuse help and resources more readily available.
The organization’s 2023-2026 strategic plan is oriented around four guiding principles: equity, trauma-informed approaches, commitment to data and evidence and recovery.
The plan includes plenty of data and research to explain why each principle was chosen. It also highlights five priorities for this three-year period that will help bring each principle to life.
6. The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania and Delaware Strategic Roadmap
The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to promote worldwide conservation efforts. The Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter released a strategic plan for 2022-2024 that illustrates how the chapter will take local actions to support the overarching mission.
The plan is organized into sections based on strategic priority or geographic location. Critically, it includes information about how the chapter will scale up its conservation efforts and how donors, partners and volunteers can support each effort. This brings supporters into the conversation and helps them envision the steps they can take to have an impact on the mission.
7. UNICEF Strategic Plan 2022-2025
UNICEF is a United Nations Agency devoted to providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide.
The 2022-2025 strategic plan starts with an informational overview of the progress that has been made along with challenges that children face around the world. Next, the plan details strategic shifts that the organization is currently taking, along with five goal areas.
The plan ends with a detailed roadmap chart of each principle and objective and the target completion dates.
Donor management and fundraising software (like Bloomerang !) can offer plenty of support throughout your entire strategic planning process. Here are just a few of the ways you can use integrated donor management and fundraising software to streamline your planning:
- Review data analytics and reports to understand your nonprofit’s current fundraising and donor engagement situation. Use this information to understand what’s going well and where there is room for improvement.
- Set goals and assess progress made toward them. Using your software, you can establish goals and assign team members to take charge of each task.
- Improve your supporter outreach. Strengthen donor and corporate partnerships throughout your strategic planning work by using your donor management software to create communication segments and campaigns.
- Identify prospective major or recurring donors. With a donor management platform like Bloomerang , your CRM will automatically identify highly engaged donors who are likely to upgrade their giving amount or frequency.
Interested in seeing what these activities look like in practice? Schedule a Bloomerang demo today for a personalized look at how our nonprofit software solutions can support your organization’s strategic plan.
Don’t just check off the “strategic plan” box for your nonprofit. Instead, use the information and resources in this guide to create a comprehensive and valuable plan that you’ll use to grow your organization.
Want to learn more about effective planning and nonprofit management? Check out these additional resources:
- The Essential Guide to Writing a Fundraising Plan . Your nonprofit’s fundraising approach will be greatly influenced by your strategic plan. This resource will help you develop a clear fundraising plan to support your strategic planning.
- Online Fundraising | Ultimate Success Guide + Tips and Ideas . Your strategic plan should outline your digital fundraising initiatives for the years ahead. Use this online fundraising guide to amplify those efforts!
- 16 Top Donor Management Software Solutions (+ Buyer’s Guide) . Donor management software can help provide insights that fuel your strategic plan. This guide highlights 16 donor management solutions to consider.
Discover How Our Donor Management Software Can Empower Your Fundraising Strategy.
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Strategic Planning for Nonprofits
A strategic planning process identifies strategies that will best enable a nonprofit to advance its mission. Ideally, as staff and board engage in the process, they commit to measurable goals, approve priorities for implementation, and also make a plan to revisit the strategy on an ongoing basis as the internal and external environments change.
Many nonprofits start the process by identifying the nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats, in what is commonly called a “SWOT” analysis. Looking at external factors (community needs or the economic outlook, for example) as well as internal capacity is important.
Looking ahead and planning for the future actually should be continuous: as various factors change, the nonprofit may need to adjust its plans. While the process of bringing everyone together to plan for the future is energizing, once the process is in the rearview mirror, don’t let the plan gather dust on the shelf. If no one refers to the plan after it is completed, then it’s hardly serving as a “strategic” guide! Revisit the plan periodically, making adjustments and adapting the plan as circumstances change.
Some have argued for throwing out the “plan” completely, or reducing it to a very short, concise document, easily digestible by staff and board. Articulating an organization's "theory of change" is another way to think about what success will look like, how to get there, and what resources will be needed. There are hundreds of consultants and volumes of written materials just on strategic planning, and many others that help nonprofits develop a theory of change. We've selected just a few for you below.
Your state association of nonprofits may also offer educational programs and workshops throughout the year to assist your nonprofit with proactive planning. Plus, staying current with trends and policy issues that affect nonprofit operations is key to being prepared to adapt to a changing environment.
A good way to keep your nonprofit’s board engaged is to tie the nonprofit's strategic initiatives to the agenda for board meetings, and to include a short discussion about some aspect of the nonprofit’s strategic direction in every board meeting agenda.
Strategy is one of the board's most important roles. BoardSource offers an array of resources to help boards engage fruitfully in strategic planning.
More About Planning
- Budgeting for Nonprofits
- Business Planning for Nonprofits
- Financial Management
- Sample strategic agenda for a board meeting
- Sample Timeline for Strategic Planning (Washington Nonprofits)
- BoardSource's strategic planning resources for nonprofit boards
- The Strategic Plan is Dead: Long Live Strategy (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
- The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World (David La Piana)
Disclaimer: Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be nor should be construed as legal, accounting, tax, investment, or financial advice. Please consult a professional (attorney, accountant, tax advisor) for the latest and most accurate information. The National Council of Nonprofits makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.
Free Strategic Plan Templates for Nonprofits
By Joe Weller | June 1, 2023
In this article, you’ll find a collection of the most helpful strategic plan templates for nonprofits in Google Docs and Microsoft Word formats. These templates are customizable and unique.
On this page, you’ll find a sample strategic plan template for nonprofits that includes a section for measuring your success , step-by-step instructions for creating a nonprofit strategic plan , the benefits of using a strategic plan template , the key differences between a strategic plan and a business plan , and 12 PDF examples of nonprofit strategic plans .
Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template for Microsoft Word
Download the Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template for Microsoft Word
Whether your goal is to increase profits or reach a wider audience, this template gives you the tools for success. Introduce your organization by briefly describing its origin, impact, and focus. Next, fill in the mission statement, vision statement, and core values sections. Collectively, this information builds a foundation for future goal setting. Then you can focus on documenting the direction of your nonprofit by completing the goals section. This section includes space for action steps and metrics that you can use to track progress.
Check out this wide variety of free strategic planning templates to help you meet your strategic goals.
Basic Nonprofit 5-Year Strategic Plan Template
Download a Basic Nonprofit 5-Year Strategic Plan Template for Microsoft Word | Google Docs
Use this simple nonprofit strategic plan template to document your organization’s goals over the next five years. This template provides space for all the functional areas of a nonprofit, including finance, marketing, community engagement, and operations. The template is customizable, so you can remove columns if you need to shorten the timeline or add goal categories to better align with your overall strategy.
Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits for Microsoft Word
Download the Sample Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits for Microsoft Word Download the Blank Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits for Microsoft Word
This nonprofit strategic plan template helps you clearly define all aspects of your nonprofit, from background and values to development and budget. One version includes sample data that you can use as a guide for your own organization. Complete the SWOT analysis section to gain a better understanding of which areas of your group require attention. You can also use the template to measure your success in order to stay on track. Moreover, you can use this tool to conduct a retrospective concerning your past growth initiatives.
What Is a Nonprofit Strategic Plan?
A nonprofit strategic plan is a well-researched approach for planning and accomplishing goals over a three-to-five-year timeline. An organization uses its mission and vision statements as a foundation for establishing growth targets.
Common targets include reaching new markets, offering new products, or recruiting more volunteers. A nonprofit strategic plan paints a picture of your organization’s potential future and enumerates the steps you need to take to get there.
In addition to a nonprofit plan, you should use a marketing plan. Check out these free nonprofit marketing plan templates and SMART goals for more information.
How to Create a Nonprofit Strategic Plan Outline
In order to create a successful nonprofit strategic plan, you must identify a set of essential elements in a specific sequence. First, define your organization, then in a series of steps, explain what it will accomplish in the future.
For more information, check out this comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan .
Make sure to address all the elements from the list below in order to develop a successful and streamlined strategic plan.
- Who you are
- What you do
- Mission statement
- Vision statement
- Core values
- Board of directors
- Why they’re important
- Action steps
- Success metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Start and end dates
- Key stakeholders
How to Create a Nonprofit Strategic Plan
Creating a nonprofit strategic plan starts with a desire to grow or improve your organization. Bringing together your key decision makers is the first step toward setting your organization’s future goals.
Check out this example of a long-term nonprofit strategic plan for more information. You can also learn how to plan for and use strategic frameworks and models to boost your strategy.
Follow the steps below to create a detailed and effective strategic plan.
- Build a Strategic Planning Committee Start by identifying committee members. This is the group of people who evaluate the current position of the organization and make decisions about its growth. Committee members typically include board members, key personnel from different departments, a facilitator (internal or external), and stakeholders. It’s best to keep the committee small and make sure that roles are well defined.
- Identify Areas for Development and Growth Determine where you want to focus your strategy. Use strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis to pinpoint the most important thing your organization needs in order to advance. Check out this SWOT analysis template for more information. In addition, ask board members and other key players for their input regarding the future direction of your organization.
- Set Goals for 3 to 5 Years from Now Identify the areas in which you want your organization to improve or grow. Example goals include establishing more partnerships, increasing advocacy, and raising more funds. Once you know your goals, you need to develop the action steps to reach them. Include metrics and performance indicators, so you can easily track progress. Include a budget to make sure that the organization doesn’t overspend.
- Research Determine the resources you need to accomplish your goals. Execute this step by researching the goal-setting processes of your competitors. In addition, review your organization's past strategic plans. Performing these steps allows you to see how the organization arrived at its current status.
- Develop an Action Plan Formulate action steps for each goal. Present your plan to stakeholders and ask them for feedback. Be sure to allot enough time for each action step, so you can reach all of your long-term goals. Check out this additional information about building action plans .
- Implement the Plan After you document the plan, put the systems and processes in place. Assign responsibilities and tasks to the appropriate people to ensure accountability. Follow your timeline so that you stay on track. Review your KPIs regularly to guarantee that you’re reaching your short-term targets.
Why You Should Use a Strategic Plan Template
A strategic plan template provides a number of benefits: It offers a transparent, coherent timeline for the planning process; delineates the goals of the plan and any related actions, strategies, and tactics; and facilitates overall success.
Following are the additional benefits of using a strategic plan:
- Aligns staff members and stakeholders
- Boosts operational efficiency
- Helps inform decision making
- Increases employee satisfaction
- Manages expectations
- Provides a reference point for other nonprofits
- Stimulates collaboration
Nonprofit Strategic Plan vs. Nonprofit Business Plan
A strategic plan is a high-level outline of an organization’s future goals and a description of the specific steps needed to achieve such goals. A business plan focuses on establishing the details of the organization’s operations, production, sales, and marketing.
The image below provides a quick glance at the differences between a strategic plan and a business plan. Check out this additional information about nonprofit business plans .
12 PDF Examples of Nonprofit Strategic Plans
The wide range of nonprofit strategic plans that are available to the public act as an invaluable resource for startup nonprofit organizations. These plans help new nonprofits understand how to structure and specify their own strategic plans.
The list below includes 12 categories of nonprofits, each representing a distinct industry and mission. Select a link to view a specific strategic plan and gain insight into how different organizations carry out their missions.
- Cultural Nonprofit Strategic Plan: With offices in Washington, D.C.; Suitland, Md.; and New York City, the Smithsonian runs the National Museum of the American Indian. Here is the organization’s current strategic plan: National Museum of the American Indian Strategic Plan 2022-2026 .
- Domestic Needs Nonprofit Strategic Plan: With the goals of increasing membership, revenue, and diversity, the American Red Cross created this plan: American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Strategic Plan 2020-2023.
- Education Nonprofit Strategic Plan: The Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, which focuses on the concept that “investing in our children today strengthens our community tomorrow,” offers this plan: Foundation for Orange County Public Schools Strategic Plan 2020-2025 .
- Faith-Based Nonprofit Strategic Plan: The Evangelical Alliance shares this plan on its website: Evangelical Alliance Strategic Plan 2021-2024 .
- Environmental/Animal Nonprofit Strategic Plan: The World Wildlife Fund is the world’s largest conservation organization. Here is its Colombia-specific plan: World Wildlife Fund Colombia Strategic Plan 2020-2025 .
- Health Nonprofit Strategic Plan: Established in 2011, the Center for Global Health (CGH) is part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Here is the CGH’s plan: Center for Global Health Strategic Plan 2021-2025 .
- Human Services Nonprofit Strategic Plan: With a mission to “improve the lives of people with disabilities or other disadvantages,” Goodwill of Northwest Ohio shares this strategic plan on its website: Goodwill of Northwest Ohio, Inc. Strategic Plan 2016-2019 .
- International Needs Nonprofit Strategic Plan: Striving for "a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live," Habitat for Humanity lays out its plan on its website: Habitat for Humanity Strategic Plan 2021-2024 .
- Medical Nonprofit Strategic Plan: As Canada’s leading integrated health system, Sinai Health follows this strategic plan: Sinai Health Strategic Plan 2020-2025 .
- Public Affairs Nonprofit Strategic Plan: The ACLU of Ohio adheres to this plan: ACLU of Ohio Strategic Plan 2021-2024 .
- Social Justice Nonprofit Strategic Plan: Human Rights Watch “conducts fact-finding investigations of human rights abuses and monitors various countries to ensure they are not in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).” Here is the organization’s plan: Human Rights Watch Strategic Plan 2021-2023 .
- Youth Nonprofit Strategic Plan: Igniting “the unlimited potential of kids and teens by creating safe, inclusive, and engaging environments,” Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta created this plan: Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta Strategic Plan 2021-2025.
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Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Your Complete Guide
by Funding For Good | Jan 23, 2023 | Strategic Planning
Every nonprofit could benefit from a strategic plan. Funders are increasingly asking to see organizations’ strategic plans. Talented staff and potential hires are increasingly eager to work with organizations that have clear and compelling visions. And, as leaders, we’re all looking to increase our organization’s impact.
A nonprofit strategic plan can provide all these benefits and more. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of strategic planning, how nonprofit strategic planning differs from the private sector, and how to make sure your organization’s planning process is successful.
- What is a nonprofit strategic plan?
- Does my nonprofit need a strategic plan?
- The nonprofit strategic planning process: what to expect
What is a Nonprofit Strategic Plan?
A nonprofit strategic plan is a written roadmap for where an organization is going, how it will get there, and specific ways to determine if the organization has “arrived” at the destination. A strategic plan is the result of a process designed to create a shared vision and strategic alignment across organizational stakeholders.
This last part is especially critical for nonprofit organizations. Strategic planning isn’t solely about the written plan. It’s about building consensus across your board, staff, and other stakeholders, so that your team is focused, driven and ready to increase impact.
The process of strategic planning is designed to create shared vision and strategic alignment across organizational stakeholders.
A written plan can be put on a shelf and forgotten. But it’s nearly impossible to set aside a shared vision for the future when your board and staff are deeply invested.
Is your nonprofit ready for strategic planning?
How is nonprofit strategic planning different from the private sector?
Though we don’t often think of nonprofits as businesses, they actually are. Nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model .
Even if there’s no profit involved, nonprofit leaders still need to understand how to run a business . This includes balancing income and expenses, managing risk, securing appropriate insurance, bookkeeping and financial controls, ensuring adequate human resources support, managing staff, deciding where to invest and where to pull back, and more.
But nonprofits are also different from for-profit businesses in a few ways that affect the strategic planning process:
Nonprofit vision and mission
Nonprofit organizations exist to carry out a vision and mission to make a specific impact externally in the world. While organizations need to make sure they can afford costs, there is no profit motive and no shareholders to satisfy. Which is why vision and mission should drive every aspect of nonprofit strategic planning.
Read more: What Happens When Nonprofit Business Plans Stray from an Organization’s Mission?
Nonprofit staff motivation and expectations
People generally work in nonprofit organizations because they want to contribute to change. Nonprofit staffers may even trade higher salaries in the private sector. This can mean that staff bring different expectations to working in nonprofit organizations. Staff want to be engaged in decision-making. They want to consistently feel like their work is contributing to a greater good. They want to feel supported in their career growth. All of which means that nonprofit leaders will need to think very intentionally about how staff are engaged in and connected to a strategic planning process.
Read more: Engaging Staff in Strategic Planning
Fundraising is one of the most essential functions in any organization. Unlike for-profit businesses, nonprofits generally raise the bulk of their income not from selling products or services, but from individual and institutional donors. This can include grants, major gifts, small dollar donations, endowed gifts, and more. In return for their contribution, donors expect to see an organization make an impact in the world. Which is why strategic planning can be especially helpful for nonprofits, as it spells out an inspiring, impact-driven, long-term vision.
Read more: 5 Ways to Boost Fundraising with a Strategic Plan
Role of the nonprofit board
The majority of nonprofit boards are non-paying positions. Yet nonprofit boards are responsible for over an incredible amount of oversight. This means that, like staff, board members will be attracted by vision and mission. Unlike for-profit boards, which are thinking about shareholders, a nonprofit board is primarily focused on ensuring an organization is able to fulfill its vision and mission. Nonprofit board members should thus be deeply involved in strategic planning.
Read more: What is Nonprofit Governance and Why Does it Matter?
Does My Nonprofit Need a Strategic Plan?
Studies consistently show that organizations with a written plan double their likelihood of success. Yet according to research, only half of nonprofits have a strategic plan . Among those organizations that do have strategic plans, too few actually put them to use.
Investing in a strategic planning process is one of the most important things you can do to boost your organization’s impact and chance of success.
Whether your nonprofit is new or established, growing or struggling, a strategic plan can position your organization to thrive.
Are you ready to build a sustainable, impactful organization?
Why is strategic planning important for nonprofits?
Running a nonprofit organization is not easy. Many nonprofits operate on lean budgets. Leaders wear multiple hats. Staff are often overwhelmed, filling multiple roles in order to meet program deliverables (and secure that next grant). Board members are volunteers, often with their own careers to manage.
Adding strategic planning to the mix can feel overwhelming. Which is why many nonprofit leaders wonder: Is strategic planning worth doing?
Strategic planning does require both financial resources and time from staff and board leadership. But research and first-hand experience working with dozens of nonprofits shows that there are incredible benefits to nonprofit strategic planning.
- Save time by getting aligned: The strategic planning process brings together board and staff leadership to co-create a vision for your organization’s future. This includes strategic direction, programmatic and financial priorities, and measures for success. Because the process itself is based on consensus building, it creates valuable buy-in—which will ultimately save time and reduce friction.
- Save money with smarter spending: Your strategic plan will make clear where you need to invest to achieve your 3-5-year goals. This saves you from spending precious resources in non-core areas. And because your plan includes measures of success, you’ll be better able to assess when spending is paying off, and when it isn’t, enabling you to quickly course correct.
- Get your team invested: Did you know that 95% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy ? At the same time, one of the top things workers find demotivating is “ a lack of meaning in their work .” A strategic planning process that engages employees and creates buy-in can transform how staff members feel about their day-to-day work. A strategic plan that employees feel invested in can re-energize your team, break down silos, and increase productivity.
- Boost your impact: A strong strategic plan leaves no doubt about what your organization is trying to accomplish. Combining ambitious goals with actionable strategies, your plan will be designed to increase your success. For nonprofits, this means increasing both impact and sustainability. By providing clear benchmarks, your plan will also help you better evaluate your progress toward goals—catching challenges before they become costly missteps.
- Raise more money: Donors want to invest in organizations with a strong vision, a commitment to sustainability, and a focus on creating and measuring impact. Which is exactly what a strategic plan provides. In addition to directly sharing your strategic plan with major contributors, your fundraising staff can repurpose it into language for grant proposals and supporter emails. Quarterly strategic plan progress reports for the board can be quickly transformed into compelling impact reports for donors. A strategic plan is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your development team.
- Kickstart strategic decision-making: A strategic plan is more than simply a document. It’s a tool that should guide nonprofit board and staff leaders in making strategic decisions. Whether it’s which programs to expand or which to cut, a strategic plan spells out a set of shared values and priorities. So instead of debating major decisions from scratch each time, your team can align more quickly by asking: Which choice will best advance our organization’s stated goals and values?
While it’s easy to think of a nonprofit strategic plan in terms of how much it will cost, strategic planning isn’t simply a line item in a budget. It’s an investment in your organization’s future.
The real question nonprofit leaders should be asking is: Can my organization afford to keep operating WITHOUT a strategic plan?
How is strategic planning different from other planning?
Nonprofit leaders often feel like they’re swimming in plans. At any given moment, we’re either creating, editing or approving annual plans, department plans, and project plans. We hone our mission statements. We work with development or marketing staff to refine proposals and brochures. And that doesn’t even include the individual development plans we craft with our direct reports.
But despite all this planning, leaders and staff can still end up feeling rudderless. That’s a sure sign that you’re spending time on the wrong plans or creating your plans in the wrong order.
Start with a strategic plan
A nonprofit strategic plan is a roadmap for where you’re going—and the types of plans you need to create to get there. Your strategic plan does four important things that other plans are simply not designed to do:
- Provide a 3-5-year vision for your nonprofit, including goals, objectives and benchmarks to evaluate success.
- Articulate an overarching strategy for the organization as a whole. Each program, project and department within your organization needs to be contributing to the organization’s overall goals.
- Align stakeholders on a shared vision for success. This includes your board of directors and staff leadership from every single department.
- Guide decision-making at all levels of the organization.
Once you have a strategic plan in place, then annual plans, project plans, proposals and more will all flow from that overarching vision.
Annual plan vs strategic plan
Ideally, your annual plans will flow from your strategic plan. A strategic plan covers a 3-5-year period, with a focus on a clear vision and roadmap to get there. In contrast, annual planning is about the nuts and bolts of how you’ll be implementing your strategic plan in a given year, including who is responsible for specific deliverables.
Your annual plans will also go into more depth about the ongoing activities that keep the organization operating, but aren’t necessarily detailed in your strategic plan. Consider bringing the same curious and creative approach you used in the strategic planning process to assess these ongoing functions. Is there a way to handle basics like budgeting and bill payment more effectively and efficiently?
Read more: What is an Annual Plan vs a Strategic Plan?
Project plan vs strategic plan
Where a strategic plan covers vision and strategy for an organization overall, a project plan focuses on goals, objectives, activities, and outcomes for an individual project. The scope of project plans varies significantly. A single project plan could cover anywhere from two weeks to two years, and involve one person or dozens. The key to a successful project plan is making sure that everyone involved in the project understands their individual roles, deliverables, and deadlines.
Once you’ve created your strategic plan, you’ll likely need many project plans as you start implementation. For example, as part of a goal to increase small dollar donations, you’ll need a project plan for your year-end appeal, as well as ongoing donor communications. If you’re organizing events, you’ll certainly need project plans for those. And if you’re executing on organizational changes that will affect staff, such as shifting to a four-day workweek, a project plan will be critical.
Read more: What is a Project Plan vs a Strategic Plan?
Prospectus vs strategic plan
A prospectus is a printed booklet or brochure that serves as a promotional piece. In the nonprofit sector we tend to think of this as a marketing piece. We might call them “one-pagers,” “collateral,” or the “leave behinds” for a donor meeting.
Regardless of the name, a prospectus is the abridged, polished, and outward-facing version of your strategic plan. It’s the kind of language you use on the “about us” or “what we do” pages of your websites.
Ideally, once you have a new strategic plan, you’ll start updating all of these various materials to reflect your organization’s updated vision, direction, and impact goals. Just keep in mind that, where your strategic plan might delve explicitly into internal organizational changes , a prospectus or similar materials will focus on external impact .
The Nonprofit Strategic Planning Process
What are the steps in nonprofit strategic planning.
Many nonprofits choose to work with a consultant for their strategic planning. This enables board and staff leadership to focus on strategy, rather than running a planning process. It’s also especially helpful to have a skilled consultant who can advise on how to best engage staff members. As a neutral third party, consultants can garner unexpected insights from staff and other stakeholders through surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups.
When working with a consultant, your strategic planning process should include at least three steps:
- Step One: Preparation. This is the getting started phase. Your consultant will create a work plan and timeline, set roles and expectations, gather and analyze stakeholder input, conduct an organizational assessment to identify internal and external challenges and opportunities, and ensure that the organization’s vision and mission are clear.
- Step Two: Strategic planning sessions or retreat. This is where the real consensus-building work happens. Your strategic planning consultant will facilitate one or more intensive strategy sessions with your board and staff leadership, and any other stakeholders you’ve agreed to include. Make sure your team is focused and ready to actively participate.
- Step Three: Strategic plan creation. The final stage is where your vision comes together on the page. You’ll work closely with your consultant as they prepare and finalize your written strategic plan. You’ll also want to be proactive about building internal awareness, alignment, and buy-in across your organization. Your consultant can help you develop and implement a thoughtful roll out strategy .
What is unique about the nonprofit strategic planning process?
While nonprofit and for-profit strategic planning may follow a similar process, nonprofits will want to carefully consider a few additional areas:
- Stakeholder engagement: Nonprofit board and staff at every level are part of your organization not because of money, but because of mission. That often brings much higher expectations of participation in decision-making processes. Nonprofit leaders launching strategic planning processes should work closely with their consultants to make sure staff are engaged at the appropriate level to create authentic buy-in.
- Sustainability: Where businesses will be thinking more about increasing revenue and decreasing costs, nonprofit financial planning should focus on sustainability. When it comes to attracting the best staff and raising consistent money, a strong and sustainable nonprofit is like a magnet. This is very different from the private sector where short-term wins that boost shareholder profits are rewarded.
- Fundraising strategy: Fundraising is pretty unique to the nonprofit sector, and it will generally be an important element of your strategic plan. The closest for-profit parallel might be entrepreneurs pitching investors or applying for loans. But unlike business entrepreneurs, nonprofit fundraising never ends. Grants are for one year terms. Some aren’t renewable. Donors have to be asked to give every single year, sometimes multiple times before you land that gift. Fundraising is high-stakes, deadline-driven, and unrelenting. Every single employee’s salary depends on your fundraising team to do their job. So creating a strong and diversified fundraising plan is a must-do.
Is strategic planning long, expensive, and difficult?
No! An effective nonprofit strategic planning process doesn’t have to be painful and drawn out. Though many of us in the sector have experienced the dreaded “never-ending planning process.” You can prevent that scenario from playing out in your organization by selecting the right consultant. Focus on finding consultants who understand your sector, are familiar with organizations of your size or growth stage, and are skilled facilitators.
Because a strategic plan is only as strong as the consensus-building process that creates it.
How do I find a nonprofit strategic planning consultant?
Many strategic planning consultants work with both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. We recommend being sure that your consultant has at least some experience working with organizations like yours.
Read more: Complete Guide to Strategic Planning Consultants
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The Ultimate Guide on Nonprofit Strategic Plan Development
A well-rounded nonprofit strategic plan is essential whether the internal or external states are critical or not. Yet, many nonprofits disregard the significance of structured planning and consider it a mere formality rather than a necessity.
Strategic planning nonprofit organizations always have the upper hand in handling both critical and day-to-day scenarios. Having a thought-through blueprint allows acting mindfully and leveraging every team member’s unique advantages.
We’ve explored all the vital elements of developing a solid strategic plan for nonprofits and put a white paper that you can put into practice after reading.
What will you get from the white paper?
What is a nonprofit strategic plan.
Strategic planning is the process of creating an action course for any company or project. Although the general idea behind developing a strategy is similar across all organizations, the people and factors that contribute to the process are unique to each cause.
Compared to for-profit companies, nonprofits have drastically different goals. This means that the tools and tactics used for achieving these intentions will also be specific to nonprofit operations. And a nonprofit strategic plan is basically a detailed resume of all the instruments and techniques that will contribute to the main goal.
- Definition : A nonprofit strategic plan is a summary of the organization’s objectives and the methods of their achievement. Such a plan will typically feature research data, people, procedures, schedules, and more.
The overall strategic planning process varies depending on the organization’s standing in the community, the external climate, and the internal dynamics. That’s why nonprofit firms might take different approaches to it.
But at the same time, the essential developmental stages of any nonprofit strategic plan remain constant. Here are five key phases of putting together a strong strategy:
- Outlining the ultimate goal . Commercial organizations aim to earn revenue, but for nonprofits, the money they make is just an instrument that assists with making an impact. Any earnings are reinvested into the nonprofit organization to promote its goal. Therefore, defining and comprehending the primary purpose always acts as the foundation for a nonprofit strategic plan.
- Gathering input from stakeholders and contributors . Nonprofit organizations are highly people-driven. That’s why it is necessary to consider the opinions and strengths of all contributing associates.
- Indicating fundraising and marketing strategies. The main task of every nonprofit is to attract awareness and raise funds. There are always multiple solutions to getting on the right track, and the strategic planning nonprofit job is to find the right one.
- Setting objectives . A nonprofit strategic plan has to include sub-goals and objectives of the ultimate goal. The objectives are divided into short-term and long-term and sometimes don’t influence the main purpose directly but rather serve as a supporting factor.
- Finding an optimal approach to each objective . Each objective is backed by specific roles and actions to help realize it. The strategic plan will also outline the time frames and quality-measuring methods to ensure the objectives are met.
Now, to get to a more distinct strategic planning nonprofit model, examine your organization’s internal and external state. Then, based on these observations, adopt one of the following strategic approaches.
Common nonprofit strategic plan models
The strategic planning nonprofit model defines the regularity and format of every strategizing event or activity. Once again, consider your organization’s unique attributes and most influential outside factors for the optimal path.
Below are a few approaches to nonprofit strategic plan development, including the pros and cons of every style.
This nonlinear, almost go-with-the-flow strategic planning nonprofit method helps organizations make the most relevant plans in uncertain times. An excellent example of when organic strategizing worked best was during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020.
In the organic model, the nonprofit’s contributors meet up regularly to take actions based on the most relevant data and complete analysis of each team member’s advantages.
- Best for : Short-term planning during turbulent external conditions
- Not ideal for : Long-term planning, organizations with weak internal operations, large-scale external crises
When the internal instability is more substantial than external difficulties, nonprofit strategic plan development needs to focus on the issues within. The task is to spot the weak elements and craft a solving technique using internal and external assets.
For example, if the last fundraising event did not meet expectations, the nonprofit might want to reconsider the marketing tactics or appoint different staff to help move the cause forward.
Ideally, issue-oriented strategic planning will happen on a milestone basis until the company achieves internal balance and is ready to transition to a new strategizing model.
- Best for : New organizations and nonprofits with a past of poor management or non-strategic decision-making
- Not ideal for : Addressing an external crisis, establishing conduct between separate effective departments, long-term planning, as in a board succession plan
Aligning a strategic planning nonprofit model is great when the external conditions are stable and all departments function properly but fail to communicate with one another. Such disbalance might happen when the main goal is not relevant or apparent to everyone within the organization.
This way, each contributor performs well at their position but does it out of touch with the overall course. Once again, lack of alignment can happen due to inadequate management or poor strategic planning in the past.
The outcome of proper alignment is improved internal communication, meaning that most plan items will circulate the organization members on the same page, reestablishing the shared mission and employing tactics for more productive work.
- Best for : Understanding and rectifying cooperation imbalance within the organization
- Not ideal for : Major external or internal turbulence and long-term strategizing
The most straightforward approach to nonprofit strategic plan development is so-called vision-based or standard planning. This strategizing method builds off the organization’s main goals in times of internal and external stability.
Standard style planning starts with outlining an organization’s mission, defining the supporting objectives, and then scheduling specific and measurable procedures for that mission’s accomplishment.
- Best for : Established organizations with a successful history of nonprofit strategic plan establishment during non-critical times
- Not ideal for : Turbulent scenarios and companies with a lack of internal balance
The real-time approach is the most code-red strategic planning nonprofit model. Unlike with the uncertainty-based organic method, real-time strategies are adopted when the crisis is already unraveling.
Force-major events, such as natural catastrophes and anything from an economic recession to a global pandemic, can serve as a reason to consider a real-time approach.
This crisis-management planning method calls for frequent meetings, constant reassessment of losses and achievements, and effective communication practices.
- Best for: Immediate crisis management in all types of organizations
- Not ideal for : Times of relative external stability or long-term planning
How to build a strong nonprofit strategic plan
Once you’ve established which strategic planning nonprofit model suits your organization best, it’s time to add value to your strategy by zooming in on several foundational elements.
- Research . Gather data on all possible contributors to your cause. The research stage will include getting to know other companies that operate with similar purposes, finding people and other organizations that can benefit you, exploring the major challenges of the field, and so on.
- SWOT analysis . Take a look at your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A good nonprofit strategic plan has to be equally self-aware and forward-looking.
Tip : You can also use SWOT analysis to assess each separate element of your strategy, including tactics and employees.
- Objective establishment . A Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) model is excellent for creating both long-term and short-term objectives. Here, it is vital to make sure that every sub-goal ultimately serves the original purpose.
- Impact and values alignment . Your nonprofit strategic plan helps describe the correlation between the organization’s internal values and the impact you’re aiming to make. Outlining the values also lets all contributors feel unified and collaborate more effectively.
Tip : Good indicators of goodwill and compassion in the nonprofit’s culture are transparency, integrity, and accountability of every member.
- Input consideration . As mentioned earlier, people drive nonprofits. And even though the financial power comes from donors, it is the nonprofit’s employees who operate the whole mechanism.
Therefore, consider including human resources development and deployment, enhanced communication, and uncompromised inclusivity to be a part of your nonprofit strategic plan.
How to enhance the efficiency of the board ?
Get insights in our white paper
Strategic plan template for nonprofits
Before we wrap up, here’s a generalized nonprofit strategic plan example. Remember that your final strategic plan will be tailored to your organization’s unique needs and goals. However, you might still include many of the following sections:
- Executive summary is the foundation of any strategic plan template. Sum up the key points of the plan, clarifying its purpose for anyone who didn’t participate in strategizing. It’s a good idea to write this segment last.
- Board authorization is only necessary for corporations. Here, board members officially authorize the strategy by dating and signing it.
- Organizational description exists to inform outsiders about the history and the key achievements of your organization. There’s no need to include it during internal strategic plan template development.
- Mission statement – this summarizes why your organization exists – its values and goals – sometimes with references to particular events or people.
- Vision statement – this describes your organization’s operational aims.
- The values statement outlines the culture of your organization. As discussed above, its values should be directly tied to your nonprofit’s mission and serve as a guide for all contributors.
- Values statements outline the culture of your organization. As discussed above, its values have to reflect your nonprofit’s mission and serve as a guide for all contributors.
- Marketing approaches describe the various ways of attracting attention to your organization and its cause.
- Objectives and tactics are essentially a detailed illustration of the established objectives and of who will achieve what and when.
- SWOT summary works as both a base for your strategic plan for nonprofit template and proof that techniques and objectives were set correctly.
- Risk analysis helps minimize the possible damage of various critical scenarios and keeps everyone in the organization on the lookout for undesirable factors.
- Financial projections are a way to quantify the strategy. Define specific amounts and deadlines and commit to meeting the established goals using all necessary resources.
- Task management framework
- Strategic planning approach description
- Research data and analysis
- Operating budgets
- Financial reports
- Communication channels description
- Strategic plan renewal schedule
Creating a nonprofit strategic plan based on your organization’s unique characteristics and purposes helps to operate smoothly and achieve goals faster. Additionally, having a strategy can improve the sense of effective teamwork and take your nonprofit to new levels.
By the way, another crucial aspect of the strategic planning process for nonprofits is developing comprehensive bylaws that outline the rules and regulations governing the organization’s operations, board structure, and decision-making processes. You can use a nonprofit bylaw template as a foundation for the internal governance and management of the organization.
Remember to include the team in the strategic planning and design each element of the action plan with the ultimate purpose in mind.
So we recommend that you download our Whitepaper for achieving your goals.
What tool to use for creating and sharing nonprofit strategic plans?
A board portal is a management tool that boards can use to securely collaborate and share board materials, including strategic plans. This helps to ensure board of directors cybersecurity , avoid strategic issues, and increase efficiency.
This is possible due to a variety of features that providers offer:
Document management features:
- Drag-n-drop to upload documents quickly
- Bulk upload to upload many files simultaneously
- Storage to store all confidential data in one place absolutely securely
- Sharing to distribute board documents safely and have paperless board meetings
- Scheduling to choose the date and assign participants quickly and easily
- Agenda builder to choose a board meeting agenda template , complete it with the required data, and share it with board members
- Minutes to choose a board meeting minutes template , fill it in after the meeting, and share it with the rest of the team
- Voting to get answers and make decisions fast
- E-signature to get signatures and approvals in one click
- Task assignment to create a task, set a deadline, and assign an expert
- Progress tracking to monitor the team’s performance
- Chats to discuss business-related questions securely and n real-time
- Video calls to gather board members online and conduct virtual board meetings
You can have a look at the board portal comparison and choose which provider suits your needs most.
How to develop a strategic plan for a nonprofit?
There are five fundamental components to a strategic plan for a nonprofit: research, SWOT analysis , SMART objectives outlining, impact and values alignment consideration, member and community input examination.
What are the strategic planning goals for nonprofits?
Any nonprofit’s goal is to make an impact. And all the strategies have to align with reaching that goal. For example, if a nonprofit focuses on delivering housing options, the strategies can involve fundraising events, networking with real estate companies, and communicating with communities to explore their unique needs.
What are the essential components of strategic planning for a nonprofit?
Once the ultimate goal is outlined, the directors must gather input from stakeholders and contributors. Based on the collective vision, the board will then indicate the most fitting marketing and fundraising strategies, set long and short-term objectives, and outline the exact steps for achieving these objectives.
Why is strategic planning important for nonprofits?
Because nonprofits are often driven by volunteers. This means the most time-saving and effective way for them to approach governance is by strictly adhering to a thought-out strategy.
Who is responsible for strategic planning at nonprofit organizations?
Nonprofit strategies are developed, adopted, and executed by members of the board.
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- Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Key Steps + Top 10 Examples
A new year approaches, and your nonprofit is eager to raise more than ever before. You don’t have a set plan in place, but as long as you host a series of fundraising campaigns and reach out to your major donors every now and then, you should be on track to meet your goals, right?
Think again! You might have a strong guiding mission motivated by a worthy cause, but if you don’t have a roadmap to carry out that mission effectively, it’ll be much more difficult to see your goals through. Strategic planning gives your organization the foundation it needs to weather any storm and stay on track to completing your objectives.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about nonprofit strategic planning, including:
Nonprofit Strategic Planning FAQs
Steps for creating a nonprofit strategic plan, the essential nonprofit strategic plan template, top ten examples of nonprofit strategic plans, tips for maintaining your nonprofit’s strategic plan, how a nonprofit consultant can support strategic planning.
Backed by a comprehensive strategic plan, you’ll be able to advance your mission and power more good in your community. Let’s begin!
Before we jump into how to create your strategic plan, you’ll need to have the basics down. Let’s break down what a strategic plan is and how it can benefit your organization.
What is a strategic plan for nonprofits?
A nonprofit strategic plan is a bold plan of action that aligns an organization’s goals with its values to provide a dynamic performance map for future endeavors.
It is, of course, impossible to anticipate all of the slowdowns or obstacles that might arise throughout a specified time period. However, a strategic plan allows your organization to face any challenges that may come your way with a unified mindset driven by an overarching blueprint.
The strategic planning process involves assessing your organization’s current situation, consulting with team members and formalizing findings into an action plan.
What are the different types of strategic plans?
Your organization may desire a strategic plan to help get through a specific initiative or unexpected event, or you may just want guidelines for the years ahead. There are different types of strategic plans based on your nonprofit’s primary objective, including:
- Standard strategic plan: Like its name suggests, a standard strategic plan is the typical model for creating a roadmap for achieving your overarching long-term goals. This conventional planning model is best suited for nonprofits whose internal and external conditions are stable. For instance, if your nonprofit has good standing in its community, isn’t experiencing any political or economic threats and has consistent donor support, you can benefit from this traditional strategic approach.
- Issue-based strategic plan: Unlike a standard strategic plan, an issue-based strategic plan is favorable for nonprofits that are experiencing a specific internal problem. For instance, consistently falling short of your online fundraising goals or experiencing increased staff turnover would constitute a need for issue-based strategic planning. Your goals for an issue-based strategic plan will be more specific than those of a standard strategic plan so you can correct the given issue.
- Organic strategic plan: An organic strategic plan is similar to an issue-based strategic plan, but is ideal for nonprofits that are facing an external threat. For example, a new government policy that affects your nonprofit’s work might prompt your organization to create this type of plan. An organic strategic plan allows you to consider how this external threat is affecting your nonprofit and how you can proactively make adjustments to better meet your future goals.
- Real-time strategic plan: A real-time strategic plan is necessary for nonprofits that are experiencing an unexpected event, like a natural disaster. For example, if you’re an animal rescue organization and a hurricane damaged several of your shelters, you’ll need this plan to act fast. Rather than making long-term goals for the future, this plan involves setting short-term goals to quickly solve the problem at hand.
- Alignment strategic plan: An alignment strategic plan seeks to improve collaboration between different teams at your nonprofit. For example, if your fundraising team isn’t in constant communication with your marketing committee (and vice versa), you’ll likely have a gap in how well you’re able to promote your fundraising needs to your donors. This type of planning involves brainstorming ways your team members can better work together and laying out a framework for more seamless communication, such as establishing monthly check-in meetings between different teams.
Consider the different obstacles and opportunities your nonprofit is facing to help you decide which type of strategic plan makes the most sense for you to create at this time. Keep in mind that while the situational factors that inspire these different types of plans may differ, the core planning process is the same. Backed by a comprehensive plan, you’ll be able to lay out a clear framework for turning your goals into reality.
Why should your nonprofit create a strategic plan?
Without a strategic plan, it’s very challenging to keep your organization on track and complete goals in an efficient manner.
For example, you might want to tap more donors to power your community initiatives. But how many donors are necessary? How will you measure your success? What campaigns or stewardship activities will you lead? Without clear answers to questions like these, you won’t have the necessary preparation to confidently tackle your objectives.
A strategic plan helps simplify decision-making whenever your organization reaches a crossroads or an unexpected situation. It synthesizes the various teams within your nonprofit so that everyone, from your board to staff leaders, is on the same page.
What are the benefits of strategic planning for nonprofits?
As mentioned previously, there are numerous benefits of nonprofit strategic planning, from simplifying decision-making to helping achieve goals promptly. These benefits are multiplied when your board members and staff leaders are engaged and in agreement with your nonprofit’s strategic plan from the start.
Involving your top leaders and decision-makers in strategic planning ensures these important stakeholders feel a sense of ownership over the plan. This leads to greater accountability when carrying out the plan because each individual feels more responsible for seeing it come to fruition.
Additional benefits of strategic planning include:
- Better time management. You’ll gain a better sense of which tasks you can eliminate from daily activities to save time. If something doesn’t align with your priorities, you can rearrange your staff’s responsibilities to reorient the team around your strategic plan.
- Ability to say no to activities or projects that don’t align with your priorities. Whenever new ideas arise, you’ll have a clearer sense of direction for which ideas should be pushed forward and which shouldn’t.
- Improved staff and board management. A strategic plan ensures staff and board members understand their roles and have clearly defined responsibilities.
- Better understanding of your guiding principles. Undergoing the process of reviewing your organization’s principles and modifying your approach to achieving your goals can help rally everyone around your guiding priorities.
- Opportunity to clarify/strengthen your organization’s mission statement. Use the strategic planning process as an opportunity to carve a niche for your nonprofit in the industry by strengthening your mission statement. Get to the heart of your mission by inviting input from individuals both inside and outside of your organization.
- Opportunity to assess results. When top leaders are involved in both goal-setting and follow-through, they’ll be more likely to set realistic goals and understand their role in working toward those goals.
If you decide to invest the time and energy into strategic planning, the benefits can positively influence your organization for years to come.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy recommends adopting an individualized strategic planning model that focuses on strengthening your nonprofit’s financial health, capacity, effectiveness and relevance within the community. This process involves a partnership with an experienced nonprofit consultant who brings robust planning tools and resources, and your nonprofit leaders themselves who have insider knowledge of your organization.
The essential steps of this strategic planning approach include:
The strategic planning process begins with a pre-planning session between the consultant and organizational leaders. In this meeting, you’ll take a deep dive into your organization to assess its history, infrastructure, core programs and vision for the future.
Another element of the pre-planning process is surveying stakeholders to gather insights and opinions. Depending on your nonprofit’s situation, your stakeholders may include:
- Current and past board members
- Current and past annual, major and planned giving donors
- Influential community members such as political leaders, foundations or trust officers and church leaders
- Prominent business owners
- Volunteers and staff
- Certain recipients of your services, such as patients, alumni or consumers
When conducting these interviews, it’s important to choose participants carefully. Seek a variety of perspectives, including from individuals who’ve expressed discontent with certain aspects of your organization. These perspectives can provide the tough love needed to help your organization grow and become more effective.
Donor or volunteer surveys are also a great way to continue your supporter stewardship efforts. Supporters are typically flattered to be asked to participate and offer their points of view.
The next step to strategic planning is engaging your board and staff members in a dynamic strategic planning retreat. This encourages organizational leaders to consolidate and discuss their thoughts in a dedicated, action-oriented forum.
Within this half-day retreat, leaders will establish priorities and start to visualize what success looks like with the help of the consultant. In this time, the consultant will build consensus and seek suggestions for short- and long-term opportunities and hurdles.
In the final strategic planning step, your nonprofit’s consultant will summarize their findings and offer a recommended plan of action to your organization’s leadership. The consultant will review the highlights and top insights from the planning retreat to highlight key priorities.
Your partner will continue to provide dedicated support as your nonprofit identifies responsibilities for each leader, key objectives, performance indicators and a timeline for completion. This encourages accountability throughout the implementation process.
In the Aly Sterling Philanthropy strategic planning model, a consultant leads your team through each step of the process. This specialist facilitates everything from managing the stakeholder surveys to the planning retreat and final strategic plan document.
By the end of the strategic planning process, your organization will be equipped with a dynamic plan of action.
Your organization’s strategic plan will be based on several guiding pillars. These pillars are the elements within your organization that require the most attention. In this section, we’ll present a template for what your organization’s plan might look like and explain each element.
Let’s walk through an example of a strategic plan for a nonprofit that focuses on these five pillars:
- Mission clarity: Why are you in operation? What does your nonprofit do to make a difference in the community?
- Marketing and PR: How do you communicate your mission to a wider audience?
- Financial sustainability: How do you sustain your operations?
- Community engagement: How do you raise awareness of your mission in the community and earn support?
- Infrastructure and process: Is your organization’s infrastructure aligned with your strategic goals?
Here is an example plan for the fictional XYZ Foundation. The first page of this strategic plan summarizes each of these pillars, including the specific goal and action steps associated with each:
Use this blank version to add your nonprofit’s pillars and action steps:
Next, you can break down each pillar into its own chart to pinpoint specific actions and tasks associated with every priority:
For each priority, determine the associated action steps, timeline/milestones, leaders, necessary resources and future/ongoing actions:
- Action steps: What tasks, projects or events are necessary to complete the priority? List out each required step that will allow your team to complete the goal.
- Timeline/milestones: When should you complete each task? Having a set timeline for each step is a great way to foster accountability.
- Leaders: Which team member(s) will take responsibility for each task? Ensure each person is aware of their role and the associated timeline for completing their tasks.
- Necessary resources: What resources will you need to be able to complete each task? These might include people, databases or input from board members or staff members.
- Future/ongoing actions: How will you ensure that the task or project will remain ongoing instead of fizzling out? Determine the timeline and team member responsibilities for maintaining each priority.
These documents will provide a tangible resource your team can turn to for guidance as they carry out your strategic plan. Fill out these templates using your organization’s top priorities and tasks associated with each step.
While your strategic plan should be individualized to your nonprofit, it can be helpful to draw inspiration from other organizations to guide your approach. See what’s possible for your nonprofit by exploring this list of the top nonprofit strategic plans.
1. Boys and Girls Club of America
The Boys and Girls Club of America is dedicated to creating brighter futures for young people across the country. As a national organization with an ambitious mission, it was essential for the Boys and Girls Club of America to craft a comprehensive strategic plan that unites their Club partners and families around their vision for the future.
In their strategic plan titled “Great Futures 2025,” the Boys and Girls Club outlines four strategic priorities that will help them cultivate young leaders:
- Increase program quality
- Strengthen organizations
- Advocate for youth development
- Reach more youth
To reach these goals, this nonprofit has outlined specific initiatives they’ll lead, such as improving program effectiveness through establishing quality standards, increasing government funding for youth development and building strong partnerships with schools. This level of specificity gives the Boys and Girls Club a clear framework to achieve their goals over the next few years.
2. Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles seeks to achieve equal justice for impoverished individuals in the greater Los Angeles area. To bring this mission to fruition, the Legal Aid Foundation created a dynamic strategic framework that addresses the specific actions they’ll take over the course of five years.
The Legal Aid Foundation lays out the following seven strategic priorities:
- Legal services
- Staff development
- Financial & fund development
Not only does this organization detail what these priorities are, but they also identify the staff leads, the specific goals and the metrics that will be used to measure success for each priority. Plus, the Legal Aid Foundation explains how each strategic priority connects back to their cause and founding principles, helping to ground their plan in their mission.
3. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio aims to enrich the lives of sick children and their families through providing housing, resources, educational programs and more. This charity created a strategic plan for 2022-2025 to become a leader in access to healthcare for children.
Their plan is organized around strategic initiatives like building capacity to support the programmatic needs of the community and identifying and implementing opportunities to enhance quality healthcare access. With these guiding priorities in place, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio can effectively rally their team around their goals and put their dreams into action.
4. Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio
Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio is devoted to eliminating barriers to work and providing opportunities for people to reach their full potential. Guided by their philosophy of the “power of work,” Goodwill needed a strategic plan to help community members live independently, earn a fair living wage and meet their personal goals.
Their 2022-2024 strategic plan begins by outlining their vision and values, including integrity, passion and respect. Next, the plan identifies specific objectives to transform lives in their community, organized into categories like financial sustainability and community. This guide is a great reference point for their staff and ensures everyone is on the same page.
5. Metroparks Toledo
Metroparks Toledo is a park district that is committed to conserving the region’s resources through the management of natural parks and open spaces. As explained in the introduction of their strategic plan, Metroparks hopes to not only improve outdoor spaces for the enjoyment of the public, but also cultivate high performance and satisfaction among park employees.
In their strategic plan, Metroparks kicks off with an overview of who they are, their mission and vision for the future. Then, they break down the following strategic priorities:
- Maintenance of core services
- Organizational health
- Diversity, equity and inclusion
- Becoming the leader in natural resource conservation
- Engagement in our story
- Strategic community partnerships
- Sustainability of funding
Following the Aly Sterling Philanthropy strategic planning model, Metroparks outlines a plan of action for each of these priorities, including key objectives and key performance indicators to measure their progress. This helps Metroparks’ community members and employees understand the actions this organization will take to advance their mission.
6. Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association seeks to end Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia through conducting global research, driving risk reduction and early detection and improving access to quality care. This organization released a 2023-2025 strategic plan to accelerate their mission and change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s for millions of people.
The Alzheimer’s Association builds a strong case for support in their strategic plan by identifying relevant statistics, like the rising costs of Alzheimer’s in the nation which is projected to be more than $1.1 trillion in 2050. After explaining that there’s no time like the present for accelerated progress, they then cover their strategic priorities, including advancing public policy, increasing revenue and boosting awareness.
To establish a clear framework for their projected progress, the Alzheimer’s Association outlines strategic, measurable objectives. For instance, they explain that they’ll accelerate research by providing more funding opportunities, aiming to invest $110 million by the end of 2025. This specificity will provide their entire team with the clarity necessary to complete their responsibilities and contribute to the Alzheimer’s Association’s success.
7. Bryan Area Foundation
The Bryan Area Foundation is a community foundation that strives to improve the lives of individuals living in Williams County, Ohio. One of their central projects is providing millions of dollars to worthy community projects and scholarships, and to continue this charitable giving (along with over initiatives), the Bryan Area Foundation needed a strategic plan that outlined how to make this possible.
In their 2021 to 2023 strategic plan, the Bryan Center Foundation identifies a number of new projects for this organization to complete, including a revitalization of downtown Bryan to grow the number and quality of businesses. Since launching this plan, the Bryan Center Foundation has already created a Community Impact Project and Forgivable Loan Program, supporting their commitment to “Building for the future.”
8. DeKalb County Community Foundation
The DeKalb County Community Foundation’s mission is to benefit organizations and communities throughout DeKalb County, Illinois. In their strategic plan for 2022-2024, this foundation hopes to create change by addressing the following four key areas: Endowments and Donor Services, Stewardship, Grantmaking and Community Initiatives.
DeKalb County Community Foundation’s goals and objectives are precise, with measurable objectives like realizing a minimum 3% financial donations increase in annual contributions to Community Impact Funds. Specific, measurable goals give this foundation the direction they need to maximize their success and foster accountability across their team.
9. World Wildlife Fund of Colombia
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Colombia aims to set Colombia on a path to sustainable, low carbon and resilient development. WWF created a strategic plan for 2020-2025 to address their ambitious goals to make the country a better place for people and wildlife.
The organization’s strategic plan is centered around three main priorities:
- Mainstreaming biodiversity, conservation, and climate change planning into territorial development plans
- Promoting inclusive and equitable social, political and institutional governance
- Advocating for responsible consumption, markets and financial institutions
WWF not only addresses Colombia’s strategies and goals in their strategic plan document, but also global targets to improve people and animals’ lives worldwide. This helps to connect WWF Colombia to the core principles and mission that define WWF as a whole.
10. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass & Metrowest
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass & Metrowest (BBBSCM) was established to create professionally supported mentoring relationships and build brighter futures for today’s youth. In their strategic plan for 2020-2023, BBBSCM details their mission, vision, values and beliefs, making this a great resource for supporters getting to know their organization as well as for staff and volunteers to reference in their work.
Then, this organization goes over their top four priorities and associated objectives with each, such as increasing sustainable funding by identifying 5-10 new major donor prospects, with the goal of adding 3-5 major donors per year. BBBSCM also identifies their strengths, challenges, threats and opportunities and tailors their strategic plan to these elements.
As a result, BBBSCM demonstrates in their strategic plan document that they’re committed to seeing their mission through and will take the necessary steps to create their vision for the future.
Here are some of our top tips for keeping your strategic plan alive :
- Fill out the above templates using information from your retreat. Make sure your plans are formalized in a document that is shared across your organization. As you fill out the template, take a “less is more” approach and only include essential information. Also, make sure you’re setting SMART goals—those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
- Work as a group. Create a task force to work collaboratively on your strategic plan. Keep the group large enough to be helpful, but not so large as to be a roadblock.
- Present your plan to key stakeholders. Host regular check-in meetings as a team to measure progress and maintain accountability.
- Keep your plan front and center by posting it in a visible location. Print and post your strategic plan in a communal space, such as your office or conference room, and ensure it’s also digitally accessible.
- Explain your plan in a public, formal presentation. When you make your plans known to a wider audience, it increases the expectation that you will see them through. It also engages your community and stakeholders in your organization’s plans.
- Celebrate successes. Plan celebrations for when you reach key milestones throughout your plan to recognize successes and keep staff and stakeholders informed of your progress. Plus, having a celebration to look forward to can motivate your team to complete its goals!
With these tips, you’ll be able to maintain the initial excitement and momentum built during your strategic planning process. This will ensure your plan is doing what it was meant to – furthering your organization’s mission effectively.
The right nonprofit consultant will walk you through every step of the strategic planning process. By tapping into their years of expertise in working with nonprofits like yours, they’ll help you craft a dynamic framework to improve your organization’s financial health, effectiveness, capacity and relevance within your community.
Your consultant will support your strategic planning by:
- Collecting stakeholder insights in the beginning stages of the planning process
- Leading your team through a productive retreat
- Compiling findings into a plan of action and final strategic plan document
In addition to these core services, your consultant can also help you:
- Create a fundraising strategy that will lead to stronger supporter relationships and a sustainable donation pipeline
- Examine your existing tech stack and suggest solutions to augment your toolkit
- Identify donor stewardship strategies that will encourage donors to give more frequently and in larger amounts
- Strengthen your internal team, from your staff to your board members, so everyone is firing on all cylinders in pursuit of your mission
Do your research to find the right consulting firm that will thoughtfully and objectively consider your nonprofit’s current state and work with you to create a pathway to success.
When it comes to making your mission a reality and following through on your promises, don’t just wing it! A nonprofit strategic plan gives you the necessary framework to confidently tackle your goals, unify your team and leave a lasting impact on your community.
While taking an in-house approach to strategic planning is an option, it can be challenging to build a cohesive plan from the inside. Partner with the expert consultants at Aly Sterling Philanthropy to get an unbiased look at your organization and receive realistic guidance to construct your strategic plan.
For more information on nonprofit strategic planning, check out the following resources:
- Build Your Fundraising Strategy From the Ground Up . In addition to an overarching strategic plan, your organization can benefit from a blueprint made specifically to guide your fundraising. Use this guide to craft a plan that optimizes your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.
- The Essential Fundraising Plan Template for Nonprofits . Having a formalized road map to guide your fundraising is critical to keep your organization on task. Use this template to construct your fundraising plan.
- 20+ Nonprofit Consulting Firms for Your Philanthropy Needs . Nonprofits often need guidance in a wide range of different areas. This list of top consultants includes experts who specialize in a variety of topics.
- How to create an engaged and committed leadership team
- Open Position: Courageous Community Services Director of Fund Development [Apply to Aly Sterling Philanthropy]
- Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant? 3 Financial Considerations
- 10 Easy Steps to Supercharge Your Fundraising Strategy
- Board Catalyst
- Corporate Philanthropy
- Fundraising Best Practices
- Fundraising Solutions
- Nonprofit Job Postings
- Nonprofit Succession Planning
- Philanthropic Advising
- Strategic Planning
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Crafting an Effective Nonprofit Strategic Plan: A Guide for Success
For any nonprofit organization, strategic planning is not just a mere exercise; it is the compass that charts the course towards its vision and mission. It involves setting clear objectives, defining actionable steps, and aligning resources to achieve the organization’s goals effectively and efficiently. Without a well-crafted strategic plan for nonprofits, you risk drifting aimlessly, losing sight of their purpose, and failing to make a significant difference in the communities they serve.
In this article, we will delve into the various components of strategic planning for nonprofits, exploring the significance of conducting a thorough SWOT analysis, identifying key stakeholders, defining measurable objectives, and fostering a culture of adaptability. Along the way, we’ll address common challenges and share best practices to help you navigate potential roadblocks with confidence.
By the end of this journey, you will understand that strategic planning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that demands continuous refinement and engagement. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be ready to propel your nonprofit forward, making a lasting and positive impact on the lives of those you serve.
So, if you’re ready to unlock the true potential of your nonprofit and leave a lasting legacy, join us as we embark on this enlightening exploration of crafting an effective nonprofit strategic plan. Let’s build a better future together.
Understanding Nonprofit Strategic Planning
Understanding nonprofit strategic planning models is crucial for the success and sustainability of any nonprofit organization. At its core, a strategic plan is a comprehensive roadmap that outlines the organization’s mission, sets specific goals and objectives, and defines the actionable steps required to achieve its vision effectively and efficiently.
Key Benefits of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations
Embracing strategic planning can yield a multitude of advantages for nonprofit organizations. By charting a clear and well-defined path, your nonprofit can unlock its true potential and thrive in its mission-driven endeavors. Here are some key benefits that strategic planning brings to your nonprofit:
1. Vision Clarity and Alignment: A strategic plan helps crystallize the vision and mission of your nonprofit. It enables the executive director and all stakeholders to rally behind a common purpose, fostering alignment and ensuring that every effort supports the overarching goals.
2. Goal Setting and Prioritization: Through strategic planning, you can set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This process allows you to prioritize initiatives, focusing your resources on activities that will have the most significant impact.
3. Resource Optimization: Nonprofits often operate with limited resources. Strategic planning enables you to optimize the allocation of these resources, ensuring that they are directed towards the most critical programs and initiatives that align with your mission.
4. Improved Decision-Making: With a strategic plan in place, you have a framework to guide your decision-making processes. It helps you assess opportunities and challenges against your long-term objectives (such as donor acquisition, growth of your revenue streams, or donor retention ), making it easier to make informed and effective choices.
5. Enhanced Accountability and Evaluation: A well-defined strategic plan establishes clear performance indicators and milestones. This fosters a culture of accountability, allowing you to evaluate progress and make necessary adjustments to keep your nonprofit on track.
6. Adaptability to Change: Nonprofit environments can be dynamic and subject to various internal and external stakeholders and influences. Strategic planning equips your organization with the flexibility to adapt and respond to changing circumstances, ensuring resilience in the face of uncertainty.
Strategic Planning vs. Operational Planning
While strategic planning and operational nonprofit planning are interconnected, they serve distinct purposes within a nonprofit organization:
Strategic Planning: Strategic planning is a high-level process that sets the long-term, strategic direction of the nonprofit. It involves defining the organization’s mission, vision, and overarching goals. Strategic planning focuses on answering fundamental questions such as “Where do we want to be in the next 3-5 years?” and “What impact do we want to create?” The outcomes of strategic planning provide the guiding framework for the organization’s decisions and actions.
Operational Planning: Operational planning, on the other hand, is a more detailed and short-term process that supports the overarching strategic plan itself. It outlines the specific actions, tasks, and resources required to implement the strategies and achieve the goals set in the strategic plan. Operational plans break down the larger strategic objectives into actionable steps, starting from the baseline of the project , and allocate responsibilities among team members. These plans are often reviewed and adjusted regularly to ensure progress and efficiency.
In essence, strategic planning defines the “big picture” and long-term vision, while operational planning focuses on the practical steps and immediate actions needed to realize that vision. Together, these strategic planning processes and approaches form a cohesive framework that empowers your nonprofit to thrive and make a meaningful impact in the communities you serve.
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Types of Nonprofit Strategic Plans
Understanding the various types of strategic plans for nonprofits will empower you to choose the most suitable approach to navigate your organization toward success. Different scenarios and organizational needs call for different strategic planning models. Let’s explore four common types of strategic plans:
Long-Term Strategic Plan:
- Overview and Purpose: A long-term strategic plan, often spanning three to five years or more, is a forward-thinking roadmap that sets the course for the nonprofit’s future. It involves extensive research, analysis, and goal-setting to achieve significant and sustainable impact.
- Nonprofit Example: An environmental conservation nonprofit aims to reduce carbon emissions and protect endangered species over the next decade. Their long-term strategic plan outlines strategies for fundraising, advocacy, and community engagement to achieve these ambitious goals.
Annual Strategic Plan:
- Overview and Purpose: The annual strategic plan is a shorter-term, more focused version of the long-term plan. It breaks down the broader objectives into specific action steps for the upcoming year. It allows organizations to adapt and respond to evolving circumstances while staying aligned with the long-term vision.
- Example: A youth empowerment nonprofit designs an annual strategic plan to provide educational scholarships, mentorship programs, and skill-building workshops for underprivileged youth within the next year, based on their long-term goal of creating a generation of empowered and self-reliant leaders.
Issue-Based Strategic Plan:
- Overview and Purpose: An issue-based strategic plan centers around addressing a specific problem or challenge faced by the organization or the community it serves. It hones in on targeted solutions and resources to tackle the issue effectively.
- Example: A hunger relief nonprofit develops an issue-based strategic plan to combat food insecurity in a particular region. The plan may focus on expanding partnerships with local farmers, implementing mobile food distribution programs, and conducting community outreach to raise awareness about hunger and nutrition.
Comprehensive Strategic Plan :
- Overview and Purpose: The comprehensive strategic plan is an all-encompassing approach that considers multiple aspects of the nonprofit’s operations. It addresses organizational structure, financial sustainability, human resources, program development, and more, offering a holistic perspective to achieve the mission.
- Example: A healthcare nonprofit creates a comprehensive strategic plan that outlines goals for expanding medical services, improving infrastructure, investing in staff training, and enhancing community outreach efforts, ensuring they provide accessible and quality healthcare to a broader population.
By understanding these diverse types of strategic plans and their respective purposes, you can tailor your nonprofit’s approach to strategic planning to best suit its unique needs and maximize its impact on the communities it serves. Remember that strategic planning is not a rigid process; it is adaptable and iterative, allowing your organization to grow, thrive, and evolve over time.
What Should a Nonprofit Strategic Plan Include?
As you embark on crafting a robust strategic plan, it is essential to understand the key components of a nonprofit strategic plan that will shape your path to success. A well-structured nonprofit strategic plan template ensures that your nonprofit stays focused, aligned, and equipped to achieve its mission and make a meaningful impact. Let’s explore the essential elements that every nonprofit strategic plan should include:
Overview of the Essential Components of a Nonprofit Strategic Plan
Before diving into the specifics, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamental components that form the backbone of your nonprofit’s strategic plan. These elements will interconnect and guide your organization toward its overarching goals.
Mission and Vision Statements
The mission and vision statements serve as the guiding beacons for your nonprofit’s purpose and direction. The mission statement defines the organization’s fundamental reason for existence, while the vision statement paints a compelling picture of the desired future impact. These mission statements should be clear, concise, and inspiring, reflecting the heart and soul of your nonprofit.
Goals and Objectives
Your strategic plan should outline measurable and time-bound goals that align with your mission and vision. Goals represent the broader outcomes you aim to achieve, while objectives are specific, quantifiable steps that lead to attaining those goals. They provide clarity and direction to your nonprofit’s efforts, ensuring everyone is working towards the same vision.
Strategies and Action Plans
Strategies are the high-level approaches and initiatives your nonprofit will undertake to achieve its goals. They outline the methods you’ll employ to overcome challenges and leverage opportunities effectively. Action plans break down these strategies into actionable steps, assigning responsibilities, deadlines, and performance indicators to ensure progress and accountability.
Resource Allocation and Budgeting
A strategic plan must consider the allocation of resources to execute your initiatives successfully. This includes financial resources, staff capacity, technology, and other essential assets. Budgeting plays a critical role in aligning your strategic priorities with available resources, enabling you to make informed decisions about funding and investments.
As you integrate these components into your nonprofit’s strategic plan, remember that communication and collaboration are essential. Involving key stakeholders, board members, and team members in the strategic planning team and process fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the shared vision. Additionally, strategic planning is an iterative process—regularly review and adapt your plan as your nonprofit evolves and responds to changing external factors.
By incorporating these vital components into your strategic plan, you’ll lay a strong foundation for your nonprofit organization’s future growth, impact, and sustainability. A well-crafted plan will empower your organization to make a positive difference in the communities you serve, driving you closer to achieving your mission and creating lasting change.
How to Create a Strategic Plan for a Nonprofit
Let’s explore the step-by-step process of crafting an effective strategic plan to elevate your nonprofit’s impact and achieve its mission. To make it easier, we have crafted a strategic plan for nonprofits template which can be accessed here or you can search online for a nonprofit strategic plan example!
Preparing for Strategic Planning
Assessing the Organization’s Current State: Begin by conducting a thorough assessment of your nonprofit’s current state. Evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) to gain a comprehensive understanding of internal capacities related resources, and external challenges.
Identifying Key Stakeholders and Involving Them in the Process: Engage key stakeholders, including board members, other staff members, volunteers, and beneficiaries, in the strategic planning process. Their insights and perspectives are invaluable and will contribute to a more inclusive and successful plan.
Establishing Clear Objectives and Goals: Before diving into the strategic planning process, set clear objectives. Define what you aim to achieve through the strategic plan and the desired outcomes for your nonprofit’s growth and impact.
Steps in Developing a Nonprofit Strategic Plan
Conducting a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats): Thoroughly analyze your nonprofit’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. This analysis will help you identify areas for improvement and leverage points to capitalize on.
Get Started with Your Nonprofit SWOT Analysis.
This worksheet includes a simple how-to guide, an example tailored to the nonprofit sector, and a template to help you conduct your own SWOT Analysis.
Defining the Organization’s Mission and Vision: Craft a compelling and concise mission statement that defines your nonprofit’s fundamental purpose. Pair this with an inspiring vision statement that illustrates the ideal future your organization strives to create.
Setting Measurable and Achievable Goals: Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that align with your mission and vision. These goals will provide the roadmap for your nonprofit’s strategic initiatives.
Developing Strategies and Action Plans: Outline the strategies and action plans that will drive your nonprofit toward its goals. Break down each strategy into actionable steps, and assign responsibilities and deadlines to team members.
Allocating Resources and Budgeting: Determine the resources required to execute your organization’s strategic plan effectively. Allocate budgets to various initiatives, ensuring financial alignment with your nonprofit’s priorities.
Implementing and Monitoring the Strategic Plan
Assigning Responsibilities and Creating a Timeline: Assign clear responsibilities to team members and create a timeline for the execution of your strategic plan. Regularly review progress and hold each team member or individuals accountable for their roles.
Communicating the Strategic Plan to Stakeholders: Communicate the strategic plan to all stakeholders, including board members, staff, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Transparent and effective communication will foster support and enthusiasm for the plan.
Establishing a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework: Develop a monitoring and evaluation framework to track the progress of your strategic plan. Regularly measure key performance indicators and assess whether you’re on track to achieve your goals.
Making Adjustments and Adapting to Changing Circumstances: Be flexible and adaptive in your approach. As circumstances change, adjust your strategic plan accordingly. Embrace a continuous improvement mindset to keep your nonprofit agile and responsive.
By following these steps, your nonprofit will create a powerful strategic plan that charts the course toward its mission, amplifies its impact, and brings positive change to the communities it serves. Strategic planning is an ongoing process, so remember to revisit and refine your plan regularly to stay true to your vision and keep your organization on a path of growth and success.
How Keela Can Assist in the Nonprofit Strategic Planning Process
Keela is a cutting-edge nonprofit management software that combines essential fundraising tools into one centralized platform. From donor management to your fundraising strategy, communications, and beyond, Keela streamlines your nonprofit’s operations, freeing up valuable time to concentrate on strategic planning and mission-driven initiatives.
Let’s explore how Keela can be your ally in building a strategy for your nonprofit.
Goal and Objective Tracking
Keela enables you to set clear, measurable goals and objectives within the platform. Monitor progress, track key milestones, and ensure your nonprofit stays on course to achieve its strategic vision.
Action Plan Management
Efficiently break down your strategic initiatives into actionable steps with Keela’s project management feature . Assign responsibilities, establish deadlines, and easily view the status of each task, fostering a proactive approach to plan execution.
Manage your nonprofit’s resources effectively with Keela’s accounting integrations . Align financial plans with your strategic priorities, ensuring that funding is channeled toward key initiatives that drive impact.
Keela’s communications features enable seamless communication with board members, staff, volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries. Engage stakeholders in the strategic planning process, fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach.
Data and Analytics
Access valuable data and analytics in real-time with Keela’s reporting tools . Analyze the performance of your strategic plan, identify areas of improvement, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your nonprofit’s impact.
By harnessing the power of Keela’s nonprofit management software, you can streamline your strategic planning process, improve decision-making, and enhance overall organizational effectiveness . Keela serves as a reliable companion on your journey to success, helping your nonprofit make a lasting impact on the communities it serves.
Connect with us to discuss how Keela can help you build a strategic plan for your nonprofit!
Streamline Your Strategic Planning Proce ss with Keela!
Get a glimpse into the benefits of Keela’s features including goal tracking, action plan management, data and analytics, and more!
In conclusion, strategic planning is the cornerstone of nonprofit success, providing the roadmap to achieve impactful and lasting change. By incorporating essential components such as assessing the organization’s current state, setting clear objectives, and engaging stakeholders, your nonprofit can forge a clear path towards its mission and vision. Embrace the step-by-step process of creating a strategic plan, from conducting a SWOT analysis to allocating resources and implementing a monitoring framework.
As nonprofit leaders, it is vital to prioritize strategic planning and recognize its transformative power. A well-crafted strategic plan brings together your board leadership, team, donors, and supporters, uniting efforts and resources towards a common purpose. With strategic planning at the heart of your organization, you can navigate the ever-changing landscape and respond to challenges with resilience and purpose.
In this journey of strategic planning, Keela emerges as a valuable tool and ally for nonprofits. With its comprehensive nonprofit management software, Keela empowers your organization with goal and objective tracking, resource allocation, stakeholder engagement, and data-driven insights. Embrace Keela as your strategic planning companion, streamlining operations and elevating your impact.
As you embark on this strategic planning adventure, keep in mind that it is an iterative process. Stay open to adaptation and continuous improvement, remaining agile in the face of change. Remember to communicate the strategic plan transparently with your team and stakeholders, fostering collaboration and shared commitment.
In the end, your nonprofit’s strategic plan is more than a document—it is a guiding light that propels your organization toward meaningful and sustainable change. Embrace strategic planning as a powerful force in your nonprofit’s journey, and with Keela’s support, forge a path that leads to a brighter future for the communities you serve. Together, let us create a world where your nonprofit’s vision becomes a reality. Start your strategic planning with Keela today and make a difference that will endure for generations to come.
About the author:
Meredith gray head of marketing, keela.
Meredith has always had a passion for work that makes an impact. Having spent over 7 years working in fundraising, she has gained extensive knowledge in marketing, peer-to-peer, events, and sponsorship and firmly believes that all successful fundraising strategies start with your data.
Having experienced it first-hand, she understands the challenges nonprofits face when building a fundraising strategy and loves connecting with other like-minded fundraisers to brainstorm new and creative ways to leverage data to increase revenue. When not working, Meredith can be found trying out one of Toronto’s diverse restaurants, breaking a sweat in a spin class, or researching her next travel destination.
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How to Write a Strategic Plan For a Nonprofit Organization + Template
A strategic plan is a roadmap that helps an organization define its vision, mission, and goals. It provides a clear picture of where the organization wants to go and how it plans to get there. For nonprofit organizations, writing a strategic plan is essential to outline the steps they need to take to achieve their social impact goals. However, it can be daunting to write a strategic plan from scratch. This guide will provide you with the necessary steps to develop a strategic plan for your nonprofit organization.
Start with a Mission Statement
The mission statement is the foundation of your strategic plan. It is a clear, concise, and inspiring statement that outlines the purpose of your nonprofit organization. A nonprofit mission statement should be based on your organization’s values and principles and should be understandable to everyone. Keep in mind that the mission statement should be specific enough to differentiate your organization from others in the same field. Make sure you involve your board of directors, staff, and stakeholders when writing the mission statement. Keep it short and sweet, no longer than a paragraph.
Example of a Mission Statement
“Our nonprofit organization is dedicated to promoting and advocating for the rights of underprivileged children in our community by providing educational opportunities, health care, and support services to help them achieve their full potential.”
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis identifies internal and external factors that can affect your organization’s success. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that you have control over, such as your staff’s skills and resources. Opportunities and threats are external factors that are outside your control, such as legislative changes and competition. Conducting a SWOT analysis will help you identify your organization’s strengths and areas where you need to improve, as well as potential opportunities and threats.
Define your Goals and Objectives
Goals and objectives are the specific outcomes you want to achieve within a specific time frame. Goals are broad statements that define the overall purpose of your organization, such as increasing fundraising or expanding your services. Objectives are specific and measurable actions that will achieve your goals, such as reaching a certain number of donors or having a new program in place for children.
Develop an Action Plan
An action plan is a step-by-step guide that outlines how you will achieve your goals and objectives. It includes specific actions that need to be taken, timelines, and responsible parties. Each action should be practical, measurable, achievable, and relevant, such as identifying potential donors, designing a fundraising campaign, or hiring new staff.
Monitor and Evaluate your Progress
Monitoring and evaluating your progress is crucial to the success of your strategic plan. It helps you identify what is working, what needs to be changed, and what needs to be adapted. You should regularly review and update your strategic plan to ensure it remains relevant and effective over time.
In conclusion, writing a strategic plan for your nonprofit organization requires careful planning and execution. It can be challenging, but remember, it’s an essential tool that helps your organization achieve its social impact goals. Follow these steps to ensure you develop an effective strategic plan that serves as a roadmap for your organization. Remember to involve all stakeholders, regularly review and update your plan, and adapt it to meet any changing needs or circumstances. Best of luck in your efforts to make a positive difference in the world.
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Inspiring change, board research, about boardsource, nonprofit strategy and planning, importance of nonprofit strategic planning.
One of the board’s primary responsibilities is to set direction for the organization through strategic planning.
A strategic plan or framework serves as a roadmap and as a tool for assessing progress. Working side-by-side with staff leadership, your board should play an active and substantive role in developing, approving, and supporting your organization’s strategic planning.
The nature of strategic planning is changing, however, in response to the turbulence caused by the most recent recession and the challenge of planning in a constantly changing environment. Plans must be adaptable and reviewed regularly. At the same time, some nonprofit leaders have found that planning in a dynamic environment presents an opportunity to think differently.
Nonprofit leaders are encouraged to incorporate the Purpose-Driven Board Leadership principles to guide your strategic planning process. While this centers around the four principles, in particular, equity mindset and authorized voice and power, can drive the change that most organizations need to take board leadership and thinking to new heights. It is vitally important that organizations incorporate and amplify the voices of the communities served to remove any systemic inequities and lead to greater social impact. As you clarify your organization’s strategic priorities, you may find that they are best accomplished in partnership with others. Consider a strategic alliance with another organization to accelerate your mission work and unlock new opportunities for impact.
BoardSource has also seen a shift away from traditional strategic plans based on three- to five-year time horizons and long planning processes. There has been a move toward strategic frameworks articulating organizational priorities, business plans that combine programmatic and operational goals with financial forecasts, as well as more robust annual plans with clear metrics and timelines.
Whether the path is more traditional or a new framework, the most important planning tool a nonprofit has is the strategic planning process, and this should reflect a shared board and staff vision of the organization’s role, values, and priorities. It should also include a clear focus on the purpose of your organization and the community it serves. Nonprofits need to ensure that those most impacted by the plans have a voice in the planning. According to Leading with Intent, strategic planning remains among the top areas in need of board improvement, and the following resources are designed to help.
The following resources are designed to help boards improve their performance in the area of strategic planning. According to Leading with Intent , strategic planning remains among the top areas in need of board improvement.
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Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits
Planning is essential for any activity to be undertaken and when investment in people and technology is to be made to reach goals, strategic planning becomes crucial.
To achieve results with optimum use of resources, a nonprofit organization should develop a strategic plan that will guide the management team in executing key functions both in the short and long run.
A strategic plan addresses all questions of why, what, where, who, when and how goals can be achieved by the organization laying down the best roadmap for the organization to drive through.
What does a strategic plan do for the organization?
- It specifies the objectives and goals to be achieved
- It identifies the strategies to be adopted to achieve these objectives
- It lists methods and measures to appraise actual performance (KPI)
For a non-profit organization (NPO) where resources are always scarce and sustenance of activities is important, strategic planning goes a long way in keeping the NPO in the planned direction.
A detailed nonprofit strategic plan in terms of its outline (the plan's structure) covers the following 10 headings:
- Executive Summary
- Vision and Mission Statement
- Campaigning the Cause
- Goals and Tasks
- Key Performance Indicators
- Human Resources
- SWOT Analysis
- Risk Analysis
- Financial Projections
Let's go through these sections in detail.
1. Executive Summary
As the heading implies it is a summary of the entire plan and is prepared after the complete plan document has been drawn up. It gives stakeholders, advisors and staff brief information about what the organization is currently doing and what it is up to in the coming period.
Learn how it works to create a nonprofit strategic business plan that is founded on a standard template
2. Vision and Mission Statement
A Vision statement tells the whole world "what" the NPO wants to achieve and for what purpose it is in existence.
A Mission statement clarifies "how" the NPO wants to achieve its Vision. It sets the boundaries within which employees can decide and act towards achieving results and also informs third parties like investors, vendors, and clients dealing with the organization what the NPO expects from them.
Goodwill is the strongest asset to any NPO. As a non-profit organization, an NPO has to approach government and non-government entities for aid and donations to fund their activities and also approach the community for support to their service. Such entities would donate and support only if the NPO has strong goodwill and reputed name.
To ensure this, any NPO has to have a work culture based on good values, which are listed as part of the strategic plan to remind all internal staff and external stakeholders the values recognized and adhered to by the NPO.
Values respected by a typical NPO would include qualities like integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, transparency, teamwork, accountability, etc.
4. Campaigning the Cause
The NPO has to sell its laudable cause, purpose and the change it wants to bring about through its service to governments, foundations, philanthropic entities and individuals to obtain grants and raise funds.
The success of its operations and achievement of the goals entirely depends on funds raised through various campaign methodologies adopted by the NPO.
In a for-profit organization, the marketing function is very important as this brings in the revenues for the organization without which the organization will not survive. In an NPO, products, and services are not marketed but the cause and purpose are sold as a noble concept to governments and foundations that give grants to NPOs. Similar to any marketing activity, the NPO should plan its campaign of conveying its message to such entities and convincing them to make grants in its favor.
This section details exhaustively everything an NPO has to do to raise the targeted funds, leaving no stone unturned, including the message, whom to approach, how to approach and grant-seeking methodologies.
Having stated the Vision, Mission, and Values of the NPO, and detailing the campaign to be adopted to sell the cause, the strategic plan should now lay down Goals, Tasks and Key Performance Indicators to be achieved.
5. Goals and Tasks
The purpose of preparing a strategic plan is to achieve definite goals and complete specific tasks by the end of the plan period. NPOs are generally service providers and a goal could be a number of beneficiaries to be serviced during the plan period.
In setting goals, NPO management should follow the SMART rule, where goals set are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. When plan period is 3 to 5 years, long-term goals can be broken down into annual goals under the SMART rule and any shortcoming in one year can be made good in the subsequent plan year.
Such goals identified and defined help employees of the NPO to clearly understand what they have to do and achieve. In the course of operations during the plan period when actual performance is compared with the goals set, employees can find where they stand and take necessary steps if needed to achieve the goals as planned.
Goals set also help NPO management to monitor whether the resources of people, money, and technology are used appropriately to achieve the set goals. Where deviations are found, the NPO management can take corrective measures to bring back the NPO activities on the right and planned track.
Hence it is important to clarify and list all the goals and targets to be achieved by the NPO. It informs everyone in the organization what the NPO is planning to achieve in the current plan period and in the period immediately following.
6. Key Performance Indicators
NPO's activities have to be conducted efficiently with high productivity as resources are scarce while goals and targets are high. The efficient and productive use of donated grants and funds will strengthen the goodwill and image of the NPO helping it to raise funds with ease in the future.
To deploy resources efficiently, the strategic plan identifies and sets benchmarks as key performance indicators that would be used to measure and show how efficiently the NPO activities have been conducted during the plan period.
As the very name implies, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measure that tells how efficiently a key activity has been performed.
Key activities that determine the success of an organization are listed and measured periodically to find how efficiently the organization is functioning.
For example, in the automobile industry, the number of vehicles manufactured per month may be a key activity/factor to be measured periodically. In the transportation industry, the number of passengers transported or quantum of cargo carried may be a key factor. In a service industry, like for example insurance, the number of policies sold will be a key performance indicator.
When goals are broken into key performance activities and benchmarks are set for such activities, comparison of actual performance with such benchmarks "indicates" how efficiently activities are being performed. Once activities are identified and benchmarks set, monitoring key performance indicators becomes a continuous process for the NPO's management to correct deviations in the right time.
Key Performance Indicators also help in improving the efficiency of an organization's operations by comparing performance with similar competing entities in the same industry. As mentioned above competing insurance service providers can compare their key performances and strive to improve their efficiency to beat the competition.
An NPO should derive the maximum benefit out of its resources as they have been obtained after sustained efforts from donors. Hence an NPO should set key performance indicator for every activity possible to measure the utilization of its resources. The more the benefit, the better are the chances of getting more grants and donations in the future.
7. Human Resources
Human resources development and deployment is a very important factor for the success of any organization. The strategic plan has to detail existing human resources, additional manpower needed to execute targets set, training needs of staff, authority and accountability in performing various tasks and empowerment to take decisions at the right time.
The strategic plan should also clearly define the organization hierarchy such that operational issues are properly escalated and solved in the right time without wastage of resources.
Having set goals and tasks along with key performance indicators to measure efficiency, the NPO should now analyze their strengths and opportunities to make use of and their weaknesses, threats, and risks to be cautious about while executing the strategic plan.
8. SWOT Analysis
When strategies are drawn during war times, a general analyzes his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to win the war.
A large army could be his strength , lack of adequate firepower or air support could be his weakness , civil disturbance in the opponent country could be an opportunity to attack while the opponent country having a stockpile of nuclear weapons could be a threat !
Similarly, business strategies are drawn up after analyzing business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, termed as SWOT Analysis .
An NPO has to do a SWOT analysis to overcome weaknesses and threats with its strengths and opportunities.
For a typical NPO, its people and/or cause could be a strength, its size or age could be a weakness, lack of competition could be an opportunity and economic upheavals could be a threat.
The SWOT Analysis includes not only the listing of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats but also how they are going to be managed. The NPO should plan how it is going to use its strengths to increase its activities in raising more funds to serve more beneficiaries, how it is going to overcome its weaknesses, how it is going to use opportunities to expand its activities and what steps it is going to take to meet a threat.
Sustenance of activities is a very important requirement for any NPO and to ensure this the NPO has to identify and leverage its strengths and opportunities to overcome weaknesses and threats.
9. Risk Analysis
Most of the activities of an NPO are dependent on environmental or outside factors beyond the control of the NPO, having an inbuilt element of risk while being performed. Hence an NPO having defined its goals and targets should identify possible risks that may arise while executing the strategic plan to achieve the goals.
After listing the risks , an NPO should detail how it is going to avoid and manage the risk if it occurs.
A shortfall in revenue in a for-profit organization can be met with short and long-term borrowings from investors and lending agencies. But in an NPO shortfall in revenue will undermine its activities and to sustain its present activities and growth plans, an NPO should always be raising sufficient funds from targeted sources.
To ensure this an NPO should identify the risks that may occur in obtaining the needed funds and be ready with alternate and precautionary actions in its strategic plan against such risks.
10. Financial Projections
The strategic plan is to be quantified to monitor performance and evaluate the results achieved. A Financial Projection of revenues and expenses is to be drawn up for the current period and the plan period. Generally, it is a three year period for which projections are made to be as realistic as possible. For the immediate current period, the annual plan is broken down into monthly or quarterly plan for effective monitoring of actual performance and timely correction of deviations.
If KPIs measure the efficiency of individual activities that constitute an organization's overall operations, Financial Projections (targets) monitors the overall health of the organization. In a for-profit (business) organization improving the bottom line will be the objective, measured by the projected profit to be achieved during the plan period. In an NPO where profit is not the motive, Financial Projections fix expense budgets to be within allocated resources for various activities.
An NPO can spend only what it raises as grants and funds from its beneficiaries and hence everyone in the NPO should know how much they can spend on various activities to be within the available funds' position. Where expenses go beyond the projected limits, the NPO management takes corrective action to bring down such expenses.
An NPO Financial Projection also forecasts grants to be received and funds to be raised during the plan period. The staff team entrusted with this activity should ensure that the targeted grants and funds are raised to meet the expenses planned during the plan period. Where it is found that the planned fund-raising is falling below targeted values, the NPO management should increase its efforts in this regard to raise the shortfall grants and funds.
Measurement of Success
The strategic plan should specify clearly how the NPO will measure the success of its activities. This will be a measurement of its services, as an NPO, since there would be no profit to judge the success of any NPO operations.
In this section, details of what to measure and how to measure the various achievements of the NPO is explained. What to measure will generally be based on goals and tasks set by the NPO to be achieved during the plan period. How to measure success will be a methodology used to measure the actual performance of NPO compared to the targets set for each goal.
Having prepared the strategic plan, it should be used by all stakeholders in achieving the targeted results and not just maintained in the organization's archives.
The NPO's management should conduct periodical reviews of actual performance in comparison with the strategic plan, call for review meetings with concerned staff and take corrective steps wherever deviations are reported.
The strategic plan is not only for guiding the NPO in the right direction but should also help in monitoring the activities of the NPO. A management reporting and information system should be in place to report actual performance to corporate management. Variance reports should be prepared periodically and circulated to concerned staff for taking corrective action, well in time.
Strategic Plan for a non-profit organization is essential as resources are scarce while their applications are always high. Strategic Plan helps to utilize resources effectively and efficiently, thereby performing better and achieving the goals set in the annual plan. When set tasks are accomplished as planned, the NPO is recognized as a good performer by governments, foundations, and philanthropists enabling the NPO to obtain higher grants and raise more funds for its activities in the following years.
Download this sample template in Microsoft Word (docx) format.
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