The Crucial Role of Strategic Panning: Steering through challenges and seizing opportunities

What do most nonprofit leaders have in common? We can juggle. Not the easy tennis ball juggling.  We are juggling the increasing needs in our community & demands for our services, inflation, limited staff capacity, diminishing financial resources, cybersecurity, board engagement, transparency, accountability, etc.  Strategic planning helps nonprofit leaders to prioritize competing demands and focus on what matters most.  Creating the strategic plan will engage the creativity and insights of your board and staff members to identify the best way to leverage your limited resources and impact your mission.

The Benefits of Strategic Planning​

  • Assess, agree upon, and communicate priorities​.
  • Prepare for the future.
  • Reorganize/realign to be more effective and efficient in achieving mission and priorities. given limited resources​.
  • Help board, staff, and funders realize the true cost of achieving the mission​.
  • Plan for the long term and effectively move beyond “firefighting.”


Is your Organization Ready for Strategic Planning?

Is your current plan expiring?

  • If your organization’s current plan is on the brink of expiration, it’s a clear signal that it’s time to reassess and strategize for the future

Are you uncertain about your organization’s long-term direction or financial stability?

  • When there’s uncertainty about the long-term direction or financial sustainability of your organization, strategic planning becomes a valuable compass.

Have there been shifts in demand for your services?

  • Changes in the business environment, such as shifts in demand, require a reevaluation of your business model and strategic priorities.

Do you want to focus more on the big picture?

  • Transition from Fire-Fighting – Moving from issue to issue without a cohesive plan to focus on your priorities.

Are you having trouble operationalizing an existing plan?

  • If you’ve had a plan but struggled to operationalize or achieve it, strategic planning can provide a fresh perspective.

Is strategic planning required by your funders?

  • Some organizations undertake strategic planning because it’s required by funders, emphasizing the importance of aligning organizational goals with external expectations.

Has there been a recent change in leadership?

  • A change in leadership often prompts a reevaluation of organizational strategies and priorities.


Basic Steps to Develop Your Strategic Plan

  1. Assemble a strategic plan task force
    • Include board, staff, and key stakeholders)
  2. Identify a facilitator
    • Either internal or external to the organization)
  3. Collect proposals
    • If you plan to engage an external facilitator, be sure to get a few proposals that provide a detailed overview of the process, outcomes, timing, deliverables and fee​
  4. Agree on timeframe, activities, and expected outcomes​ & deliverables
  5. Conduct research
    • include stakeholder surveys, competitive analysis and benchmarking, funder interviews​, program and financial trends and industry trends
  6. Draft the plan through a series of task force meetings
    • The plan should include timelines, key performance indicators, financial and human resources required, etc
  7. Refine the plan
    • Share elements of the draft with board committees and key stakeholders for feedback​
  8. Conduct a board “retreat”
    • In which the full board reviews and discusses the draft plan​
  9. Finalize the plan
    • Board approved, communications to key stakeholders and funders, progress tracked

Leverage the plan to build support and enthusiasm for the future direction 

Communicate internally​ –staff & volunteers –  ensure that individual staff workplans are aligned with the strategic plan; post mission, vision and values in visible locations

Communicate with Board​ – board committees and meeting agendas should be directly aligned with the plan; include mission on every meeting agenda

Communicate externally​ – share a one-page overview with everyone – clients, donors, funders, stakeholders; thank them for their participation in the creation of the plan and support in achieving the mission & vision