Strategic Planning for Nonprofits
A strategic planning process identifies strategies so that a nonprofit will achieve its mission. Ideally, as staff and board engage in the process, they become committed to measurable goals, approve priorities for implementation, and also commit to revisiting the organization’s strategies on an ongoing basis as the organization's internal and external environments change. Many nonprofits start the process by identifying the nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, in what is commonly called a “SWOT” analysis.
Recently much has been written about the need to keep strategic plans relevant: don’t let the plan gather dust on the shelf. If no one refers to the plan after it is competed, then it’s hardly serving as a “strategic” guide! It’s more advisable to revisit the plan periodically, making adjustments, adapting the plan – and the nonprofit’s strategic priorities - as circumstances change. Some argue for throwing out the “plan” completely or reducing it to a very short, concise document, easily digestible by staff and board, but maintaining the all-important process of strategic thinking through periodic discussions with board and staff.
A good way to keep your nonprofit’s board engaged is to include a short discussion about some part of the nonprofit’s strategic plan in every board meeting agenda. Is that portion of the plan still relevant? Are the priorities that were identified earlier, the correct priorities for the near future?
- Create a strategic plan for your nonprofit (NOLO)
- Strategic Planning in Smaller Nonprofit Organizations: A practical guide for the process (Jan W. Lyddon, Ph.D.; Western Michigan University)
- Example of a strategic plan from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
- Ten Keys to Successful Strategic Planning for Nonprofit and Foundation Leaders (TCC Group)
- 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)
- What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan for a nonprofit?
For information and assistance with strategic planning, contact your state association of nonprofits.