Two people standing together on sidewalk next to words about passion

The Strategic Plan

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” – Margaret Thatcher 

There is always a starting point before there can be a finish line, and your strategic plan is your road map to help you successfully do that.

When considering a strategic plan you must examine what is changing within your organization and have a grasp of understanding about what is happening outside the four walls of your nonprofit. This is a critical activity to help ensure that not only is your organization still around, but that it remains relevant in the community. Typically, plans run the span of one to three years and it can help your organization craft hopes and dreams for the future.

Here are components of the road map:

  • Taking the pulse of what is happening outside the organization offers a view of any opportunities or threats.
  • Looking to identify the strengths and challenges within the organization offers insights on potential changes.
  • Revisiting the vision, mission, and values provides an opportunity to be more responsive to the community you serve.
  • Creating a reasonable number of goals that represent steps in the right direction.
  • Articulating how to accomplish those goals and who will be responsible for each effort.

According to Bloomerang, there are different types of strategic plans depending on the needs:

  • Standard Strategic Planning Model – used when operations and outside events are stable.
  • Issues-Based Strategic Planning Model – an approach when the organization is navigating a persistent crisis with matters like constant staff turnover.
  • Organic Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model – when the outside world is experiencing an unclear future.
  • Real-Time Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model – used when there is an unprecedented global event like a pandemic. 
  • Alignment Nonprofit Strategic Planning Model – when your organization’s departments are working in silos and having difficulty working together as a team.

Pieces of the plan include the following:

  • Reviewing the mission statement to confirm relevancy.
  • Outlining goals, objectives, and activities that include measurable and reasonable efforts.
  • Evaluating current resources so you know who is involved and what tools are still needed.
  • Analyzing your assets, negative aspects, and positive as well as negative issues outside of your organization.

Another facet of the planning is to consider who you are including in the discussions and feedback. The board of directors takes the lead with the executive director on stewarding the process and it is wise to include staff, volunteers, community partners, and program participants in the dialogue.

Granted, it serves as your master plan but keep in mind both the actual plan and the process to create it are equally as important.  The process is never truly finished since it is an ongoing effort as elements of your organization, and the world, changes. Your nonprofit must keep up with the times to respond to different internal and external factors. Staying current with trends in the sector is also prudent.

One of the biggest mistakes in the strategic planning process is the tossing of the plan in a file so it becomes long forgotten. A suggested tactic:  keep the plan alive with at least a quarterly check in at both staff and board meetings. The National Council for NonProfits offers this innovative agenda for reframing how board leaders can stay in front of the strategic train. Not only does it keep your existing strategic priorities front and center, it also creates space to be more responsive to critical events.

Creating a strategic plan is a commitment and one that is an investment in the health of your nonprofit.  The important work that is completed in the process requires the management of many moving pieces.  I recommend assembling a group to spearhead the effort and bring in a seasoned planning professional to help you shepherd the project along.  Your ultimate goal is to learn more about what your organization can do to better serve your community and where to begin that important work.