Discover the power of strategic planning to set and achieve impactful goals. Let’s explore how this ongoing, flexible process can keep your organization achieving its goals and remaining flexible to adapt along the way. 

Read on to learn more about strategic planning and how your nonprofit can leverage it to reach your goals.

What’s Involved in Strategic Planning

Strategic planning can get a bad rap. Organizations often see one model or approach and write it off completely as something that wouldn’t work for them or is too costly or time-consuming, with unknown benefits. But the truth is that strategy is anything but one-size-fits-all, and unless you have a strategy, you will only be implementing activities, not something you can measure and tell the true impact. The trick lies in creating a process that works for you and finding the right external facilitator to help you shape and go through the process

Here are just a few areas to consider when doing strategic planning:

  • External landscape analysis: Are your services still needed in the community? Who are your competitors? Has public transportation shifted? Are policies in alignment with our priorities?  Does current local, state, or national policy impact what you are trying to do?
  • Internal landscape analysis: Do you have the right people and/or positions on board? Is this still your mission and vision? What are you trying to accomplish in the next 3, 5, 10 years? What do you have/not have in place to help you achieve your outcomes? 
  • Partnerships: Who are your partners? Are they the right partners? How can you leverage your partners? Are there new partnership opportunities?  How can you identify new partners or opportunities? 
  • Finances: How has the funding landscape changed? Is your current structure working? How can you diversify your funding?  What are your goals for fundraising?
  • Strengths and weaknesses: What are your biggest strengths as an organization?  What are your biggest weaknesses?  Where are there opportunities for growth?  What are threats in your internal or external environments? 

Who should be a part of strategic planning? 

In nonprofit strategic planning, a diverse and inclusive group of individuals should be engaged to ensure a thoughtful and well-rounded outcome. This typically includes the Board of Directors, who provide governance and strategic oversight; the Executive Director or CEO, who offers leadership and operational insight; key staff members from various departments for their expertise and practical knowledge of the organization’s day-to-day functions; and representatives from the organization’s stakeholders, such as community members, beneficiaries, and volunteers, to ensure the plan aligns with the needs and expectations of those served. 

Involving a mix of perspectives, from high-level governance to grassroots insights, is crucial for creating a well-rounded and achievable strategic plan. There are many ways to engage these groups, and they should not all be engaged in the same ways – for example, you may have a working session with your Board of Directors but release a survey for response from your community members and volunteers. There are many ways to customize the feedback loop process that can work for you and your situation.

Benefits of Strategic Planning

Sustainability and growth require a solid plan that drives your activities and programs and results in the outcomes you envision for the community you are serving. With limited time and resources, it is even more critical that you have a thoughtful plan in place so that activities are no longer reactive but have been strategically planned to be responsive and as proactive as possible. Thoughtful actions are more likely to result in your intended outcomes. 

With a strategic plan, you can highlight to funders the roadmap you have created to be able to achieve your organizational goals.. Funders putting their trust(and finances) in your organization is always a risk, but that risk increases without a proper strategy that is documented and that you communicate is actively being implemented by the team. 

Additionally, a solid strategic plan is a fantastic external communications tool. It shows stakeholders that you took the time to think through the options and have a plan to support your work – making others more likely to want to collaborate with you. 

The positives also ripple within your organization. Going through the planning process builds teams and brings people closer together because they’re working on the “guts” of the organization and reigniting the flame of that initial passion that brought them there. 

Keep it Flexible 

A strategic plan is a living document, not something you develop, just for it to sit on a shelf.

Not only is your plan allowed to change, but it most likely will. That’s OK. The nonprofit world is rapidly changing, and we have to be able to adapt.

Strategic planning acts as a fantastic learning opportunity, and if you’re finding that something isn’t working, it’s perfectly alright to shift gears and document that in your plan.

It doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time to document plans in the first place; it just means that as your goals or activities shift along the way, document that and make those adjustments that are more effective for your work. 

Get Help from Experts

Often, organizations see strategic planning as a burden preventing them from doing their ‘real’ work. Or, they know it’s important but don’t have the time.

Engaging external facilitators when doing organizational-wide, bigger-picture strategic planning is well worth it. It doesn’t need to be daunting or expensive. You don’t have to hire a big firm to do this work; you just have to find the right people.

Even for organizations that incorporate strategic planning into their work, involving a non-biased third-party expert can open your eyes to what you don’t even realize you’re missing. Often, a fresh perspective is just what you need to make further inroads in your mission. 

If you and your team would like help with strategic planning, we can help. Book a discovery call here to learn more about how Page Capacity Builders can support you and your mission. There are also free resources such as the Taproot Foundation, where you can apply for assistance from a skilled volunteer