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Nonprofit Strategic Planning – Five Important Takeaways

Nonprofit Strategic Planning – Five Important Takeaways

Posted on August 6, 2021
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Just like any “for-profit” organization, a nonprofit organization works towards an objective. Strategic planning for nonprofits gives a direction to the activities of the nonprofit so that they are aligned to its mission.

Why do a Nonprofit Strategic Plan?

Nonprofit Strategic planning gives all stakeholders a path to work on common goals. Besides, it helps assess its resilience towards a changing environment. Nonprofit strategic planning helps it evaluate its progress and strengths with every initiative that’s launched. It also brings the whole team together enhancing its efficiency.

Strategic planning for any organization can be daunting because it has many components. If you are starting from scratch, it may look like an impossible task but it isn’t! With the right resources and direction, you can easily get started on the strategic plan for your nonprofit.

What should a Nonprofit Strategic Plan Include?

Think of your nonprofit strategic plans like a “recipe” that includes a set of ingredients and the method for putting them together to create the final product! In other words, we need to identify the key components of a nonprofit strategic plan and the step-by-step process to put it into action.

Here’s a guide to nonprofit strategic planning:

Let’s first identify, what are the four key elements of strategic planning?

1. Comprehensive statements of mission, vision, and values

The basis of a nonprofit is the purpose why it exists. A nonprofit organization cannot have vague goals which are up to employees’ interpretation. It will turn into a mess! A nonprofit organization exists because it wants to do some good in society and create change. Every nonprofit has a purpose for existence and it’s the first thing that should be mentioned in the strategic planning for nonprofit. This purpose is formally placed in the form of mission and vision statements. The mission and vision of a company may come from its founders or the industry or the stakeholders. Further, a set of values that the nonprofit abides by and does not compromise on further strengthens the mission and vision statement.

2. SWOT analysis for inside and outside work environment

Analyzing the nonprofit’s internal environment to determine its strengths and weaknesses helps with filling the necessary gaps to boost performance. Similarly, looking outside the organization to understand the threats and opportunities is a huge building block for having a robust system. It also helps include products/services which aren’t harmed by small environmental changes. A comprehensive analysis of the external and internal environment together determines the positioning of the organization. This forms the foundation on which the action plan is built.

3. Determine 3 to 5 years Goals to be Achieved

After the vision and mission are established, the nonprofit needs to build a roadmap for achieving them. This is done by establishing long and short-term goals. This clearly defines the role of each individual that will help achieve these goals. It also gives clarity to the staff about how their tasks impact the goals.

While setting the goals, it is important to include strategies that will be used to tackle any situation. This requires a wider and out-of-the-box perspective. Asking stakeholders for their ideas and thoughts is a great way to get a wider perspective on challenges and action planning.

4. Coping with Emergencies

If COVID 19 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change rapidly and we may never know where we may end up. A huge part of nonprofit strategic planning is determining what actions to take when an unprecedented event or situation occurs. Having a contingency plan is better than having a no plan.

Now that we know the essential elements of nonprofit strategic planning, we move to the process of creating a strategic plan.

What are the Five Steps in the Strategic Planning Process?

This step-by-step approach to nonprofit strategic planning will break down the process so that you do not get overwhelmed with too many things to be done.

Step 1: Research

The number one thing you should do before putting pen to paper is research. Developing a clear understanding of where your nonprofit stands are where you can start. It begins with doing a deep dive into programs and services offered by your nonprofit. Where the funding comes from and how it’s distributed. Understanding the areas you need to focus on and improve, gives the strategic planners an even ground to begin from.

At this stage, you should also look at various strategic planning models and where you fit. Selecting the most appropriate strategic model and tailoring it according to the goals of your nonprofit is the best way to go.

There are a large number of models available, some of the popular ones are

  1. Conventional strategic planning
  2. Issue-based strategic planning
  3. Organic strategy planning
  4. Real-time strategy planning

Step 2: Who should be involved?

The next step involves forming a strategic planning team. This team will be responsible for documenting the entire strategic planning for nonprofits. In this team, you have to ensure that you don’t only include major decision-makers of your organization. Ideally, you should have at least one person from each department on the team so that you have a set of wide perspectives and don’t create an incomplete understanding of what the nonprofit is doing. Once you have your foundations ready, you should get inputs from your stakeholders like staff, volunteers, outside consultants, and board members. These inputs can be considered by the planning team and include in the document. The planning team can take inputs before and after the strategic plan is done.

Step 3: Set SMART Objectives

SMART goal setting structure is the most effective tool for achieving your goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. Each of these parameters answers specific questions. It brings structure and traceability to your goals and objectives. This helps establish milestones for each objective that can then be monitored. Every small milestone brings you closer to the main objective.

Step 4: Identify Strategic Issues and Action Plan

After getting your goals and objectives in order, the next step is outlining what strategies you will use to achieve that objective. If your goal is to increase fundraising, then find out areas where there are gaps and create a step-by-step plan to tackle them. Further, look into hiring a marketing or fundraising agency to improve fundraising activities is a way to start filling those gaps.

To achieve the objectives, setting up an action plan or establishing tactics that support specific objectives is a great way to showcase accountability and direction. When everyone is aware of how their tasks will impact the larger goals, it creates an environment of structure and responsibility. This ensures that everything gets done seamlessly.

Step 5: Make Rules and Guidelines

Lastly, creating a set of rules and guidelines to follow for every project and task gives employees more clarity on what NOT to do. While it is essential to point out the path to achieve goals it is equally important to highlight things that will not be accepted by the organization. This set of lists can include a code of conduct when interacting with volunteers or donors. These guidelines exist so that there is no gray area left, which can hamper the organization’s growth.

So now you are ready with your nonprofit strategic plan, what next?

Get ready to implement it!

Implementation of the Strategic Plan

Organize a meeting with your board members, donors, and employees. Bring the plan to action and make it a bible of your organization. The future look and plans should be ongoing: As numerous things change, the nonprofit’s plans may need to be adjusted. While the process of bringing everyone together to plan for the future is stimulating, don’t let the plan collect dust on the shelf once it’s completed. Revisit it regularly, make revisions and update it as needed.

When it comes to achieving your nonprofit goals, iConnectX has an experienced team that will simplify the implementation of your strategic plans!