Strategic Planning for a Nonprofit Organization

Written by Dave Lavinsky

strategic planning for nonprofits


Your organization’s strategic plan should be a living document that is reviewed, assessed, and updated regularly.

It is also an integral part of grant applications and fundraising efforts.

This article will provide a step-by-step process for developing and implementing your nonprofit’s strategic plan.


What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a written document that outlines your non-profit organization’s mission statement, goals, and the strategies that will be used to meet those goals.

Strategic planning keeps organizations focused on the big picture, keeps them accountable for results over time, provides inspiration for staff members and volunteers, keeps financial resources in line with organizational priorities, and demonstrates how you are meeting your mission.


Strategic Planning Overview

Strategic planning is an ongoing process that provides the direction for where you (and your organization) are going by connecting organizational resources with organizational visions and goals.

It also serves as a vehicle for effective decision-making, resource allocation, and execution of the plan. A strategic plan can be used to manage people, plans, and projects.


Strategic Planning vs. Business Planning

Strategic planning is different from a non-profit business plan, which is more of a snapshot in time that looks at the current operation.

When an organization starts out, it might need to have both kinds of plans—a short-term business plan for starting a nonprofit organization and making sure the doors are open, and a long-range strategic plan for setting goals and an action plan for achieving them. Some organizations might not need both plans, but one or the other will be necessary to guide their direction.


How To Write a Strategic Plan for a Nonprofit

Your strategic plan is a roadmap that can help you reach your charitable goals. Here’s how it works:


1) Set Your Goals

The first step is to define the goals you want to achieve with your organization. Goals should be specific, measurable, and time-bound. For example: “Increase revenue by 10% by June 1st.”


2) Identify Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

Once you’ve established your goals, you can move on to developing strategies that will help you get there. Strategies should be targeted and specific, such as: “Increase revenue by 10% through increased membership.”


3) Develop an Implementation Plan for Achieving Your Goals

The final step of the process is to develop a plan of action, including timelines and milestones, roles and responsibilities, and identifying resources needed. For example: “Using the nonprofit marketing plan we created in step two, hire a part-time development officer to help us reach our goal of 10% revenue growth by June 1st.”


4) Monitor and Assess Your Plan

Once you’ve completed your strategic plan, it’s important to monitor and assess its progress. By having specific and measurable goals and strategies for achieving them, you are able to measure progress and determine when it’s necessary to revise your plan.


Tips for Successful Strategic Planning for a Nonprofit

A strategic plan can be as simple or as complex as your organization needs. Detail is not necessary, but it does help to have a starting point and structure to build on. It’s also helpful to work with a group of staff members and/or board members in developing the plan.

Some questions to consider when developing your strategic plan include:

  • What are the problems that need solving?
  • What can you do to solve them?
  • How will you know if the problem has been solved?
  • How long will it take to solve them (timeframe)?
  • Who is responsible for solving them?
  • What resources (money, time, volunteers) will you need?
  • How will success be defined?
  • How often should the plan be reviewed and updated?

Be sure to seek input from staff members and stakeholders when writing your strategic plan. It’s also a good idea to solicit feedback once the plan is complete and in place.

Include your mission, vision, and values in the strategic plan—and use them as a guideline for decision making and action-taking. And remember, a strategy is just a piece of the larger plan that will help you achieve your goal.

Your organization’s strategic plan should be a living document that is reviewed, assessed, and updated regularly.



Strategic planning is a key management tool for nonprofit organizations to set goals and accomplish them. This process can be as simple or as complex as your needs require. The objectives and strategies included in the plan must be specific, measurable, and time-bound.

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