The Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations (2023)

If you choose to invest time and energy in strategic planning, the benefits can have a positive impact on your business for years to come.

The Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations (1)

Key Steps to Create a Nonprofit Strategic Plan

Nonprofit organizations have many different options for techniques and models to create their strategic plan. How you develop your plan will depend on your goals, needs, the unique situation within your organization, and the climate of your community or area of ​​interest.

Regardless of the circumstances, all nonprofit organizations can benefit from a structured and thoughtful planning process.

Aly Sterling recommends Philanthropyan individualized strategic planning model focused on strengthening your organization's financial health, capacity, effectiveness and relevance within the community. The process involves partnering with an experienced nonprofit consultant who provides robust planning tools and resources, and with nonprofit leaders themselves, who provide insights from within their organization.

The key steps of this strategic planning approach include:

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1. Dish

The strategic planning process begins with a pre-planning session between the consultant and the organization's leaders. In this meeting, you'll delve into your organization to assess its history, infrastructure, core programs, and vision for the future.

Another element of the pre-planning process is stakeholder surveys to gather ideas and feedback. Depending on your nonprofit's situation, your stakeholders may include:

  • Current and former board members
  • Current and past annual, major, and planned donors
  • Influential members of the community, such as political leaders, foundations or trustees, and church leaders
  • Featured Entrepreneurs
  • volunteers and staff
  • Specific recipients of your services, such as patients, alumni, or consumers

When conducting these interviews, it is important to carefully select the participants. Seek a variety of perspectives, and don't just interview those with glowing reviews. Contact those who have expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of your organization. These insights can provide the tough love needed to help your organization grow and be more effective.

Follower polls are also a great way to continue your follower building efforts. Supporters are generally flattered when asked to contribute and share their views.

2. Align

The next step that Aly Sterling Philanthropy recommends is to involve your board of directors and employees in a dynamic strategic planning retreat. This encourages organizational leaders to consolidate and discuss their thoughts in an action-oriented and engaged forum.

During this short, half-day retreat, leaders will prioritize and, with the help of the consultant, begin to visualize what success looks like. During this time, the advisor builds consensus and seeks suggestions for short- and long-term opportunities and obstacles.

3. Act

In the final step of strategic planning, the consultant summarizes his findings and offers nonprofit leaders a recommended plan of action. The consultant will review the highlights and key learnings from the planning retreat to highlight key priorities.

This partner will continue to provide dedicated support as your nonprofit establishes each leader's responsibility, key objectives, key performance indicators, and a completion timeline. This promotes accountability throughout the implementation process.

(Video) Nonprofit Workshop: Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

With Aly Sterling Philanthropy's strategic planning model, a consultant guides your team through each step of the process. This specialist facilitates everything from managing stakeholder surveys to the planning retreat and final strategic plan document.

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The Essential Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits

At the end of the strategic planning process, your organization will be armed with a dynamic action plan.

Your organization's strategic plan is based on several pillars. These pillars are the elements of your organization that require the most attention. In this section, we present a template of what your organization's plan would look like and explain each element.

Let's look at an example of a strategic plan for a nonprofit organization that focuses on these five pillars:

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  • Mission Clarity:Why are you on duty? What is your nonprofit doing to make a difference in the community?
  • Marketing and public relations:How do you communicate your mission to a broader audience?
  • Financial sustainability:How do you keep your business running?
  • Commitment to the community:How do you build awareness and support for your mission in the church?
  • Infrastructure and process:Is your company's infrastructure aligned with your strategic objectives?

Here is a sample plan for the fictional XYZ Foundation. The first page of this roadmap summarizes each of these pillars, including associated specific goals and action steps:

(Video) A Guide To Developing & Monitoring The Strategic Plan For Nonprofits | Nonprofit Management

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Use this blank version to add your nonprofit organization's pillars and action steps:

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You can then break down each column into its own chart to locate specific actions and tasks related to each priority:

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For each priority, identify associated action steps, timeline/milestones, leaders, resources needed, and future/ongoing actions:

  • Action steps:What tasks, projects, or events are needed to complete the priority? List each required step that will enable your team to reach the goal.
  • Calendar/Milestones:By when should you complete each task? Having a set schedule for each step is a great way to encourage responsibility.
  • Führer:Which team members are responsible for individual tasks? Make sure each person knows their role and the associated timeline for completing their tasks.
  • Necessary resources:What resources do you need to complete each task? This can include people, databases, contributions from board members or employees, etc.
  • Future/Ongoing Actions:How do you ensure that the task or project continues and does not fade away? Determine the timeline and responsibilities of team members to maintain each priority.

These documents provide a tangible resource that your team can draw on as they implement their strategic plan. Complete these templates with your organization's key priorities and the tasks associated with each step.

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Tips for Maintaining Your Nonprofit's Strategic Plan

The time, energy, and resources you invest in strategic planning are an investment in the future of your business. Don't let that investment go to waste by not fully implementing your company's strategic plan.

These are some of our bestTips to keep your strategic plan alive:

  • Complete the templates above with your withdrawal information.Make sure your plans are formalized in a shared document across your organization. Use the "less is more" approach when completing the template and include only the essential information. Also, be sure to set SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
  • Work in group.Create a working group to work together on your strategic plan. Keep the group large enough to be helpful, but not so large that it is a hindrance.
  • Present your plan to key stakeholders.Hold regular check-in meetings as a team to measure progress and maintain accountability.
  • Keep your plan front and center by posting it somewhere visible.Print your roadmap and post it in a common space like your office or conference room.
  • Explain your plan in a formal, public presentation.Making your plans known to a wider audience increases the expectation that you will carry them out. It also involves the wider community and stakeholders in your organization's plans.
  • To celebrate success.Schedule celebrations for key milestones in your plan to recognize achievement and keep employees and stakeholders updated on your progress. Plus, having a celebration to look forward to can motivate your team to achieve their goals!

With these tips, you'll be able to maintain the initial enthusiasm and momentum generated during your strategic planning process. This ensures that your plan is doing what it was intended to do: effectively advance your organization's mission.

(Video) Strategic Planning for Nonprofits: a Step-by-Step Approach

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To involve

While you can take an internal approach to strategic planning, it can sometimes be difficult to create a dynamic action plan from within. The outside perspective of a consultant is often needed to get an unbiased view of your business and provide objective and realistic advice.

(Video) A Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning

Explore the best consulting options for nonprofit organizationswith this list, oContact us here at Aly Sterling Philanthropywhen you're ready to launch your company's strategic planning process.

In addition to strategic planning, Aly Sterling Philanthropy also offers fundraising solutions and a board evaluation service to maximize the performance of your nonprofit organization's board of directors.

For more information on nonprofit strategic planning, see the following resources:

  • Create your fundraising strategy from scratch.In addition to an overall strategic plan, your organization may benefit from a plan specifically designed to guide your fundraising. Use this guide to create a plan that will optimize your nonprofit organization's fundraising efforts.
  • The Must-Have Fundraising Plan Template for Nonprofits.A formalized roadmap to guide your fundraising is critical to keeping your organization running. Use this template to create your fundraising plan.
  • Over 20 nonprofit consultancies for your philanthropic needs. Nonprofit organizations often need advice in a variety of different areas. This list of the best consultants includes experts who specialize in a variety of topics.


1. Strategic planning for non profits
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2. The steps of the strategic planning process in under 15 minutes
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3. The Complete Strategic Planning Checklist
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4. NGO Strategic Planning NGO Strategy Strategic planning Process Strategic Planning for Nonprofits
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5. A Plan Is Not a Strategy
(Harvard Business Review)
6. Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Or
(Daniel Elmore)


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