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Strategic Planning for Non-profits

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It is a common thought that planning concerns rather tomorrow than today, which is not a very trendy approach nowadays. But experienced people know that planning is exactly what makes the future, present and future – possible. Actions without planning are rather dreams – chaotic movements which result depends straight on luck and fortune. This is not the approach we consider to be correct when talking about things that can change the life of other people. It’s too important to just let it go as fortune tells, don’t you think so?

Let’s talk about planning for non-profits today. And we mean substantial strategic planning – not just a to-do list. Strategy is more than just a plan – it is a complete visualization of particular things your organization is going to achieve with a clear path visible to be further transformed into a tactical plan. Strategic planning is tough, but it is definitely worth it.

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A refined and timely prepared strategic plan is a ground for your non-profit activities. Not only does it help you smoothly accomplish your mission but also saves your time – no chaotic movements, no waste of resources, no stress, and burnout for you and your team. Now it’s time to move to the details, ready? Go!


  1. The essence of the non-profit strategic plan
  2. Types of models for your strategic planning
  3. Components of a basic non-profit strategic plan
  4. A process of creating a strategic plan for your non-profit

The essence of a non-profit strategic plan

When you are working on the completion of a strategic plan for your NPO, you are actually identifying and putting together the elements that will help you achieve your goals.

Before you can start this process you need to decide on the goals and objectives within those goals.

Without this, you cannot move forwards, and this is actually the main rule.

A strategic plan is similar to a flow chart because each component of it is connected to another – they actually derive from the previous one, forming a direct line that will lead all those activities to the necessary result. For example, you need to attract more donors and raise more funds for your project. This is your goal. You decided to use your website for it. This is your leading page.  So you need to decide on the tool now. Let it be email marketing – you will collect emails of potential supporters and use mailing for further communication and work. Now your objective is to finalize the website design, add the lead capture forms to the web pages, and complete a donor-attracting funnel, – those are your objectives within this goal. There can be more if you need them.


Types of models for your strategic planning

Basically, there are 5 main models that are used for strategic planning. They are:

1. Standard model

Use it if the condition of your organization’s activities, possibilities, as well as your goals, and resources is typical and average, in comparison with other organizations. This model is the most common – vision-based one, and it features a typical easy-to-follow workflow:

  1. Define your mission
  2. Decide on your goals
  3. Write down a plan on how to achieve each goal
  4. Schedule all necessary activities and tasks

2. Issue-based model

In case your condition is rather turbulent, for example, your staff is changing really often, then you can choose this model to help you put things together and get back on the regular and more stable track. The process here should go in the following way:

  1. Define your problems and stop factors for development and normal work
  2. Find solutions suitable for those problems
  3. Start implementing the solutions
  4. Monitor each problem and change solutions if not working

3. Organic model

This nonlinear model is suitable for strategic planning when your organization depends on certain external factors that are not really certain. Here comes the planning process:

  1. Meet your team somewhere away from your usual working environment
  2. Discuss perspectives of the organization
  3. Decide on the long-term goals
  4. Analyze the strong and weak skills of each team member (necessary to accomplish those goals)
  5. Choose the date for each team member to progress
  6. Have another meeting in 4-12 months to monitor the progress and adjust the strategy if necessary

4. Real-time model

In case there is a real crisis you have faced, then the real-time model is the one to choose for strategic planning.

  1. Arrange a regular meeting for the whole team
  2. Decide on the short-term objectives for each one
  3. Monitor the progress of each team member daily
  4. Get to the point when the crisis is over
  5. Choose another strategic planning model and create a new strategy

5. Alignment model

This model suits best an organization that has certain problems with communication between different departments and team members.

  1. General meet-up to define problems each member encounters on a regular basis
  2. Discuss your mission and check if it fits each member in their position-wise
  3. Work out a solution for each team member to overcome their difficulties
  4. Decide on the communication-enhancing techniques to implement

Components of a basic non-profit strategic plan

There are 3 key components each non-profit should include in its strategic plan in order for it to really work and help achieve the organization’s mission.

Work organization

Basically, we are talking about an organizational plan that is adjusted each 3-5 years by the leader(s) of the organization. They decide on the objectives that they can measure and reach within a set period of time. Those objectives are often derived from the results of the SWOT analysis each organization, both business, and non-profit, always uses as a powerful strategic tool.

There is no sense to move forward if the leader(s) of the organization hasn’t decided where exactly they want to move.

Business side

This component of the strategic plan is usually reconsidered and adjusted annually. The business plan includes the following elements:

  1. The mission of the organization
  2. services, products, programs, and projects your organization offers

With the organization component, you decide on the goal, while the business one – sets objectives to concentrate on.

Organization development

The development component covers the resources of the organization, forming the plan for fundraising activities. Here you should not only decide on the activities but also create a clear agenda for each activity – how you are going to work on it, when it will take place, what types of the campaign it will be, and how exactly it can be covered.

Those are three big sections of your strategic plan that will complement each other and help you not only reach your goals but also find where to make adjustments if necessary quickly and efficiently.


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A process of creating a strategic plan for your non-profit

You can complete your strategic plan in 5 consequent steps.

  1. Take goals for development as a base.
  2. Cooperate with stakeholders, deciding together on the most important issues and approving goals.
  3. Decide on the strategies for marketing, promotion, and fundraising.
  4. Set up S.M.A.R.T. and clear objectives.
  5. Complete a flowchart for each objective on how to reach them.

But what about after that?

Use your plan! Actually, you hold a comprehensive tactical tool to guide your organization, team, and supporters towards the completion of your mission.

  1. Assign tasks to each team member
  2. Prioritize objectives and tasks to-be-done
  3. Interconnect all the different channels
  4. Implement solutions to coordinate their completion
    1. Track the process
    2. Analyze intermediate and final results
    3. Adjust workflow and tactical steps
  5. Automate processes
    1. Filter completed tasks to find the repetitive, important, and useless ones
    2. Automate repetitive tasks
    3. Prioritize important tasks
    4. Reconsider tasks that take too much time or do not bring necessary results
  6. Expand your team and community
    1. Involve partners
    2. Find donors
    3. Attract supporters
    4. Consider working with volunteers
  7. Raise funds.

In case you wonder what a strategic plan looks like, don’t worry – the final document you’ll come up with after the completion of all the research and work does not have standards to follow.

It should be handy and comprehensive for you and your team.

In case you need it as an additional tool for partners or/and donors, then for them also. But even if it is just a couple of pages, stating your mission, a few realistic and particular goals with several objectives, and precise strategic ways to achieve them, then it is a good plan! You can even find general templates online to download, process, and adjust to your organization. It’s not about the shape – it is about the substance of the content inside. Your strategic plan will still be unique by itself as it will be crafted by your or non-profit marketing experts precisely for you, even if the structure is common and generally known to others.

Use the information, tips, and guidelines of this overview to link your goals & objectives to your actions, agenda, initiatives, and even regular meetings, and this way reach them at a comfortable and suitable for your pace. And stay tuned – more useful info is coming.

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