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The Ultimate Guide to Strategic Planning for Non-Profits

Sherita N Brace is an international development professional and blogger. She serves as a Consultant to non-profits.

In recent times, strategic planning has been increasingly touted as dead and irrelevant by some bloggers and practitioners. I differ with that view. How can one get to his/her destination without planning ? With that said, when should the leadership of a non-profit organization embark on a strategic planning mission?

Often, the decision to carry out strategic planning depends on the phase of the non-profit's growth and development. For instance, if it is in it's first year of operation, the organization might be more pre-occupied with developing it's operational budget or its' governing board. On the other hand, a non-profit in it's fourth or fifth year of operation might be preoccupied with the leadership style of the organization. A critical question it is pondering might be, "Is this non-profit being operated strategically?"

One tell-tale sign of an organization that is operating strategically is that it's strategies are developed from a shared vision. It spends more time fulfilling it's vision than on reacting to an onslaught of daily problems without an end in sight.

Strategic planning is a conscious, disciplined choice that requires a willingness to change. Without a willingness to change, the status quo will be maintained. Additionally, the strategic planning process predominantly lies in the domain of the organization's leadership.

Aspects of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning generally includes the following:

1. Assessing the Situation

In order to determine the best course of action to take, an organization should reviee its own history and goals. While it conducts this step, a clear picture of accomplished and unaccomplished goals will emerge. Furthermore, research in the form of empirical data collection should be conducted. Recommended data to be targeted include budget and program trends among others.

2. Organizing a Retreat

A second step in the strategic planning process entails conducting a retreat. Staff members, board members, a facilitator and other stakeholders that are involved with the work of the organization either directly or indirectly ought to be included. During the retreat, exercises centered on the attainment of a common ground regarding the organization's mission, vision and core values should take center stage. Next, it is highly important to carry out a SWOT analysis followed by a discussion about the priorities of the organization.

3. Writing Out the Plan

Following the retreat, a strategic plan reflective of the organization's goals can be developed. Data collected during the assessment phase will serve as the framework for the formulation of goals. For example, it might have been discovered that the non-profit's deteriorating infrastructure has been affecting the ability of staff to carry out their work effectively. Consequently, the non-profit is plagued with low productivity. In essence, the nature of the waning infrastructure will inform the type of goals that eventually emerge.

4. Monitoring the Plan

Once a plan is developed, it is essential to develop a monitoring plan that tracks and evaluates the progress of the strategic plan. This plan will include a timeline of activities and stated goals. Furthermore, the names of individuals assigned to listed responsibilities should be captured in the monitoring plan. If it does this, the organization will be well on its way to implementing its strategic plan in a timely manner.

Reference:

  • Kaye, J., & Michael, A. (2005). Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations.​

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Sherita Brace