The Ultimate Guide to Strategic Planning for Non-Profits

Updated on October 17, 2017

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 growth/development phase of the non-profit. For instance, if it is in its' first year of operation, it might be more pre-occupied with developing its' operational budget or its' governing board. On the other hand, a non-profit in its' fourth or fifth year of operation might be preoccupied with the leadership style of the organization. A critical question it might be pondering about will be, "is this non-profit being operated strategically?"

One tell-tale sign of an organization that is operating strategically is that its' strategies are developed from a shared vision. It spends more time fulfilling its' vision instead of 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 and generally involves the following :

1. Assessment of the Situation
In order to determine the best course of action to take, an overview of the organizations history and goals should be carried out. By conducting 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, program trends among others.

2.Organize 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 on the priorities of the organization.

3. Write 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 waning infrastructure has been affecting the ability of staff to carry out their work effectively. Consequently, low productivity has been it's (non-profit) plight. In essence, the issue pertaining to waning infrastructure will inform the type of goals that eventually emerge.

4. Monitoring 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. By doing this, the organization will be well on its way of implementing its' strategic plan in a timely manner.

​Written By Sherita N Brace
Sherita N Brace is an International Development Professional and a Blogger. She serves as a Consultant to non-profits and provides grant writing services, program planning services and communications services.


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

© 2017 Sherita Brace


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