Regardless of your nonprofit’s size and mission, you need a plan to define where you want your organization to be in the years ahead as well as the actions you will take to actualize it. A nonprofit’s strategic plan is the playbook with the strategies and tactics you will employ while performing your nonprofit’s duties. However, a nonprofit strategic plan must have the buy-in of every stakeholder to generate maximum impact. In today’s podcast, Dolph Goldenburg from Successful Nonprofits and Stephen Halasnik from Financing Solutions discuss the keys to participatory nonprofit strategic planning. 

Keys to Participatory Nonprofit Strategic Planning

Effective planning is one of the ways nonprofits can reach their mission very quickly. Far too often, many nonprofits don’t have plans that will help accelerate their growth and ensure sustainability. However, experience has shown that every successful nonprofit has a plan of execution that allows them to create, implement, and evaluate its programs. An all-inclusive plan will prevent you from making random decisions that will mar the objectives of your nonprofits. When you put in place a roadmap, you will know how to focus on what is important and avoid things that have no significance to your organization.

Your nonprofit strategic planning should be participatory and all-inclusive. In other words, your plan must cut across every department of your nonprofit, including finance, administration, marketing, and more, in order to generate the result you want. In addition, your strategic planning should have the buy-in of every member of your nonprofit, including the boards, the executives, and the staff, and they should all work in line with the established plan to avoid conflict of interests down the line.

This article helps you understand what nonprofits strategic planning is and why you should have one for your nonprofit.

What Is a Nonprofit Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning for nonprofits is the practice of creating nonprofit strategies, implementing them, and evaluating the results of the execution plan with respect to the organization’s overall long-term goals. In other words, a strategic plan serves as a guide on how nonprofits will meet their goals and objectives within a specified period. As a result, a nonprofit that has an overarching plan for its operation tends to grow faster and become more sustainable.  

A strategic plan help simplify nonprofits’ functions and make them clearer to nonprofits’ stakeholders. It starts with a series of goals and objectives guiding your organization’s actions for the years ahead. For example, a three years strategic plan will detail the strategies and tactics to follow in accomplishing the set goals by breaking them down into manageable and measurable steps.

The Benefits of Nonprofit Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is essential as it provides a course of action for nonprofits to follow while performing their functions. In addition, it lets you know your organization’s current state and where you want it to be in the future. Plus, it allows you to figure out the important things you need to do to achieve your nonprofit’s mission, how to get there, and what not to do. Nonprofit strategic planning

Further, a strategic plan helps identify strategies that will best enable nonprofits to promote their missions and get them committed to reaching their objectives. It also helps you understand how to measure success to know whether you are making progress. 

How to Develop a Nonprofit Strategic Plan

Knowing the right way to go while creating your nonprofit strategic plan is essential for having a working plan. You should consider setting up a team comprising senior executives, board members, and key team members who can contribute to the sustainable growth of your nonprofit. Below are the key steps to creating a nonprofit strategic plan;

Evaluate Your Nonprofit Current Situation

To understand where you want your organization to be in the future, you need to figure out your current position. With that in mind, you need to gather all the information about your nonprofit so that your strategic planning development team will have a holistic view of your nonprofit mission and vision and where you are. It would help if you outlined your capital, the size of your organization, the stakeholders, and your target population. 

Once you have done this, carry out a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The analysis should focus on figuring out answers to the questions below 

  • What makes you exceptional from your competitors? 
  • What has impacted your success before?
  • Have challenges prevented you from reaching your goals in the past?

Create Your Strategic Planning

At this stage, you will use the information you have to define your nonprofit mission and vision and how you intend to reach that. This is a critical phase of the strategic planning process. Hence it requires the input of professionals who better understand your nonprofit. We recommend you make consultations with your nonprofit stakeholders, including the board, executive members, and some of the staff. At this level, you’ll define your values, mission, and vision statement.

Develop SMART Goals

Your strategic plan should be tied to SMART objectives to be successful. In other words, execute your plan in a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound manner. For instance, if you intend to expand your revenue streams, your SMART goal could be: Over the next five years, we plan to add five new revenue streams to our already existing revenue generating mix by applying for grants quarterly, conducting monthly virtual fundraising, and annual in-person fundraising events.

Final Thought

Your strategic plan does not guarantee your nonprofit success if you fail to implement it. So often, owners of nonprofits get overwhelmed by their execution plan due to its volume. With this in mind, we recommend you develop a one-page strategic plan, one you can fold up, put in your notebook, or stick on the wall to help your team remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.


Learn About Our Guest,  Dolph Goldenburg

Dolph has a track record of guiding nonprofit organizations through strategic planning, board development, and leadership transitions. Before becoming a consultant in 2015, he was the executive director of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community center and served as executive director of Georgia’s largest provider of HIV supportive housing provider. 

His clients have included large nonprofits like North Coast Opportunities and HOPE Atlanta and also small but mighty nonprofits like Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Zebra Coalition. He holds a masters of public administration and a bachelors of social work from Georgia State University.

Learn About Stephen Halasnik

Stephen Halasnik is the host of the popular Nonprofit MBA Podcast. The Nonprofit MBA podcast’s purpose is to help nonprofit leaders and their teams. Stephen is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Financing Solutions, a leading provider of loans for nonprofits in the form of a Line of Credit. Stephen is a best-selling Amazon author and is considered a leading authority on building great, purpose-driven businesses.

Stephen lives in New Jersey and his top life mission is to raise his two sons, Michael and Maxwell, to be good men.