Though fundamentally different than businesses, charities do encounter some of the same challenges as for-profit organizations. Managing staff, defining goals, setting parameters, and developing resources are all issues nonprofit organizations and enterprises alike can face over time. Like businesses, nonprofits need to have effective, strategic plans of action in place to be successful.

As Nolo defined it, a strategic plan is a working document that outlines a nonprofit’s goals for the next one to three years, along with concrete outlines on how to achieve those goals. The TCC Group argued that this plan should shift every three to five years. Each organization should feel free to make amendments as it sees fit, as no two charities are exactly alike. A strategic plan should also map out the organization’s processes and actions over the next few years. This helps each charity turn its abstract ideas into specific, action-oriented steps that will lead to success.

Every strategic plan should include: 

  • A mission statement – The mission statement should clearly identify the reason the nonprofit exists. Without this, it’s hard to work in any one direction or encourage donors to give.
  • An outline – The outline should consist of goals, objectives, and activities, with deadlines where applicable. Goals are the broad achievements the organization seeks to complete in the long run. Objectives are slightly more focused than goals. They typically have deadlines and are often a stepping stone toward accomplishing a larger goal. Activities are the programs and services in which volunteers and the public can get involved to help a nonprofit meet its goals and objectives.
  • A resource assessment – Look at the resources currently available to an organization. The assessment needs to cover how much funding the charity has to work with, the people providing time to lend helping hands, and the skills available to the organization to complete tasks. The TCC Group acknowledged that taking an inclusive approach to assessing resources will provide nonprofits with a more robust understanding of all the volunteers they can lean on for support. Differing points of view from various internal departments and external fundraisers can help tackle a plan from various angles.
  • A strategic analysis – This analysis should help develop and define practical means for reaching the goals and objectives outlined in the document. Strategic thinking is necessary to create this analysis. To think strategically, Stever Robbins, Inc. noted that staff must approach every problem-solving opportunity with the larger goals in mind. Thinking of moves that fundamentally alter the way a nonprofit is run is strategic. Also, rather than making impulsive decisions, let an idea sit over a short period of time to determine if it’s a solid opportunity or a potential risk.

A strategic plan of action helps all board members, volunteers, donors, and staff members align their focus and contribute collaboratively to a greater cause. Without a document like this, when the going gets tough, an organization won’t know where to turn to course-correct and get back on track.

An investment in business management software can dramatically improve a charity’s ability to monitor operations and pinpoint weak spots where additional attention is needed.