Have you ever found yourself in a situation where working towards your nonprofit’s long-term goals feels like playing a game of chance, needing a strategic approach? If you resonate with this sentiment, it may be a strong indication that your nonprofit can significantly benefit from developing and implementing its comprehensive strategic plans.

A nonprofit strategic plan is a document that maps out the specific targets and goals intended to be accomplished over a given period of time, typically a one-year annual plan or anything from three to five years long-term. Moreover, it outlines the various steps that need to be taken in order to achieve those goals – meaning it not only sets out what needs to be done but also how it will be accomplished.

Although this may all sound fairly straightforward, effective nonprofit strategic planning process is more easily said than done. It necessitates your staff and board collaborating to develop a viable plan for achieving the desired objectives, organize those goals according to priority, and adjust the plan as required.

Therefore, if you are ready to get on track towards making progress with your dreams, it’s time that you are fully engaged in your nonprofit’s strategic planning process. To help you get off to a good start, below are four essential tips that should be of use:


1: Begin by Analyzing your Current State.

It is crucial to understand where you currently stand to determine where you are heading. Conducting a thorough analysis of your nonprofit’s current state will provide valuable insights that will help you make informed decisions and establish a baseline for your organization’s performance as you work towards the goals outlined in your strategic plan.

Take a critical and comprehensive look at your nonprofit’s current state, paying special attention to the following areas:

  • Celebrate your successes: Take a close look at the thriving aspects of your nonprofit. Explore your operations, organizational structure, and team dynamics. Perhaps you’ll uncover that your major gifts team excels at cultivating and nurturing supporters or that one of your programs is consistently in high demand. Recognizing and embracing these accomplishments will empower you to leverage them in pursuit of your strategic goals.
  • Discover the obstacles: Uncover those recurring hurdles your nonprofit encounters, as tackling them head-on could amplify your overall impact. These obstacles may manifest as a revolving door of staff, an outdated tech stack, or lackluster board involvement in fundraising efforts. You can forge a path towards transformative outcomes by acknowledging and proactively addressing these challenges.
  • Unlocking Opportunities: Take a closer look at the strengths and challenges you’ve identified and unlock their potential to turn them into achievable goals. For instance, empower your major gifts team to delve deeper into prospect research or ponder on cultivating an internal culture that reduces turnover. By identifying these opportunities for growth and improvement, you’ll pave the way for a refreshing strategic planning process.
  • External Challenges: When striving to achieve your nonprofit’s larger goals, it’s crucial to consider the external challenges you may encounter. The current economic and political climate can greatly impact your ability to deliver services effectively. Perhaps recently passed legislation has introduced complexities, or an economic downturn has made it difficult for your regular supporters to contribute. By proactively understanding and addressing these vulnerabilities as part of your strategic planning, you can navigate through obstacles and ensure the success of your mission.

By thoroughly examining your successes, challenges, opportunities, and vulnerabilities, a nonprofit leader will comprehensively understand the nonprofit’s current status. This knowledge will inform the strategic planning process, allowing you to set realistic expectations and design a plan that will lead to meaningful accomplishments and improvements.


2: Set Clear and Quantifiable Objectives:

Next, it’s time to set your goals and outline your steps to achieve them. This is a crucial step in the strategic planning process, providing clarity and direction for your organization.

Begin by using the tried-and-true SMART goal framework. SMART goals should be:

  • Specific: Clearly define your goal by setting clear and concise goals. Avoid using vague or general statements that lack clarity and focus. By providing specific details and outlining measurable objectives, you can effectively track your progress and increase the likelihood of success. Remember, the more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to create a plan of action and stay motivated.
  • Measurable: Ensure that the goals you set are measurable by including specific metrics or indicators that can be used to track progress and determine success. By incorporating quantifiable elements into your objectives, you can assess and evaluate your achievements more effectively. This will provide valuable insights and enable you to make informed decisions based on concrete data.
  • Achievable: Set realistic and attainable goals within your organization’s available resources, capabilities, and expertise. By carefully considering current affairs and aligning your objectives with your organization’s strengths, you can establish meaningful and achievable goals that drive success.
  • Relevant: It is crucial to ensure that your goals are relevant and aligned with your organization’s mission, vision, and core values. By doing so, you can create a strong sense of purpose and direction, ensuring that every action taken contributes to the overall success of your business. When goals are relevant, they become more meaningful and impactful, motivating you and your team to strive for excellence and significantly impact your industry.
  • Time-based: Establish a timeline or deadline for achieving your goals. This provides structure and accountability, helping to keep you focused and motivated as you work towards achieving your goals within a specific timeframe. By setting clear time-based targets, you can effectively track your progress and make necessary adjustments, ultimately increasing your chances of success.

Applying this SMART goal framework empowers you to think strategically about how realistic your goal is, how strongly it supports your larger mission, and what your first steps toward achieving the goal will be.

Based on what you observed when analyzing your organization’s current state, you might set SMART goals in one or more of the following areas:

  • Revenue Generation: Increase fundraising efforts to achieve a specific financial target.
  • Program Expansion/Enhancement: Develop or improve existing programs to better serve your target beneficiaries.
  • Board Development: Strengthen your board of directors by recruiting diverse, skilled individuals who can contribute to your organization’s success.
  • Financial Sustainability: Implement strategies to ensure long-term financial stability and reduce dependency on external funding.
  • Volunteer Program Improvements: Enhance volunteer recruitment, training, and retention to maximize the impact of their contributions.
  • New Technology or Facility-related Investments: Upgrade technology systems or physical infrastructure to enhance operational efficiency and better serve your constituents.
  • Align Financial Plans with Your Strategic Priorities: Ensure that funding is channeled toward key initiatives that drive impact.

Remember, you can set multiple goals. Traditionally, strategic plans help nonprofits set goals for the next three to five years, so if you have a few smaller projects you want to complete, now is the time to plan out how you’ll make it happen.

This is also an excellent opportunity to get your team member on the same page regarding your long-term goals, even if you will only accomplish some things over the next few months or years. Even a simple discussion about your vision for the future can strengthen your team’s unity and commitment to your cause. You can foster collaboration and a shared sense of purpose by involving your team in the goal-setting process.

Remember, strategic planning is an ongoing process that requires regular evaluation and adjustments. As your organization evolves and external factors change, you may need to revisit and revise your goals to ensure they remain relevant and aligned with your mission. Stay agile and adaptable and celebrate milestones to motivate and engage your team.


3: Get Expert Guidance on Developing your Strategic Plan with an Experienced Consultant:

Embarking on the journey of nonprofit organizations strategic planning can be a complex task. It can be challenging to determine what is and isn’t effective for your organization or which goals should take precedence to enhance your capacity to make a positive impact.

This is where a nonprofit strategic planning consultant can play a pivotal role. Many nonprofits choose to partner with these experts to leverage the following benefits:

A Fresh Set of Eyes:

When you’re knee-deep in the day-to-day operations of your organization, it’s not easy to see the bigger picture. That’s where a consultant comes in. With their outsider’s perspective, they bring a new level of insight, helping you uncover hidden opportunities and potential pitfalls that may have slipped through the cracks. It’s like having a secret weapon in your corner, guiding you towards success.

Customized Recommendations:

Acknowledging the distinctiveness of each nonprofit organization, our consultants offer strategic planning recommendations that perfectly align with your organization’s present state and future vision. They understand the significance of devising a tailored plan that caters to your needs and aspirations.

True Collaboration: 

The most effective consultants understand that cooperation is the key to a successful nonprofit strategic plan, recognizing essential roles of your internal team, key stakeholders and board members play in the strategic planning processes. While they bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas, they also trust in your deep knowledge of your nonprofit. This collaborative spirit ensures that the strategic plan becomes a collective effort, reflecting your organization’s core values and aspirations. Together, we can achieve great things.

Ready to tap into the expertise of strategic planning for your nonprofit’s future.? Follow these steps to find the perfect fit and unlock your full potential:

  1.  Identify the specific consulting services you require and define your goals for the partnership.
  2.  Seek recommendations from your professional network to compile a list of potential consultants.
  3.  Schedule meetings with your top candidates to assess their compatibility with your organization’s working culture and gauge their interest in your mission.
  4.  Issue a request for proposal (RFP) to the consultants you are most interested in working with. Review the proposals you receive to understand better how each candidate would contribute to your strategic planning efforts.
  5.  Select the fundraising consultant whom you believe is the best fit for your organization. Sign a contract that outlines the engagement timeline, the costs associated with their services, and the metrics by which success will be measured.

As you find the right consultant for your nonprofit, pay special attention to each candidate’s communication style. Some nonprofits may prefer a consultant who can work independently and be trusted to deliver results. In contrast, others may seek a consultant who keeps them informed and involved at every project step.


4: Stay Flexible and Embrace Change:

When designing your nonprofit’s strategic plan, it can be easy to get attached to the goals and action steps you write down. After all, these are the goals you want to achieve to do more for your beneficiaries.

However, it is important to realize that your plan isn’t set in stone and that you can revise it as needed. For example, you may start enacting your strategic plan by focusing on making improvements to your volunteer program but realize that your planned giving Program needs some adjustment to secure more future funding. Being flexible and open to adaptation will allow you to pivot in situations like these successfully.

Regularly reviewing and reassessing your strategic plan ensures that it remains aligned with your nonprofit’s mission and goals. As your organization evolves and new challenges arise, making the necessary adjustments is crucial to stay on track. Embracing flexibility in your strategic planning model enables you to respond effectively to changing circumstances and seize new opportunities.

Positive change in how your organization operates is the ultimate goal. How you get there can always be adjusted based on your changing needs! Nonprofit strategic planning is an ongoing journey that requires continuous evaluation and refinement. By following these four tips, you’ll be better able to create your strategic plan that not only sets ambitious goals for improvement but also provides a roadmap for achieving them.

Whether you’re a startup organization or a leading corporation, CommunityForce provides fully customizable, all-in-one online grant management solutions to maximize your efficiency, simplify complex processes, and improve collaboration so you can focus on increasing your impact. We’ve helped organizations streamline their entire process no matter the size and scope of their giving.