What does a good nonprofit strategic plan look like?

A strategic plan outlines where your organization wants to be – typically over a fixed period of time – and defines how you are going to get there. The word “how” is important. That’s where the strategy comes in. It’s easy to make a list of the things you want or need to achieve, but you must also understand how you’re going to achieve them. To do otherwise is to leave the direction of your organization to chance.

The foundation of your strategic plan is your organization’s vision and mission. As with everything you do, the plan should always tie back to these. It’s likely that you’ve already formulated these, but if you haven’t (say, if you’re consulting this book as you consider launching a new organization), it’s definitely the place to start.

A good strategic plan (either through a document or a collaborative strategic planning process) will spell out the goals everyone in the organization is seeking to achieve. From there, it’ll identify the action steps necessary to achieve each goal. This includes the staff resources, time and financial support involved (along with where these will come from). As we dig deeper, a detailed timeline and budget will also be included, and often a brief history of where the organization has been.

At the end of the day, your plan could be one, five or 100 pages. Truth be told, it might even be on one PowerPoint slide. What’s most important is what you do with it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your clients, staff and board understand the mission and vision?
  • Have they all agreed upon the goals designed to achieve the mission and vision?
  • Are they committed to executing the plan at every turn, externally and internally?
  • Do they understand the steps necessary and resources required (time, money, etc.) to get the organization where it wants to be?

All of these are essential ingredients of a sound strategic plan. What the product itself looks like really doesn’t matter as long as it reflects your organization’s heart and soul.

Strategic Planning FAQ

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